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What are "exempt" property, earnings, and income?

Exempt property

Some property is totally exempt from debt collections (unless you have put the property up as collateral). This means the creditor can’t take this property. “Equity” means the amount of the value of your property which is available to you, after accounting for any existing liens. These items are exempt:

  • Equity in your home up to $47,500. This exemption increases to $95,000 if:
    • a minor dependent lives with you, or
    • you or are at least 60 years old or disabled, or
    • you have a dependent who is at least 60 years old or disabled.

      A set of three keys in green, orange, and blue

    If you don’t own a home, you can apply this exemption to a burial plot.

  • Equity in one vehicle up to $7,500.

  • Equity in “tools of the trade” of up to $5,000.

  • Your clothing up to $200 in value for each item.

  • Equity in household furniture, appliances, and other household goods up to $200 for each item.

  • Jewelry up to $750 in total value, and your wedding and engagement rings.

  • Life insurance contracts (and up to $4000 in any accrued dividends, interest, or loan value in such contracts).

  • Certain farm equipment if you are a farmer.

  • A fishing boat if you fish commercially.

  • Certain amounts of heating fuel and cord wood.

  • Your furnace, heating stoves and one cook stove.

  • Prescribed health aids.

  • A supply of food, seed, and gardening tools.

  • You may also claim a $400.00 exemption on any property whether or not otherwise exempt.

  • If you have not used all of your home equity exemption (the first item on this list), you may use up to $6,000.00 of the unused portion to protect your clothing, household goods, tools of trade, or personal injury award.

 

Exempt earnings A stay of yellow coins in front of several yellow cash bills with dollard signs on them. A pile of money.

From your weekly income or paycheck, this amount is protected from debt collection:

  • $290.00 (40 hours x $7.25, the federal minimum wage), or
  • 3/4 of your take home pay, whichever is more.

Important Note: Different rules apply to some special categories of debt, like child support.

 

Exempt Sources of Income A blue card, like a credit, debit, or EBT card

These sources of income are exempt from debt collection:

  • TANF

  • Social Security & SSI

  • Veterans Benefits

  • Worker’s Compensation

  • Maine State Retirement Benefits

  • Unemployment Compensation

  • Alimony or support necessary for support of debtor or dependents

  • Other forms of public aid

  • Earned Income Tax Credit and Additional Child Tax Credit

Some other kinds of income are exempt, like: income from certain pension funds and retirement plans, certain life insurance payments, and certain types of damage awards. Get legal advice if you have questions about this kind of income.

Important Note: If your exempt property, income, or earnings are taken by order of the court, seek legal advice immediately. You can call Pine Tree Legal Assistance for help.