Do I Have to File a Tax Return if I Only Received a Pell Grant for College?

by W D Adkins
Pell grants aren't taxable if you follow IRS rules.

Pell grants are awards of money from the Department of Education to pay for college. They go to undergraduate students working on a first degree or to graduate students studying to get a teaching certificate. The amount can be up to $5,625 for the academic year as of 2013. The amount you actually get depends on financial need, how much you attend and the cost of your school. Whether or not you have to file a tax return to report Pell money depends on how you spend it.

Taxes and Pell Grants

The Internal Revenue Service puts Pell grant money in the same category with scholarships. This means the money isn’t taxable as long as you use it for qualified educational expenses. If you spend any Pell money on other things, the amount you didn’t put toward qualified expenses is taxable and you’ll have to report it by filing a tax return. Qualified educational expenses include tuition, fees, books and any supplies or equipment you need to do your schoolwork. Living expenses, including room and board, don’t count as qualified expenses, nor do travel expenses between your home and school.

About the Author

Based in Atlanta, Georgia, W D Adkins has been writing professionally since 2008. He writes about business, personal finance and careers. Adkins holds master's degrees in history and sociology from Georgia State University. He became a member of the Society of Professional Journalists in 2009.

Photo Credits

  • Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images