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Are scholarships taxable?


    Scholarships can be a great way to help with college costs. Offered by a range of institutions from the federal government, companies, nonprofits, and colleges and universities, for the most part, scholarship funds don’t need to be repaid. There's also no limit to the number of scholarships students can apply for.

    As advantageous as scholarships are, when it comes to receiving scholarships to help pay for college, the last thing you want to worry about is whether you’ll get taxed on them.

    A few of the questions that might be top of mind: Are scholarships considered taxable income? What requirements need to be met to ensure you don’t get taxed on scholarships? And if some or all of your scholarship funds will get taxed, how do you declare it as income on your tax returns?

    Below, you’ll find some helpful information about whether or not your scholarship money is taxable.

    Are college scholarships taxable?

    If you receive a scholarship, according to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), it may be considered tax-free if you meet the following conditions:

    • You're an individual pursuing a degree from an educational institution with an established faculty and curriculum, and the institution typically maintains an ongoing enrollment of students at a physical location where educational activities occur.
    • The funds you receive are used to pay for tuition, fees, or certain school-related expenses at the institution.

    In simple terms, if you use scholarship funds to help pay for tuition and fees or certain expenses at an accredited college or university, the funds will likely not be taxable.

    Do scholarships ever count as income?

    According to the IRS, all or a portion of your scholarships may be considered taxable income if they are:

    • Used for certain expenses that are considered “incidental.” For instance, for room and board or travel.
    • If some funds are considered a payment. For instance, payments received for teaching, research, or other services might be a condition for receiving certain scholarship funds. Those payments might be considered taxable income.

    If you have any questions about whether or not your scholarships are considered taxable income, it’s best to seek out the advice of a tax professional.

    How do I report my taxable income on my taxes?

    There are a few ways to report your taxable income — including scholarship income that may be considered taxable — but you may want to talk to a tax professional before doing it yourself.

    You should generally report the taxable portion of your scholarship funds as follows:

    • For individuals filing Form 1040 or Form 1040-SR, it’s important to incorporate the taxable portion of the scholarship into the overall figure reported on the “Wages, salaries, tips” line of your tax return.
    • If the taxable portion of the scholarship wasn't reported on Form W-2, enter "SCH" on your tax return along with the taxable amount in the space to the left of the "Wages, salaries, tips" line.
    • For those filing Form 1040-NR, report the taxable amount of the scholarship on the "Scholarship and fellowship grants" line.

    Final thoughts

    Whether or not your scholarship money is taxable is highly dependent on how you use your funds. If you’re concerned your scholarship is taxable income, talk to a tax professional to gain insights on  how to make sure you file your taxes properly.