Gifts and SSI

In Benefits and Employment Articles, Blog by eri

It’s that time of year again. Freshen up on holiday information. Find out how gifts are viewed by the Social Security system for the SSI program.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) may or may not count a gift that a Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipient receives as unearned income. For SSI a gift is something a recipient receives which is not repayment for goods or services the person provided and is not given because of a legal obligation on the giver’s part. To be a gift, something must be given irrevocably, that is, the donor relinquishes all control. POMS SI 00830.520

An SSI recipient should report to SSA any gift that may be counted as income. SSA makes no special effort to find out about gifts but does ask a routine question about them during the person’s scheduled redetermination of non-medical factors (which usually occurs once a year.) SSA will not pursue the issue when a recipient answers in the negative unless there is reason to doubt the allegation.

If a recipient alleges receiving a gift, SSA will normally accept a recipient’s signed estimate of the value (or actual value if cash) unless there is reason to doubt the estimate. SSA will determine the nature of the gift and apply the appropriate rules.

Following are situations when a gift is excluded as income for SSI:

  • The value of any commercial transportation ticket received as a gift and not converted to cash. This applies to travel among the 50 states, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands.
  • The value of any non-cash item (other than food or shelter) if the item would become a partially or totally excluded non-liquid resource if kept after the month of receipt. For example, if the gift is a car, the value of that car is not income (if it is kept the month after the month of receipt), and the vehicle will then normally qualify as an excluded resource. Another example would be the receipt of an item considered as a recipient’s personal effects, such as jewelry (as long as it meets the rules for that exclusion.) POMS SI 01130.430
  • Gifts used for tuition, fees, or other necessary educational expenses at any educational institution including vocational and technical education ones. Such gifts are also are excluded from resources for the 9-month period beginning the month after the month the gift was received.
  • The receipt of up to $60 per calendar quarter of unearned income if received infrequently or irregularly; that is, if received only once during a calendar quarter from a single source, or if its receipt cannot reasonably be expected.
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