What assets count?

Produced by Deborah Harris, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed December 2017

You are financially eligible only if your TAFDC household has countable assets of $2,500 or less. 106 C.M.R. § 204.110.

Noncountable Assets

The following items do not count as assets

  • the home you live in,
  • the first $15,000 of the fair market value of one car or other vehicle per family,
  • household and personal belongings,
  • an asset that you do not have ready access to (such as assets tied up in legal proceedings), unless you transferred the asset during the 12 months before you applied for TAFDC (see How does DTA treat assets you no longer have?).
  • any assets of an SSI recipient, including accounts you have access to that are restricted or dedicated for the use of the SSI recipient (see DTA Transitions, July 2002, p. 2),
  • federal and state earned income credits in the month of receipt and the following month,
  • college savings in a plan created pursuant to or consistent with section 529 of the federal Internal Revenue Code (see St. 2016, c. 133, §123 (July 1, 2016)), and
  • assets used to produce income, such as a vehicle used for self-employment.

This is not a complete list of noncountable assets. Check the regulations for a complete list. 106 C.M.R. §§ 204.120, 204.140DTA Online Guide (Noncountable Assets).

Countable Assets

The following items do count as assets

  • cash on hand (unless listed as noncountable),
  • bank accounts that you have access to,
  • the fair market value of a “non-luxury” vehicle in excess of $15,000, as well as the greater of the full fair market value or the full equity value of all other vehicles owned by a family member, see DTA Operations Memo 2014-46 (July 10, 2014),
  • the cash surrender value of life insurance and burial insurance,
  • state and federal income tax refunds other than earned income credits, see DTA Transitions, June 2013, p. 6,
  • real estate other than your home unless it qualifies for a six-month exclusion and you are trying to sell it. See DTA Operations Memo 2013-52; (Oct. 3, 2013 106 C.M.R. §§ 204.120-204.140DTA Online Guide (Countable Assets).

 

Advocacy Reminders

  • DTA has the authority to grant a waiver to allow a vehicle that would otherwise put your family over the asset limit. You could ask for a waiver if a vehicle that otherwise puts you over the asset limit is necessary to accommodate a disability; is needed for a family member to get to work, education or training, or medical care; is needed for a domestic violence survivor’s safety plan; or is needed for other good reasons. DTA may say it doesn’t have the authority to grant a waiver for a second vehicle that puts you over the asset limit, but you can try to make the case to DTA that a waiver is necessary.
  • If your vehicle puts you over the asset limit and you need it to transport a disabled family member, you can also ask DTA to modify the car rule under the Americans with Disabilities Act. See A disability makes it hard to meet DTA rules or use DTA services. If you need the car for a domestic violence survivor’s safety plan, you can ask for a domestic violence waiver. See Getting a domestic violence waiver and Getting a waiver of welfare rules because of domestic violence.
  • Is your car worth less than DTA says because of its condition? DTA determines car value using the Kelly Blue Book trade-in value, www.kbb.com. See DTA Online Guide Transmittal 2017-22 (Sep. 1, 2017); DTA Field Operations Memo 2010-22 (Apr. 21, 2010). You can challenge the trade-in value with a different vehicle valuation guide or DTA a written estimate from a licensed auto dealer.
  • DTA says that you can only claim the $15,000 exclusion for a vehicle that is used primarily for transportation. See Online Guide (Asset Types—Vehicles). This requirement is not in the statute.
  • An asset may be noncountable if you do not have access to it because of domestic violence. For example, if your abuser has your car it may be noncountable. DTA Transitions, Nov. 2009, p. 5.
  • If your bank account goes over $2,500, DTA may take steps to close your case without checking to see if any of the money in your bank account is not countable. See DTA Operations Memo 2014-57 (Oct. 10, 2014). Consult an advocate if that is a problem for you. 
  • A leased vehicle is not counted. DTA Transitions, Nov. 2009, p. 5.
  • Prepaid funeral arrangements usually cannot be converted into cash and are usually noncountable. DTA Transitions, Feb. 2013, p. 7.

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