When A Job Isn’t A Job: Work/Study And Your Taxes


A work/study gig can be a good deal if you’re a busy student who will be spending a lot of time on campus. You won’t have the hassle of seeking off-campus employment, and an on-campus job generally offers more flexible scheduling so you can focus more on your coursework.

Work/Study is offered in conjunction with federal financial aid, such as SEOG grants and Pell Grants. You or your parents will need to demonstrate “genuine financial need” in order to qualify. You will also need to be enrolled in at least six course hours; for most schools that translates roughly to two courses or part-time study.

You can be awarded Work/Study as either an undergraduate or graduate student, and you will have had to indicate your interest in a Work/Study award when you completed the FAFSA form. You can either apply for a Work/Study job on campus, or your school will assign one to you.

But Is It Income?

Here’s where it can get confusing, especially if this is your first time with Work/Study income: while it is considered a part of a federal financial aid package and therefore not considered a job per se,  you will be deriving income from your Work/Study position.  Uncle Sam will definitely want his share at the end of the year.

When you first report to your Work/Study gig, you’ll have to fill out a W4 form as you would for any other job; your withholding from each paycheck will be based on the information you provided on your W4.

At the end of the year, you’ll receive a W2, just as you would for a conventional job. You’ll also need to report your Work/Study income on your tax returns, just as you would for any other form of  wages, such as tips or wages from another job.

Landing a Work/Study position can be a good deal if you’re a busy student: you get to work on campus, hours are generally scheduled around your courses, and if you’re lucky you can work in a department that ties in closely with your major.

Although Work/Study isn’t considered a job in the traditional  sense, it is still considered income, so you will need to pay taxes on that income. Be sure to report your Work/Study wages on your tax returns at the end of the year. By reporting this income, you’ll save yourself the hassle of dealing with the IRS and back taxes in the future.