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Returning Member

First Gen Student - Back taxes because of scholarship?

I've gotten myself in a bit of a tricky situation.

I am a full-time student on a full ride to college, (usually) work part-time , and my parents claim me as their dependent. My college is pretty expensive and they charge a large amount for housing and meals and they pay for my health insurance. I never actually see this money and my college essentially pays itself, so I hadn't been including it as taxable income on my taxes because I thought I didn't have to. That is, until this year, when I used my 1098-T to fill out a portion I had never noticed about scholarships (pretty dumb I know). After I inputted the information, it said that I actually owed about $2000 for taxes. I initially thought that it was an error but when I researched it, I realized I had messed up. The worst part is that I have been doing this since 2017 and based just on my part-time jobs, I had been receiving refunds. I have left out anywhere from 10k to 15k every year of taxable scholarship income (total scholarship is ~70k but 10-15k is what is used for room and board) and probably owe MUCH more than I can afford right now as a broke college student. I usually live on campus but I am living at home with my parents because of covid, and I recently quit my job to focus on school. My parents definitely won't be able to help me because they barely get by, and I won't able to get a "real" job until I graduate in May 2022. I want to seek help from a professional but I don't think that I can afford it. I really want to get it corrected as soon as possible to avoid any other issues. Is there any way that I could manage this myself?

3 Replies
Level 15

First Gen Student - Back taxes because of scholarship?

Side issue: Your  parents probably did not claim a tuition credit for your education, because of the full ride.  Thet may have been allowed as much as $2500 each year. 


There is a tax “loop hole” available. The student reports all his scholarship, up to the amount needed to claim the American Opportunity Credit (AOC), as income on his return. That way, the parents  (or himself, if he is not a dependent) can claim the tuition credit on their return. They can do this because that much tuition was no longer paid by "tax free" scholarship.  You cannot do this  if the conditions of the grant are that it be used to pay for qualified expenses.

Using an example: Student has $10,000 in box 5 of the 1098-T and $8000 in box 1. At first glance he/she has $2000 of taxable income and nobody can claim the American opportunity credit. But if she reports $6000 as income on her return, the parents can claim $4000 of qualified expenses on their return.


So, they may be able to amend past year returns. Overall the family may even come out ahead. 


Level 15

First Gen Student - Back taxes because of scholarship?

Q.  Is there any way that I could manage this myself?

A. Yes, probably.   The TurboTax (TT) software is capable of handling this. But there are some complications.  This forum can provide some help.  Some paid editions of TT come with live support.


You handle this by filing amended returns for back years to report the taxable portion of the scholarships. 

How to amend


Scholarship income is treated as unearned income and some of it may be subject to the "kiddie tax", wherein a portion of your taxable income is taxed at the parent's marginal rate. 


But scholarship income is treated as earned income for purposes of calculating a student-dependent's standard deduction, so you will get the full standard deduction ($12,400 for 2020).


In addition to tuition and fees (the 1098-T box 1 amount), books, other course materials and computers are also qualifying expenses for some of the scholarship to be tax free.


The IRS has installment plan payment options.  The TurboTax help topic at this link explains how to set up a plan:


Returning Member

First Gen Student - Back taxes because of scholarship?

Hi! I was wondering if you managed to solve this. I have just found myself in the same situation and I am full on panicking. I don't want problems with the IRS.

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