TN 24 (03-95)

SI 00820.550 Work Expense Development and Documentation

A. Policy

All allegations and/or evidence of BWE and IRWE must be documented in file.

B. Procedure — Documentation

Document BWE and IRWE respectively per 1. and 2. below.

1. Allegation of BWE

Document BWE as described below:



Assume that any working blind individual earning more than $65 a month has BWE. For example, most earnings are subject to income taxes which qualify as BWEs.


If earnings are above $65 per month, obtain an allegation from the individual that either:

  • claims a BWE, specifying the type and amount of expense; or

  • explains why he/she has no BWE.


Record this statement in remarks on the Blind/Impaired Work Expenses (IBIE) screen in MISSICS, the remarks on the application or redetermination form, on a SSA-795 (Statement of Claimant or Other Person), or on a Report of Contact (RC). For MISSICS cases when no BWE is alleged, show “No BWE” in the expense field and “0.00” in the amount field on the IBIE screen and document the explanation in remarks.

2. Allegation of IRWE

Document IRWE according to the following steps:



Ask about IRWE when:

  • a disabled individual's earned income exceeds $65 in any month; or

  • at least one member of an eligible couple is disabled and has earned income, and the couple's total earned income exceeds $65 in any month; or

  • a disabled individual has earned income of $65 or less, the individual is subject to spouse-to-spouse deeming, and the couple's total earned income exceeds $65.


Record the individual's response in:

  • item 9 on SSA-821-BK (OS 15025.010), showing “none” if no IRWE are alleged; or

  • items 8B and 9 on SSA-820-BK (OS 15025.001), showing “none” if no IRWE are alleged; or

  • question 35 of the SSA 8000-BK; or

  • question 14 of the SSA 8203-BK; or

  • a statement (on an SSA-795 or an R/C, etc.) describing the IRWE claimed or that no IRWE is alleged.

3. When to Develop

Develop work expenses per 1. and 2. above when you:

  • complete an initial application or a redetermination (unless the work expenses were developed as part of a monthly/quarterly wage verification process); or

  • receive a report that the recipient has started working;or

  • receive a report that the expenses have changed.

    NOTE: A change in the amount of earnings of a blind worker implies a change in expenses since the amount of taxes deducted probably changed.

4. Allocation of Work Expenses

Document the file to support your allocation of work expenses. (See SI 00820.560 for instructions on allocating work expenses.)

C. Procedure — Verification

1. Evidence of BWE

  1. Verifying that criteria for BWE are met

    • Stop file documentation when the expense is listed on the chart in SI 00820.555. The items listed on the chart meet the criteria for a BWE.

    • Document the file to reflect how an item is reasonably attributable to the earning of income when the item is not listed on the chart.

  2. Verifying cost of BWE

    • Document the file with photocopies of bills, receipts, etc., from the individual to corroborate the allegations.

      Inform every working blind individual of the requirement to maintain records of work expenses and to produce such records when requested. Explain why we need to see these records.

      NOTE: You may use form SSA-L4201-BK per SI 00820.145B.3. to verify BWE for which the employer has a record of the expense (e.g., taxes, FICA) and the evidence is not otherwise available.

    • Accept the individual's allegation of the expense amount when:

      bills, receipts, etc., cannot be obtained (e.g., lack of receipts for food purchased for a dog guide, meals, transportation, etc.);and

      the allegation appears reasonable.

2. Evidence of IRWE

  1. Verifying the need for an item or service

    • Refer to the chart in SI 00820.555 for guidance in common types of expenses deductible as IRWE.

    • Accept an allegation, as verification of need, that a prescription drug is used to control the disabling condition, enabling the individual to function at work, when:

      there is a paid bill for the drug; and

      the information on the container indicates that:

      a physician and a licensed pharmacist were involved in providing the drug; and

      the drug is for the individual.

    • Follow the instructions in DI 10520.030A. for verification of IRWE in all other circumstances.

  2. Verifying cost of an item or service

    • Accept the individual's allegation as to the recurring use and cost of an IRWE when:

      at least one available receipt documenting the cost is submitted;

      additional receipts are unavailable for the recurring expense (e.g., hearing aid batteries, incontinence pads, etc.); and

      the allegation of use is consistent with the nature of the expense (e.g., the individual states that he has only a couple of receipts for the box of 60 incontinence pads he buys every month as his condition requires him to use two pads a day).

    • Follow the instructions in DI 10520.030B. for verification of IRWE in all other circumstances.

      NOTE: However, you may use form SSA-L4201-BK per SI 00820.145B.3. to verify the cost of the IRWE when payment of the expense is deducted by the employer from the individual's earnings.

3. Posteligibility Situations

  1. BWE/IRWE previously developed

    Review the IBIE screen or the remarks screen in MISSICS to determine the months the BWE/IRWE were previously verified. If BWE/IRWE were developed previously, compare the recipient's (and spouse's, if applicable) responses with information on the Supplemental Security Record (SSR). Then, proceed as follows:

the alleged amounts and dates of work expense information agree with the verified information on the SSRno changes are further BWE/IRWE development is necessary. Show these months as verified.
 changes are allegeddevelop and verify BWE/IRWE per 1 and 2 above.
information on the SSR is unverifieddevelop and verify BWE/IRWE per 1 and 2 above.
  1. BWE/IRWE not previously developed

    Develop and verify per 1 and 2 above.

D. Procedure — Special Considerations

1. More Than One Employer Involved

Add total earnings from all employers. Deduct combined work expenses from this total.

NOTE: There is no need to relate a specific expense to a particular source of earnings.

2. Self-Employment

Carefully review records and/or the portion of the tax return used to determine NESE per SI 00820.210. Check that none of the expenses deducted in determining NESE are also being claimed as work expenses.

Determine what expenses can be excluded from earned income as work expenses. If necessary, refer the individual to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for information about permissible self-employment deductions.

EXAMPLE: Individual is self-employed and a wage earner

FACTS: Mr. Griffin, a blind SSI recipient, is self-employed selling brushes. He also works one night a week as an employee typing transcripts from recordings. Mr. Griffin's self-employment requires him to travel by cab (at a cost of $60 per month) to the brush manufacturer to pick up samples. He also must travel by cab, at a cost of $40 per month, to the office where he is employed.

CONCLUSION: You determine that the $60 monthly cab fare to pick up samples has been used in arriving at his NESE and cannot be deducted from his earned income as a work expense. You deduct as a work expense the $40 monthly cabfare for travel to and from the office where he is employed.

3. Work Expenses of a Couple

If both members of a couple are eligible and both work, deduct from the couple's earned income each individual's work expenses to the extent that they do not exceed that individual's earnings. Do not deduct excess work expenses of one member of the couple from the earned income of his or her spouse. (See B.2. above when it is necessary to document IRWE in couples' cases and SI 00820.545C when deeming is an issue.)

4. Estimating Future Work Expenses

  1. Estimate an individual's future expenses based on expenses paid in the most recent period per SI 00810.600-610. This could be the period just redetermined or a shorter period if there has been a pertinent change in circumstances, such as additional expenses.

    For example, if the individual had more expenses in the last 3 months than in previous months and those expenses are expected to continue, use that amount in your determination. Consider any expected decrease in expenses (e.g., installment payments on tools that will be paid off).

  2. Do not estimate an anticipated expense in the near future (e.g., purchase of more equipment) until there is proof that the expense exists. Tell the individual to let you know as soon as a new expense develops so you can make any appropriate adjustments at that time.

  3. You may use the nationally approved personal computer income protection program to project BWE and IRWE. (See SI 00820.150 and SI 00820.230 for estimating future earnings.)

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