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The instructions for Form 6251 include a worksheet for calculating Line 29. Line 8 of that worksheet asks for "earned income". The instructions state "Earned income includes wages, tips, and other amounts received for personal services performed." Does this include funding from scholarships/fellowships? Assume that the scholarships are themselves taxable, i.e. the money is not used for "qualified expenses" like tuition.

  • Read this question and see if that gets you a start; it shows you the information you're going to need to provide, at minimum, to answer this [was this scholarship solely for educational expenses or did it cover things like room and board, for example]. Then edit your question with necessary info if you still have a question. – Joe Apr 4 '17 at 0:22
  • I read that question before posting. I guess I should have specified that this is taxable scholarship money, i.e. not marked for qualified expenses like tuition. I'm just not sure if it counts as "earned" or "unearned" for this purpose. I will edit the question. – Nathaniel Mayer Apr 4 '17 at 0:32
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This is more clearly defined in the EITC; for purposes of the Earned Income Tax Credit; then no, it is not Earned Income. See publication 596, page 18 specifically:

Scholarship or fellowship grants not reported on a Form W­2. A scholarship or fellowship grant that wasn't reported to you on a Form W-2 isn't considered earned income for the earned income credit.

Further, form 8615 describes unearned income and explicitly includes scholarships, again not on W2s:

For Form 8615, “unearned income” includes all taxable income other than earned income as defined later. Unearned income includes taxable interest, ordinary dividends, capital gains (including capital gain distributions), rents, royalties, etc. It also includes taxable social security benefits, pension and annuity income, taxable scholarship and fellowship grants not reported on Form W-2, unemployment compensation, alimony, and income (other than earned income) received as the beneficiary of a trust.

So unless it was reported on a W-2 (i.e., it's for some sort of employment), it's not considered earned income. (h/t Liam for that link)

The definition on the instructions of form 6251 is not particularly different, though it's more general:

Earned income includes wages, tips, and other amounts received for personal services performed.

Scholarships don't seem to fit any more into that, so I would say they do not.

  • "for the earned income credit." Scholarships still fall under GI. – Liam Apr 4 '17 at 15:24
  • I started writing an answer to find if it could be, but your answer is the most accurate. Look at <irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/i8615.pdf> as I think this gives the most defined example of unearned income, as this may help your answer. Well done Sir. – Liam Apr 4 '17 at 16:51

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