How to Report FAFSA® Money on Your Tax Return

Are you wondering how to handle your FAFSA® money on your tax return? When it comes to grants, scholarships, and federal student loans, navigating the tax implications can be confusing.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll break down the rules and provide clarity on reporting FAFSA® money correctly. Whether you’re a student or a parent, understanding the tax obligations tied to your FAFSA® funds is essential. Let’s dive in!

1. Pell Grant: Tax-Free, but with Conditions

If your FAFSA® money includes a Pell Grant, you’re in luck. The IRS treats Pell Grants as scholarships, which means they might not be taxable if used for school-related expenses. However, several conditions must be met. First, you must be a degree-seeking student. Second, you need to adhere to specific IRS requirements when using your grant money:

  • The grant must not exceed the cost of your education.
  • It must be used at an eligible educational institution.
  • The funds should be allocated towards degree-related expenses, such as tuition or books.

Before you spend your Pell Grant, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with these IRS guidelines to ensure compliance and avoid potential tax liabilities.

2. Qualified Education Expenses: Exceptions Apply

While FAFSA® grants cover many educational costs, not all expenses qualify as eligible educational expenses in the eyes of the IRS.

One significant expense that doesn’t make the cut is room and board. If you utilize your FAFSA® grant money for housing or dining expenses, you’ll need to report it on your tax return. Similarly, expenses related to research, travel, or equipment that isn’t explicitly necessary for your education must also be reported.

3. Student Loans: Not Income, but Deductible

Unlike grants and scholarships, student loans are not considered income since they need to be repaid. Therefore, you don’t report your student loans as taxable income on your tax return. However, there is a silver lining. Once you start repaying your loans, any interest paid can be deducted from your income on your tax return. While there are annual deduction limits, this deduction can potentially boost your refund and ease the burden of loan repayment.

4. Seek Guidance from Your School’s Financial Aid Office

Navigating the complexities of FAFSA® funds and tax reporting can be overwhelming. To ensure you’re following the correct procedures, it’s wise to consult your school’s financial aid office. They can guide you on how your specific aid is applied to your tuition and other expenses.

Many schools automatically apply need-based grants to tuition first, which aligns with IRS rules. If your school doesn’t follow this practice, you can request that your grants and scholarships be directed towards tuition to ensure compliance.

5. Understanding various Financial Aid Awards

To further clarify what should and should not be included in your tax returns, let’s examine different categories of financial aid awards:

  • Pell Grant: Exclude from taxable income, unless used for unapproved purposes like room and board or school-related travel expenses.
  • Work-study Award Earnings: Include these earnings on your tax return. Work-study wages and salary are considered taxable income.
  • Government Student Loans: Exclude these loans from your tax returns. However, remember to check if you qualify for the student loan interest deduction when you begin repaying them.
  • State Financial Awards: Just like federal grants, state awards are generally not taxable and should not be included in your tax returns.


When it comes to reporting FAFSA® money on your tax return, understanding the rules is crucial. While grants and scholarships can often be tax-free if used appropriately, it’s essential to follow IRS guidelines and report any non-qualifying expenses.

Remember, your school’s financial aid office is an excellent resource for specific questions, and consulting a qualified accountant can provide further clarification. By using your FAFSA® funds wisely, you can navigate tax season with confidence and maximize your financial benefits.

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