Taxation of scholarships

There is a general opinion that scholarships that finance the living costs of students and doctoral candidates are exempt from taxation. This is the case when the scholarship in question meets the following conditions:

  • The scholarships are financed with public funds or by charitable institutions;
  • The scholarship is intended for research purposes or academic training;
  • The person who receives the scholarship is not obliged to provide certain services usually provided by persons with an employment contract;
  • The scholarship must no exceed an appropriate sum.

 

The final assesment of these conditions is performed by the income revenue office which is responsible for determining the corporate tax of the body financing the scholarships. In the case of Kiel University this the Finanzamt Kiel. The scholarship provider can provide information whether a scholarship or grant is exempt from taxation.

To make sure that a scholarship stays exempt from taxation subsequent funding needs to be examined as well. It is unproblematic if the federal state scholarship is followed by another scholarship from a public or charitable institution. However, if the federal state scholarship (or any other scholarship) is followed by a position with an employment contract it should make sure that there is the greatest possible distance between the doctoral research project and the tasks performed under the employment contract. If the research during the scholarship and the research during the employment is too similar German tax legislation regards the position as a direct continuation of the scholarship and the scholarship might then not be tax-free anymore, in which case social insurance contributions have to be paid retrospectively. The final assessement whether a scholarship is exempt from taxation can only be conducted by the Finanzamt (tax and revenue office) responsible for the recipient..

The Graduate Center does not offer consulting in taxation matters and only passes on relevant information.

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