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Receiving Social Security Benefit (Income Support): Can I Keep Any Small Seasonal Cash Gift?

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LCB1 | 17:07 Sun 31st Mar 2013 | Society & Culture
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I know that any income from part time work, or I think, anything else received in cash, which is more than £20 in one week, should be declared to the benefit office, for people receiving Income Support.

What about seasonal gifts? A Christmas present? I haven't had to wonder about this before, as the relative who prefers to give me cash at such times has done this at Christmas. This is when I also spend the same or more money on gifts for this relative, so, both giving the same, adds up to nothing more received on my side. Usually I'm a bit less well off, that way!

But if I haven't given anything? What about an Easter cash present (I don't give at Easter) from a relative given to you? Even just a small gift such as £40 or £50, someone who knows you're with no base savings, rather hard up, and it would really help with things like bills. (Rather than Easter eggs, or other seasonal food and drink that isn't so necessary.)

Is someone receiving Income Support obliged only to keep £20 of this kind of small, seasonal cash gift, and declare the other £20 or £30 (to have roughly that same amount taken from future I.S. benefit payments)? It seems strange to do that for just a normal, small seasonal gift from a close family member at a time like that.


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As I read the rules, small cash gifts don't count as 'income' for the purposes of assessing benefits, and therefore don't need to be declared. (The only time that gifts would be included in the calculation is if they increased the capital of the beneficiary to a level which altered their state benefits).
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Thanks for replying.

Do you have a link to an official web page for that, please? Because, I suppose that benefit recipients have to be sure about the limit of small, seasonal cash gifts. You know, receiving £150 - very small to someone coping by benefit awards with a large family - 5 times over from different relatives at Christmas might not be thought so small by the benefit office.
And quite how would the benefits office be made aware of the generosity of family members?
Income support is an income-related means-tested benefit in the United Kingdom for people who are on a low income. Claimants of Income Support may be entitled to certain other benefits, for example, Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit and help with health costs. A person with savings over £16,000 cannot get Income Support, and savings over £6,000 affect how much Income Support can be received.
I've tried to make sense of the definition of 'income' here, which doesn't seem to include gifts:
(Annoyingly, there's no direct answer).

All other threads I can find seem to have come to the same conclusion as me:

I'm on JSA and I try to stick to the rules. For example, because I've got some casual work coming up in the next few weeks I've just been making notes of which work I have to declare (while remaining 'signed on') and which periods I'll have to 'sign off' for. I've also been drafting a letter to my local council's benefits department, so that they can make the necessary changes to my Council Tax reduction. However it wouldn't even occur to me to declare small gifts (not that I'm likely to get any!). Indeed, when I've tried to tell 'officialdom' about similar minor changes in my circumstances, I've often been told "I don't think that we need to bother about that".

Stop worrying and spend the money on something nice!
you seem very knowledgeable about social security rules in your previous posts here..

pages 64-65 of the document in Buenchico's link says any new money/cash should be declared to the DWP
>>>pages 64-65 of the document in Buenchico's link says any new money/cash should be declared to the DWP

They also imply that such notification only refers to changes in savings (rather than to the money counting as 'income'), so I still wouldn't bother telling DWP.
Why not just ask direct, and write the time and who you asked, for any possible future disagreement.
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Responding to sara3 ('you seem very knowledgable') - I remember checking that part out, about selling what you own and when then there could be some confusion if you're then buying to sell more and it's regular.

I was always confused about seasonal gifts, though.

I think what you said, sara3 is right, that any money coming in is always to be declared. But isn't the concept of seasonal gifts a bit different? Some people often give and receive money, and can easily end up out of pocket when declaring, because at a birthday in a month or so, they then may spend more than they received.

Having to measure Christmas presents exactly - he / she gives £150 cash present, so I'll have to make sure to get a present not costing more than that - changes the nature of the time and the gifts.

I had heard that seasonal gifts were different, sara, that's why I was asking and I couldn't find any information, then, when I searched. It kind of feels intuitive that seasonal gifts including cash may be different. I don't know.

I also feel I'd kind of be laughed at at a benefit office for declaring £20 or so at such a time. And then I'm also realising that I'll be buying the same, elderly relative who has given a cash gift things that is hard for that person to buy themselves, and would leave if I didn't give them a gift. So, I'm thinking it also sounds a bit stupid then. But it's kind of nearly impossible for me to be lax about benefits, because of the TV ad campaigns - the scare stuff. Not that I'm scared - a mistake over £20 to £100 once or twice is just that. But, I kind of can't actually do anything after those ads before making sure it's right. I wonder if those ads have subliminal hypnotic messages in them? (Not, that I'm not usually good, ' course I am!)
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Good idea Wildwood. But I do feel silly also. I don't know if I could pick up the phone. Everything's supposed to be clear in little Adobe documents, or even smaller, simpler web pages of short bullet lists on the web, but I can't find the answer to this. Unless the benefit people think it's sheerly obvious that there is no exception for small, seasonal gifts - that that's the same as extra income, whether you're even losing out in a while on the gift roundabout or not.
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Thanks, Buenchico, my feeling is that you're right, but I haven't gone through all of those pages you list yet. I guess you have and you seem to have worked it out.
I can't quote you the relevant legislation but this type of money will not impact on your benefit - unless it means that, as a result, you have too much capital.

I have never heard of anyone declaring such a gift. It is not 'earned income'
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I agree and feel you're likely to be right, wolf63.

But neither is a lottery win 'earned income' and the benefit is only about helping you out with the amount it is decided you need for a reasonable maintenance in not so fortunate financial circumstances. So, would you have to declare a £40 or £50 little lottery win (after all those lottery tickets, every week - I don't think so!) But what would the cut off point be, of a lottery win. Certainly it's not fair for the state to keep making up the basic decent maintenance amount if you're not really in the "so unfortunate" zone for a few weeks. If you win £300, maybe it's OK to lose 3 weeks benefit. Maybe it's considered a gift you should enjoy, beyond your benefit (again you have paid lots of lottery tickets over the years).

I don't know if there is any guidance about this type of thing. But the seasonal gifts would affect such a huge percentage of people.

I'm pretty sure now those people are right who say that small cash gifts can be kept and don't need to be declared. Because, the benefit people must know it would apply to so many benefit recipients, and would have the information there that they must hand in their small gifts, if that was the case. So I guess it can't be.
Question Author
... Reading the Moneysavingexpert forum, it seems that that's right about one off cash gifts, not regular ones.

They're counted as an addition to capital rather than income.

I suppose the gifts don't even need to be small, then, as long as you're still holding below the maximum savings limit for the benefit.

... Maybe lottery wins are the same. I suppose they are - capital rather than income. Yeah, I'm sure it's true, how else can people living on a maintenance benefit build their allowed savings except by keeping gifts, wins, etc.
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... No, I'm not sure. I felt that way. It seems to be that way, but it doesn't seem to be spelled out in the benefits information I've searched.
You are not entitled to claim benefits (in the main) if you have regular income' or savings above the threshold.

Occasional 'bonuses' cannot be classed as income and if they do not take you over the savings threshold cannot impact there, either.
Question Author

I think you're right about bonuses being classed as savings money rather than declarable income, and I think this is the same for cash gifts. As long as you don't have more savings than the benefit allows, it's fine to receive & keep it.

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