Are Scholarships Taxable in 2024 (Clear Answer)

Scholarships are a great way to pay for college, but do you have to pay taxes on them? Are Scholarships Taxable or Tax-free? It can get complicated. 

Generally, scholarships that cover tuition, fees, and required books for classes are not taxed. However, if the scholarship money pays for other things like room and board, or you might owe taxes if you have to work to receive it. 

Plus, the IRS has specific rules about what’s taxable and what’s not.

Many questions can come up on this complex topic. Therefore, to help answer all these questions, I’ve shared all the details related to scholarships, taxes, and more.

So, if you wish to get answers, read on till the end!

Key Takeaways

  • Scholars may be tax-free if used for qualified educational expenses, but conditions apply.
  • Money used for non-qualified expenses such as room and board or travel may be taxable.
  • Scholarships that require service in exchange, like teaching or research, could be taxable income.

Are Scholarships Taxable?

When it comes to understanding the taxability of scholarships, there are clear guidelines set by the IRS that students should be aware of:

Criteria for Tax-free Scholarships:

  • Scholarships used for qualified educational expenses, such as tuition and fees and required course materials, are generally not taxable.
  • The recipient must be a degree candidate at an eligible educational institution.

Taxable Scholarship Scenarios:

  • Amounts used for room and board, travel, or research stipends that aren’t required for enrollment or attendance are taxable.
  • Scholarships that exceed the cost of tuition, fees, and required equipment and supplies are considered taxable income.

Exemptions and Considerations:

  • Certain scholarships, like Pell Grants and Fulbright Grants, follow specific tax guidelines.
  • Students should itemize the scholarship portions used for different purposes to report taxable amounts accurately.

Students should always consult the current federal tax code or a tax professional regarding their specific situation.

The tax implications for scholarships can impact one’s annual tax filings and potentially the amount owed to the IRS. Maintaining detailed records of how scholarship money is spent is crucial to ensure accurate tax reporting.

Are Scholarships Taxable - Overview
Source: Mize CPAs

Are Scholarships Taxable

Understanding the tax implications of scholarships is essential for recipients to manage their finances effectively and comply with tax laws.

When Are Scholarships Not Taxed

Scholarships are generally not taxed when used for qualified education expenses, such as tuition and fees, books, and equipment required for courses at the educational institution. 

Provided the recipient is a candidate for a degree at an eligible educational institution, these amounts are not included in gross income.

How Do You Know If A Scholarship Is Taxable

A scholarship is taxable if it covers non-qualified expenses like room and board, travel, research, clerical help, or fees unrelated to an individual’s academic course of instruction. Furthermore, if services (such as teaching or research) are required to receive the scholarship, it is also taxable.

Taxability Of Scholarships

  • Non-Taxable: Amounts spent on tuition, fees, books, supplies, and equipment needed for coursework.
  • Taxable: Amounts used for incidental expenses or received in exchange for services.

To assess the taxability of a scholarship, recipients should evaluate how the funds were used and whether their expenses align with IRS definitions of qualified education expenses.

Are Athletic Scholarships Taxable

Taxation of athletic scholarships hinges on the guidelines set by the IRS. Typically, the portion of a scholarship applied directly to tuition, fees, books, and supplies is not taxable. However, funds allocated for other expenses, such as room and board, become part of taxable income.

For student-athletes, it is crucial to understand the structure of their scholarship. If the scholarship only covers tuition and related academic fees, the IRS does not consider it taxable income. 

Conversely, amounts that cover living expenses, including housing, travel, and meal plans, are usually taxed.

The IRS has made clear distinctions regarding the taxability of scholarships in Tax Topic 421. 

Athletes need to note that scholarships are not deemed payment for services, provided there is no obligation to perform certain tasks, like playing a sport, as a condition for receiving the scholarship.

Recent discussions, like those presented on Forbes, illustrate the complexity of this topic and highlight the need for clear guidance.

Athletes should familiarize themselves with the IRS provisions to ensure compliance with tax laws and, when in doubt, seek the advice of a tax professional. 

Knowing precisely what portions of their scholarships are taxable can help student-athletes plan their finances effectively.

Are Scholarships Taxable If Used For Room And Board

Regarding the taxability of scholarships, the IRS has specific guidelines. Scholarship money applied towards tuition and fees required for enrollment or attendance at an educational institution typically is not taxable. However, the situation changes when scholarship funds are used for room and board.

According to the IRS:

  • Scholarship amounts used for incidental expenses beyond tuition, like room and board or travel, must be included in gross income.
  • Amounts received for teaching, research, or other services required as a condition for receiving the scholarship are also taxable.

Here’s a simplified view:

Use of Scholarship FundsTax Status
Tuition & Required FeesNot Taxable
Room and BoardTaxable
Travel & Optional EquipmentTaxable

Individuals must report any portion of the scholarship, fellowship grant, or other grant used for expenses other than qualified tuition and related expenses as income. Qualified expenses typically include tuition, fees, and required books and supplies. However, using scholarship funds for room and board makes that portion of the scholarship taxable.

The guidelines are consistently applied across various educational grants, with an emphasis on the purpose for which the funds are used rather than the source of the scholarship.

