TN 21 (03-92)

SI 00820.535 Blind Work Expenses (BWE)


Social Security Act – Sections 1611 and 1612(b)

20 CFR 416.1112

A. Definition

BWE represent any earned income of a blind person which is used to meet any expenses reasonably attributable to earning the income.

B. Policy

1. Eligibility requirements

BWE are deducted from earned income if the blind person:

  • is under age 65; or

  • is age 65 or older; and

  • received SSI payments due to blindness (or received payments under a former State plan for aid to the blind) for the month before attaining age 65.

2. Application of exclusion

  1. The BWE exclusion applies only to earned income. BWE in excess of the earned income an individual receives during the month are never deducted from unearned income.

  2. The BWE exclusion is applied to earned income immediately after applying:

    • any portion of the general income exclusion which has not been deducted from unearned income; and

    • all other earned income exclusion except the exclusion of income used to fulfill an approved plan for achieving self-support (PASS).

NOTE:   BWEs are an exclusion to earned income, not a deduction. To input BWE exclusions in MSSICS, enter a (Y) to the question “Do you have any work expenses” on the INEQ screen. The expenses are input on the IBIE screen. (Do not code BWE exclusions on the IWAG screen under deductions.)

See also


3. Deductible items

  1. Except for items in 4. below, the cost of any work-related item paid by a blind person may be deducted as BWE, regardless of:

    • any nonwork benefit that may be derived from the item; or

    • the item's relationship to the person's blindness.

  2. A blind individual may claim the amount withheld for Federal, State, and local income taxes, and Social Security and Medicare taxes even though other factors may affect his or her tax liability (e.g., number of dependents, business loss, etc.).

  3. Examples of items which may be deductible as BWE are identified in SI 00820.555.

4. Nondeductible items

The following items cannot be deducted from earned income as BWE:

  • In-kind payments

  • Expenses deducted under other provisions (e.g., PASS)

  • Expenses which will be reimbursed

  • Life maintenance expenses. Although not all inclusive, life maintenance items include the following:

    meals consumed outside of work hours;

    self-care items (including items of cosmetic rather than work-related nature);

    general educational development;

    savings plans (e.g., Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA'S) or voluntary pensions);

    life and health insurance premiums

  • Items furnished by others that are needed in order to work (the value of such items is not income)

  • Expenses claimed on a self-employment tax return (see SI 00820.545B.1. for further discussion regarding this issue)

EXAMPLE:  Mrs. Terry Peters, a blind individual, works as a typist. A community organization bought her a special typewriter that she needed to perform satisfactorily on the job. The value of the typewriter is not income to Mrs. Peters, nor is it deducted as a BWE since she did not pay for it.

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SI 00820.535 - Blind Work Expenses (BWE) - 02/18/2015
Batch run: 02/18/2015