Live-at-home daughter can’t get California carpool sticker

Q: My 26-year-old daughter bought a used Hyundai Sonata plug-in hybrid in August. She commutes from Sunnyvale to San Francisco and wanted a more fuel-efficient car than her 2003 Honda Accord. Like many Bay Area millennials, she has a full-time job, pays her own way, and lives at home with us.

She was excited to learn about the new carpool sticker laws that went into effect Jan. 1, specifically that cars that previously had expired stickers (hers had a green sticker) could get one again as long as the owner qualified as “low-income,” $65,760 or less, which includes her. When we looked at the DMV form, it demands to know “household income,” which appears to include us, her retired parents. If we include our income, she would no longer qualify for an orange sticker under this program.

As she pointed out, “So that means that three people, roommates, who each earn $30,000 per year, and live together to be able to afford living in the Bay Area, wouldn’t qualify as low-income individuals under this plan.”

This seems absurd. The common definition of a “household” for tax purposes is the “taxpayer and all dependents.” She’s not a dependent, files her own taxes, and should be considered her own “household.”

Bob Crum, Sunnyvale

A: Sorry, I understand your frustration. Tax authorities define total annual household income as the annual income of all members of a household, age 17 and older, who reside together and share common living expenses, regardless if they are related. The state definition of household  for DMV purposes includes, but is not limited to, a spouse, significant other, and family members.

Q: With all the news about car break-ins, do you know which cars are hardest to break into? Are alarm systems an effective deterrent? Are there types of window glass that don’t break easily?

Dave Erickson

A: Readers, I need your help. There are obvious things you can do to reduce the chances of a break-in, such as parking in a well-lit area, hiding valuables in your trunk before you get to the parking area, and locking your car. Some recommend not locking the car to avoid damage if someone who is determined to do so breaks into it. Readers, do you have other suggestions?

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