Understanding that room and board are usually considered personal living expenses can help one anticipate potential obligations when accepting a scholarship. 

It’s crucial to budget for the possibility of additional taxes owed if scholarship funds are allocated to cover housing and meal plans.

Are Scholarships Taxable - Tax Return
Source: Forbes

Are Scholarships Taxable In The US

In the United States, scholarships are not universally tax-exempt. They can be tax-free under specific conditions, but this is not absolute. 

The key determinants of a scholarship’s tax status relate to the educational institution, the expenses covered, and the scholarship recipient’s qualifications.

Tax-Free Criteria:

  • The recipient must be pursuing a degree at a qualified educational institution.
  • The scholarship should be used for qualified expenses such as tuition, fees, books, and supplies required for coursework.

Taxable Situations:

  • Funds exceeding qualified education expenses may be considered taxable.
  • Amounts used for incidental expenses, such as room and board or travel, are typically taxable.

Scholarships may also intersect with other tax benefits. Tax credits like the American Opportunity and Lifetime Learning Credits can affect the taxability of scholarship funds. 

Students need to be attentive to how their scholarships align with these and other educational deductions when preparing their tax returns.

If scholarships are designated for teaching, research, or other services as a condition of receiving the funds, these conditions make the scholarship taxable, similar to a salary.

For more detailed scenarios, the IRS provides Worksheet 1-1 to help determine the taxable part of a scholarship or fellowship grant. 

It is crucial for students to recognize their financial responsibilities and include in their gross income any scholarship amounts that do not meet the exempted criteria.

Is Scholarship Money Considered Income

Scholarship money can sometimes be considered taxable income, depending on how it is used. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) provides guidelines on when scholarship funds must be reported on tax returns.

Non-Taxable Scholarships:

  • Scholarships applied to tuition
  • Required fees for enrollment or attendance
  • Books, supplies, and equipment required for courses

Taxable Scholarships:

  • Funds used for incidental expenses like room and board
  • Travel
  • Optional equipment
  • Payments for teaching, research, or other services required as a condition of the scholarship

To be excluded from taxable income, the recipient must be:

  • A degree candidate at an eligible educational institution
  • Using the scholarship to pay for qualified educational expenses

Scholarship recipients must understand these stipulations. Tax liability hinges on whether the scholarship funds exceed qualified educational expenses and if they compensate for services.

Information from IRS Topic no. 421, Scholarships, fellowship grants, and other grants, is instrumental in delineating the taxable status of scholarship funds. 

They advise that amounts used for non-qualified expenses must be included in gross income.

The delineation between tax-free and taxable scholarship funds can be nuanced, and recipients are encouraged to thoroughly review IRS guidelines or consult a tax professional to ensure compliance.

Who Claims Taxable Scholarship Income

When a scholarship recipient determines whether they have taxable scholarship income, it hinges on several IRS stipulations. 

Generally, the recipients themselves must report any taxable portions of scholarships and grants. Taxable scholarship income occurs under the following circumstances:

  • The funds exceed the cost of tuition, fees, books, and required equipment.
  • Amounts are allocated for other expenses, such as room and board or optional equipment.
  • The scholarship or grant requires the recipient to perform services in exchange for receiving the award unless those services are required by certain teaching and research assistantships.

The taxable portion should be reported as “other income” on a tax return and is subject to federal income tax. 

However, scholarship funds used directly for qualified educational expenses at an eligible educational institution are usually not taxable. These expenses include tuition, enrollment fees, and required course materials.

Should the scholarship or grant recipient be a dependent, the one who claims them can possibly include the taxable portion of the scholarship in their own tax returns. 

However, scholarship monies that are designated for specific educational expenses and do not represent payment for teaching, research, or other services are exempt.

The IRS guides reporting scholarships for tax purposes and how to distinguish between tax-free and taxable portions. Special rules apply to dependents for specific cases, like the kiddie tax, which pertains to unearned income for children.

Here are certain cases of scholarship taxability explained in more depth:


Each individual’s circumstances may vary, and the IRS provides resources for determining tax liability on scholarships. It is advisable to consult with a tax professional for personal advice.

Related Read:

Conclusion: Scholarships Are Not Taxable 

Notably, scholarships are not taxable if they meet the criteria set forth by the IRS, which stipulate that the recipient must be a degree candidate at an eligible institution, and the funds should be appropriated for qualifying expenses—tuition, fees, books, and supplies directly related to the pursuit of study.

In contrast, amounts that cover room, board, travel, research, and clerical help are deemed taxable. Furthermore, should a scholarship exceed the costs of qualified educational expenses, the surplus is considered taxable income.

Here is a brief layout of the taxability criteria for scholarships:

  • Tax-Free Conditions:
    • Used for tuition and other qualifying expenses
    • Beneficiary is pursuing a degree
  • Taxable Situations:
    • Funds exceed educational costs
    • Money spent on incidental expenses

It is sensitive for recipients to maintain comprehensive records of their educational expenses and scholarship amounts. 

You should consult the IRS guidance or a tax professional when uncertain about the tax status of scholarship income to ensure compliance and avoid potential discrepancies.

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