What’s Taxable on Your FAFSA®? A Guide for College Students

When it comes to filling out your FAFSA® (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), it’s essential to understand what portion of your financial aid may be subject to taxes. While it can be confusing, knowing what to expect can help you navigate the process with ease.

In this article, we’ll break down what parts of your FAFSA® are taxable and what is not, providing you with clarity and peace of mind.

Student Loans: A Tax-Free Lifeline

The good news is that student loans are not taxable. As loans are considered debt that you’ll need to repay, they are not classified as income and therefore do not need to be listed on your tax return. And that’s not all – when you start repaying your student loans, you may even be eligible for a tax credit on the interest you pay, providing an additional financial benefit.

Whether you have federal or private student loans, you can rest assured that they are not subject to income tax. Take advantage of this tax benefit while working towards your education.

Scholarships, Grants, and Fellowships: Taxability Based on Usage

If you have received a scholarship, grant, or fellowship, whether through your FAFSA® or from a separate source, its taxability depends on how the money is used. If the funds were strictly utilized for educational expenses like tuition, books, and lab fees, they are not subject to income tax.

However, if you have received a separate scholarship that can be spent on anything you desire, it’s crucial to be mindful of your spending choices. Whether it’s clubbing or other non-educational expenses, using the funds for non-qualified purposes makes the money taxable.

To determine if you need to report scholarship money on your tax return and pay taxes on it, consider taking the 15-minute IRS quiz specifically designed to guide you through this process and ensure you make informed decisions.

Work-Study Programs: Earnings that Count

Whether through a work-study program or a part-time job at your local coffee shop, all the money you earn through work is taxable. Even if your work-study program is listed on your FAFSA® award letter, it still counts as income and must be claimed on your tax return.

While it may be tempting to overlook this requirement, it’s important to remember that reporting your income accurately is an essential responsibility. By providing this information, you enable the government to determine your overall tax liability.

Seeking Professional Guidance

Filing taxes can be confusing and, let’s be honest, not the most enjoyable part of growing up. However, when it comes to understanding the taxability of different components of your financial aid, seeking guidance from a qualified accountant can be immensely helpful. They can provide personalized advice, answer any lingering questions, and ensure that you stay on top of your tax obligations.


In conclusion, student loans and many scholarships or grants are not taxable. However, earnings from work-study programs are subject to income tax. By having a clear understanding of what is taxable and what is not, you can confidently navigate the financial aspect of your college journey and stay on the right track towards academic and financial success.

Remember, taxes are a part of life, but with the right knowledge and guidance, they don’t have to be overwhelming. Stay informed, make smart choices, and enjoy the rewards of your hard work and dedication to your education.

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