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Property Essential to Self-Support (PESS)

The Social Security Administration (SSA) aims to help those who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits become financially self-sufficient whenever possible. There are a number of incentives available to SSI beneficiaries who wish to re-enter the workforce or start their own businesses. Because SSI counts income and assets to determine an individual's eligibility, working can compromise a person’s eligibility for SSI benefits. Because of this, many SSI beneficiaries are weary of returning to work. To ease the transition back into the workforce, the SSA has implemented a number of incentives to help an SSI recipient while they attempt to return to work.

To increase the probability of an individual returning to the workforce, the SSA has implemented the concept of property essential to self-support—or PESS. PESS is a category of resources that the SSA will not count against your eligibility for SSI. PESS is any resource that is essential to a person’s self-support. This includes the following:

  • Any property used in trade or business or personal property that you are required to have as an employee—like inventory or goods and tools or other equipment.
  • Up to $6,000 of non-business property that is used to produce goods or services that are essential to a person’s day-to-day activities. For example: Land used to produce fruit or vegetables solely for consumption by a recipient and his or her household.
  • Up to $6,000 of non-business income-producing property. This only applies if the property yields an annual rate of return of at least 6%. For instance, a rental property.

The SSA does not consider liquid resources to be considered PESS unless a recipient uses them as part of trade or business. This includes stocks or bonds.

It is important to note that the SSA will not exclude these types of property if a recipient does not actively use them for self-support. If, for some reason, you stop using an item or property considered to be PESS, you will have to begin using it again within a reasonable period of time (typically 12 months).