Do gifts count as income?

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

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 except to the extent of the gift, or part of it, countable as in-kind income (see What is in-kind income?). 106 C.M.R. §§ 204.210, 204.250(N), 204.510.

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 and the $200 is not counted as in-kind income, 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 her rent. The gift is not countable as income since the money is paid to the landlord and not to Ms. Rosen and is not counted under the in-kind income rule.

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 turn over to DTA any cash child support you get for a child who is receiving TAFDC. 106 C.M.R. § 204.230. DTA will pass through to you the first $50 in current support. See If your child gets child support.

Advocacy Reminders

  • Countable gifts (cash or non-cash) from non-legally responsible persons and countable non-cash gifts from legally responsible persons that cover the full expense of a need listed in the In-Kind Chart (for example, rent) are counted at the in-kind value, not the actual value.
  • One-time gifts that are countable are also treated as lump sum income. See What is lump-sum income and why is it such 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 non-countable income rules.

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