For most bankruptcy bound individuals, a discharge of all individual debts is considered the Holy Grail of any bankruptcy filing, yielding a permanent injunction that prevents creditors from collecting on debts. However, any good discussion of debt dischargeability also tackles the primary exceptions to look out for when considering any bankruptcy filing.
Exceptions to the power of a bankruptcy discharge, include:
Certain Tax Obligations
Withholding taxes are not dischargeable in bankruptcy, although you may be able to use a Chapter 13 case to pay these over time (notwithstanding any accrued penalties and interest). Similarly, sales taxes are not dischargeable, but again, Chapter 13 can establish a payment plan for lessening the load and paying this out over the long haul.
The question of whether your income tax can be discharged ultimately depends on how old the tax debt is and when you filed the tax return. In order to be dischargeable, your tax debt for the tax year in question must meet the following conditions: the due date for filing your tax return is at least three years ago; your tax return was filed at least two years ago; the tax assessment is at least 240 days old; your tax return was not fraudulent; and you are not guilty of tax evasion.
For example, in a 2009 bankruptcy filing:
- Taxes from 2006-2008 are not dischargeable;
- Taxes from 2004 and before are eligible for review; and
- Taxes from 2005 are potentially dischargeable if the return was filed by the debtor on or before April 15, 2006. If the return was filed under an extension, then the 2005 taxes are not eligible for the following review unless the debtor files after October 15, 2009.
Fraud and Certain Credit Usages Before Filing
Fraud is a valid creditor objection to a bankruptcy discharge. To find fraud, a creditor must prove: (1) a statement made under false pretenses; (2) a material fact; (3) designed to deceive the creditor; (4) that does in fact deceive the creditor; (5) the creditor reasonably relies on the statement; and (6) the creditor suffers actual damages resulting from the reliance.
The general rule here is this: if you’re considering bankruptcy it’s best to avoid maxing out (or in some cases simply using) consumer credit, credit cards, or loans. Bankruptcy law now demands that bankruptcy bound debtors like you do not take cash advances or purchase luxury items on credit 90-days prior to your filing bankruptcy. If you do purchase large or luxury items through these means, creditors may challenge you (and these discharging these debts) in Court if they believe that you have acted in bad faith in using credit excessively.
Alimony, child support and spousal maintenance debts are not dischargeable in either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Additionally, the first prong of bankruptcy, the automatic stay, does not act to stop most collection efforts for these claims. An exception to this exception comes in the second type of domestic asset splitting known as equitable distribution. While equitable distribution—a dividing of martial property as a result of dissolution of the marriage—is no longer dischargeable in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the same is not true in Chapter 13. Chapter 13 bankruptcy, in what is called as its “super discharge,” can aid a former spouse having trouble paying their bills to eliminate this type of burden. These issues are complex, and it is important that you speak with a bankruptcy expert if you have these types of issues.
In an effort to protect the education lending industry, and allow student loan money for almost anyone who wants it, Congress has made virtually every advance in connection with education non-dischargeable in bankruptcy. To that end, these loans are non-dischargeable “unless excepting such debt from discharge…would impose an undue hardship on the debtor.” While the definition of “undue hardship” is ultimately to the discretion of your bankruptcy judge, if precedent is any “judge,” this is a high hurdle to surmount. As a result, if you’re considering a bankruptcy filing simply to discharge a large student loan bill, don’t lose hope, it may just be best to wait: the tide appears to be turning in Congress to loosen this exemption as the costs of education skyrocket and more and more Americans face insurmountable educational tabs.
Because of the complexities of bankruptcy law, a qualified bankruptcy attorney is a necessary tool in your financial toolbox to help you conquer your creditors and face your fiscal fears, yielding the right kinds of debt relief—at a low cost— for a viable and secure future. The bankruptcy experts at the Law Offices of John T. Orcutt offer a totally FREE debt consultation and now, more than ever, it’s time to take them up on their offer. Just call toll free to 1-888-234-4181, or during the off hours, you can make your own appointment right online at www.billsbills.com. Simply click on the yellow “FREE Consultation Now” button.