Do Student Loans Count as Income?

By Casey Bond · September 25, 2023 · 6 minute read

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Do Student Loans Count as Income?

On top of sorting out whether you’re eligible for federal student loans and the difference between subsidized and unsubsidized loans, you may be wondering how student loans may impact your taxes and whether student loans count as income. In a nutshell, the answer is no, student loans are debt, and do not count as income.

Fellowships and other forms of financial grants, however, may be counted as income, depending on how the funds are spent. And loans that are forgiven have counted as income.

Read on for more about the tax implications of student loans, grants, and student loan repayment. Of course, this is just a helpful guide as you begin to explore the basics of student loans and taxes; always seek out a tax professional to help you with your specific situation.

Are Student Loans Taxable?

There are multiple types of student loans — each with their own unique terms. As noted earlier, though, student loans are not taxed as income.

This is true of other types of loans generally as well, like credit card spending, mortgages, and personal loans (unless the loan is forgiven) — basically most credit that needs to be repaid. The IRS considers student loans a form of debt — not income — therefore, it is not taxed.

The only time that student loans (or other types of debt) can be taxed is if they are forgiven during repayment. If you are eligible for a federal student loan forgiveness program and have met the requirements (which vary, and may include stipulations like making eligible payments for 20 to 25 years via an income-driven repayment plan or completing eligible public service work/payment requirements, and others), the remaining balance on your student loans (the amount forgiven) may be taxed as income, depending on the repayment plan. This could amount to a hefty tax bill.

Are Scholarships Taxable?

The high-level answer to this question is: it depends. There are many different forms of scholarships, grants, and fellowships that are awarded to students to cover the costs of studying and research. Some are need-based and some are merit-based. The basic difference between scholarships and loans is that a scholarship is given while a loan is borrowed. You won’t typically have to pay back a scholarship, but you do have to pay back a loan.

Most scholarships are not taxed when you are enrolled in a formal educational institution and the scholarship is directly used to cover the costs of tuition, fees, books, and supplies used for study.

There are some situations in which scholarships can be taxed, however. For instance, a scholarship can be taxed as income if you use it to cover what are considered “incidental” expenses related to your education such as travel, room and board, and supplementary equipment and supplies.

Another type of scholarship that can be taxed is a scholarship that has a service-related requirement to it. This frequently applies to scholarships for graduate students. If you are required to teach, provide research assistance, or perform other services as a condition of your scholarship, it can be taxed as income and you will be required to report the scholarship as part of your gross income.

(For more about which types of scholarships are considered income and what scholarship-related activities are taxable, check out IRS Publication 970 .)

💡 Quick Tip: Get flexible terms and competitive rates when you refinance your student loan with SoFi.

Do Student Loans Come with Any Tax Benefits?

Student loans aren’t usually taxable as income, and in fact, may come with a tax benefit that is meant to make repayment a little easier on borrowers investing in their education.

The Student Loan Interest Deduction allows you to deduct the amount of interest you paid on both federal and private student loans, up to a maximum of $2,500 per year. In order to be eligible to deduct the full amount, your modified adjusted gross income (AGI) must be $70,000 or less (or $145,000 for married couples filing jointly). The amount you’re allowed to deduct is gradually reduced if your modified AGI is more $70,000 but less than $85,000 (or more than $145,000 but less than $175,000 for married couples filing jointly. Income above these thresholds renders you ineligible for the deduction.

As a tax deduction, the amount deducted helps to lower your overall taxable income, potentially resulting in a lower tax bill or higher tax refund. This deduction can also help defray some of your repayment costs.

Are Employer Student Loan Payments Taxable?

An increasingly popular benefit offered in some workplaces is help with education costs and student loan repayment. Employers such as Aetna, Fidelity Investments, Google, and more offer student loan assistance programs to employees.

Currently, employers are allowed to contribute up to $5,250 toward employees’ qualified education costs tax-free. Payments or reimbursements above that amount are considered taxable income for the employee. It’s important to note that this special tax treatment is temporary, however, and expires December 31, 2025. After this date, the full amount of any employer contributions toward education expenses or student loan repayment will be taxed as income.

How Can I Make My Student Loan Repayment Easier?

The cost of a student loan comes in the form of the interest you pay each month on the balance owed. Consider this example: Say you have a $30,000 loan with a 7% interest rate. On the 10-year Standard Repayment Plan, you would pay roughly $11,800 in interest in addition to repaying the $30,000 principal.

So what can make repayment easier, other than the student loan interest deduction? One option is to refinance your student loans with a private lender.

If you already have private and/or federal student loans, you may be able to refinance your student loans at a lower interest rate than you currently are paying. If you are eligible to refinance your student loans, you could shorten your term length, qualify to lower the interest rate on your loans, or possibly lower your monthly payment (by extending your term). But you may pay more interest over the life of the loan if you refinance with an extended term.

There are other potential drawbacks to think about. For instance, federal student loans come with several benefits and protections such as forbearance, deferment, income-driven repayment plans, and certain forgiveness programs that private loans do not offer. If you think you might need some of these benefits, or if you are eligible for student loan forgiveness, it might not be the right time to refinance.

However, if you have a steady income and good cash flow — along with other aspects of your financial picture that are appealing to a lender — and you are ready to focus on paying down your loans, refinancing might be the right solution for you.

SoFi is a leader in the student loan space, offering refinancing options to help you save on the loans you already have.

The Takeaway

Generally, student loans are not considered income, so they are not taxed. The exception is when some or all of your student loan balance is forgiven. In some cases, the IRS may count the canceled debt as taxable income.

Educational grants and scholarships, on the other hand, may or may not count as income. Typically, they are taxed when they are spent on expenses outside of tuition and fees, such as room and board and travel.

Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.

With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.

SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.

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SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

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