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Do gifts count as income?


DTA made a number of changes and suspended a number of rules during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Guide notes in red when a rule was suspended during the pandemic.

Produced by Deborah Harris and Betsy Gwin, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed December 2022

Gifts from Persons with No Financial Responsibility

A friend, charity or relative (except for a parent of a minor child or a spouse) does not have financial responsibility for people receiving TAFDC. The following gifts from people who do not have financial responsibility do not count as income:

Gifts from Persons with Financial Responsibility

A parent of a minor child or a spouse has financial responsibility for the child or spouse. The following gifts from a parent or spouse do not count as income:

  • gifts (other than child support) of less than $30 in a three-month period,
  • non-cash gifts to the recipient or money paid directly to a vendor on the recipient’s behalf. 106 C.M.R §§ 704.210, 704.250(N), 704.510.

Example 1

Ms. Padilla and her baby are on TAFDC. Ms. Padilla’s sister gives her $200 specifically to help pay Ms. Padilla’s $500 rent. Ms. Padilla’s sister is not legally responsible so the gift is not countable as income.

Example 2

The father of Ms. Rosen’s baby gives $200 directly to Ms. Rosen’s landlord to cover part of the rent. The gift is not countable as income since the money is paid to the landlord and not to Ms. Rosen.

Be aware, however, that if a parent pays money directly to a vendor as part of a child support agreement, DTA may try to count the money as income.

You must tell DTA about any child support paid directly to you for a child who is getting TAFDC. DTA may have you turn over the support. If that happens, you should later get a payment from DTA for the first $50 a month of current child support you turned over.

Advocacy Reminders:

  • One-time gifts that are countable are also treated as lump sum income. See What is lump sum income and why is it a problem? Recurring gifts that are countable are treated as income only in the month the gift is received. Gifts that are noncountable should not be counted as lump sum income.
  • To avoid risking a fraud referral, it is better to report changes that may affect eligibility such as receipt of gifts, even though DTA should not count these gifts if they meet the noncountable income rules.

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