I AM AN ARTISTS WHO GETS SSI. HOW DOES THE MONEY I RECEIVE FOR MY ARTWORK COUNT WHEN YOU FIGURE MY SSI?

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It depends on the nature of your work in the arts. If you work as someone's employee to produce artwork, the money counts as wages. If you have a small business, the money counts as earnings from self–employment. If you are neither employed nor self–employed as an artist, money you get for your artwork counts as unearned income in the month you get it. It is called "unearned" income because you don't get the money from employment or self–employment.

Although we may need to reduce your Supplemental Security Income (SSI) when you receive other income, we don't count all of your income. So, often you end up with more money.

HOW DO WAGES AFFECT MY SSI?

When you have wages, we look at your gross monthly amount. From that amount:


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    we subtract the first $65; and


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    we then subtract one–half of what's left.

Other deductions may also apply:


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    If your earnings are the only income you have (other than your SSI), we subtract $20 per month from your earnings.


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    If you are a student under the age of 22, we usually can subtract more of your earnings, subject to monthly and annual limits.


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    If you are disabled but not blind, we subtract expenses you have because of your disability that enable you to work (wheelchair, prosthesis, medicines, etc.).


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    If you are blind, we subtract all of your work expenses (taxes, lunches, transportation, etc.).


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    If you have an approved Plan to Achieve Self–Support (PASS), we subtract any of your income that goes to meet your approved work goal.

After subtracting these amounts, the remaining wages will reduce your SSI. But, since we always count less than half of your wages, you end up with more money.

HOW DO EARNINGS FROM SELF-EMPLOYMENT AFFECT MY SSI?

You deduct your business expenses on Schedule C of your Federal income tax return. You then calculate your "net earnings from self–employment" on Schedule SE. We divide those net earnings equally among the months in your taxable year. For each month, we subtract the same deductions that apply to wages. The remaining amount of your net earnings reduces your SSI. But, since we always count less than half of your net earnings, you end up with more money.

IF I START MAKING TOO MUCH MONEY FROM MY ARTWORK TO CONTINUE GETTING SSI, WILL I LOSE MY MEDICAID COVERAGE?

Not necessarily. If your art income is from wages or self–employment, your Medicaid coverage usually continues for as long as you are unable to afford similar coverage. Also, if your earnings later drop, you may be able to get SSI benefits again without filing a new application.

HOW DOES UNEARNED INCOME AFFECT MY SSI?

We look at the gross amount you received. We then subtract any costs you had in producing the income (art supplies, paper, etc.). We call these costs your "expenses of obtaining income." We also deduct $20 from your total income each month. The remaining income reduces your SSI.

Most of the deductions listed above that apply to wages and earnings from self–employment don't apply to "unearned" income. So, usually unearned income causes a bigger reduction in your SSI. But, most of the time, you still end up with more money.

DOES AN AWARD I GET FOR ARTISTIC ACHIEVEMENT AFFECT MY SSI?

Under the law, awards of any kind are unearned income in the month you get them. If you spend the money in the month you get it, then your SSI benefits usually are affected only in that month. But any money you keep after the month you get it counts as a resource for SSI purposes as long as you have it. The SSI limit on resources is $2,000 ($3,000 if you have a spouse). If your resources exceed the limit at the beginning of any month, you are not eligible for SSI.

DO APPRENTICESHIP GRANTS AND FELLOWSHIP GRANTS AFFECT MY SSI?

Grants you receive for study don't count against your SSI benefits as long as the money is used for tuition, fees, and necessary educational expenses. But any of the money you use for something else, including your food and shelter, counts as your unearned income in the month you received the money. Grants, scholarships and educational gifts received after June 1, 2004 will not count as a resource for 9 months after you receive them.

Certain money you receive under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 or from the Bureau of Indian Affairs is excluded from income and resources regardless of how you use it.

If you receive a grant to help train an artist, and training artists is part of your business as a self–employed person, then the grant counts as part of your earnings from self–employment. Otherwise, the money (less any necessary expenses) counts as your unearned income in the month you receive it.

DO THE SUPPLIES AND OTHER PROPERTY I NEED TO PRODUCE MY ARTWORK COUNT AS A RESOURCE?

Probably not. In most cases, property that you use to help support yourself does not count, subject to certain limits. We call it "property essential to self–support."

HOW CAN I AVOID BEING OVERPAID BY SSI WHEN I MAKE MONEY FROM MY ARTWORK OR GET AN AWARD OR STUDY GRANT?

The best way to avoid being overpaid is to talk to us as soon as you know you may receive the money. We can explain to you how the rules work and how to prevent or minimize the amount of an overpayment. You can call us at 1–800–772–1213.

You must tell us right away whenever your income changes. If you don't, we may pay you too much SSI, and you may have to pay it back.

Remember to keep track of your expenses when you produce your art. If we don't know about your expenses, we can't deduct them from your income.

CAN SOCIAL SECURITY HELP ME DEVELOP MY ABILITY TO MAKE MONEY FROM MY ARTWORK?

Unfortunately, we can't give you grants or loans for training or supplies. But, if you already have some income in addition to your SSI, we may be able to give you more SSI if you use your other income to develop as an artist or to start a business. See the SSI Spotlight on Plans to Achieve Self–Support.

ARE THERE OTHER SSI SPOTLIGHTS THAT I SHOULD READ?

Yes. These SSI Spotlights discuss several of the topics mentioned in this spotlight: 


 


THIS INFORMATION IS GENERAL.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CALL 1–800–772–1213 (TTY 1–800–325–0778),
VISIT OUR WEBSITE (www.socialsecurity.gov) ON THE INTERNET,
OR CONTACT YOUR LOCAL SOCIAL SECURITY OFFICE.