The Online Resource for Massachusetts Poverty Law Advocates

46. Which assets count and which ones do not?

You are financially eligible only if you have countable assets of $250 or less for an individual, $500 or less for a couple or a family. 106 C.M.R. § 704.110.

Countable Assets

The following items count as assets:

  • cash on hand (unless listed as noncountable);
  • bank accounts that you own and have access to including checking, savings, retirement accounts, trust accounts, stocks, bonds, securities and other funds;
  • the equity value above $1,500 of one vehicle that you own; the full equity value of additional vehicles you own (equity value is fair market value minus any liens, loans or encumbrances);
  • the cash surrender value of life insurance and burial insurance;
  • 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);
  • state and federal tax refunds, except for any portion that is received as an earned income credit (EIC) which does not count in the month you get it and the following month;
  • your share of a jointly held asset.

See 106 C.M.R. §§ 704.120 and 704.130 for complete descriptions of how assets are counted; DTA Online Guide: EAEDC > Financial Requirements > Assets > Countable Assets

Noncountable Assets

The following items do not count as assets:

  • the home you live in and the land it sits on;
  • the first $1,500 equity value (fair market value minus loans or encumbrances) of one vehicle;
  • the first $600 of a lump sum payment (see Question 54);
  • household and personal belongings including furniture, appliances, etc.;
  • an asset that you don't have "ready access" to, such as assets tied up in legal proceedings and irrevocable trusts (unless you transferred the asset during the 12 months before you applied for EAEDC), see Question 47);
  • higher education loans, grants and scholarships;
  • any of the assets of an SSI recipient (such as a spouse getting SSI);
  • portions of compensation or personal injury awards received as reimbursement for specific items, such as Workers' Compensation monies used to pay medical bills;
  • property or equipment that you need for your employment or self-employment (for example, computers, farmland in use and farming equipment, fishing boats, taxi vehicles);
  • Earned Income Tax Credit payments (not countable in the month of receipt and the month after).

This is not a complete list. Check the regulations for a complete list. 106 C.M.R.
§ 704.140
; DTA Online Guide: EAEDC > Financial Requirements > Assets > Noncountable Assets

A Note About Cars:

Unlike TAFDC, EAEDC counts only the "equity value" of a vehicle, such as
a car. The "equity value" is what you would make on the car if you sold it today
at the "fair market value" and then paid back the car loan, lien or other encumbrances. $1,500 in equity value of one car per EAEDC household is exempt. Equity value over $1,500 counts towards the $250 or $500 EAEDC asset limits ($250 for an individual, $500 for two or more persons). 106 C.M.R. § 704.120(G).

Example: Suppose you own one car with a "fair market value" of $4,000 and you owe the bank $2,200 for your car loan. The equity value of your car is $1,800 ($4,000 - $2,200 = $1,800). The first $1,500 doesn't count. You have a countable asset of $300 ($1,800 - $1,500 = $300) that counts towards your asset limit. If you are a single individual seeking EAEDC, your application will be denied because your vehicle exceeds the $250 asset limit unless you can show that the fair market value is even lower than $4,000.

Is your car worth less than DTA says because of its condition? DTA determines car value using the Kelly Blue Book, See DTA Field Operations Memo 2010-22 (Apr. 21, 2010). However, you can challenge the "fair market value" by bringing in either a written estimate from a licensed car dealer or a different valuation book. See 106 C.M.R. § 704.120(G)(3)(a) on how to "rebut" or challenge the valuation of your car.

Advocacy Reminders:

  • If your vehicle puts you over the asset limit and you need it to transport a disabled family member, you can ask DTA to modify the car rule under the Americans with Disabilities Act. See Question 80.
  • An asset may be noncountable if you do not have access to it because of domestic violence. For example, if the abuser has your car it may be noncountable. See DTA Transitions, April 2001, p. 8.
  • If you make random withdrawals from a bank account that is below the asset limit and use them for unmet household needs, the withdrawals are not considered countable income. See DTA Transitions, Feb. 2014, p. 5. 
  • If your bank account goes over $250 for an individual or $500 for a couple, 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 this happens to you.
  • Prepaid funeral arrangements usually cannot be converted into cash and are usually noncountable. See DTA Transitions, Feb. 2013, p. 7.

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