Protecting Your Tax Refunds in Bankruptcy Skip to main content

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Protecting Your Tax Refunds in Bankruptcy


It’s almost February and ‘tis the season for thinking about tax time—even more so if you find yourself considering the benefits of bankruptcy. So, if you believe bankruptcy is the right option to help you start fresh in 2010, in addition to trying to get your 2009 taxes filed in a timely manner, and wondering whether you can discharge any income tax debt in your bankruptcy filing, you may also be thinking about how you can protect your precious tax refund from creditor claims.
In the abstract, your tax refund can be a problem if you’re headed for bankruptcy. The money you get at tax time could be considered a part of your “bankruptcy estate” allowing your assigned bankruptcy trustee to take a part or all of your refund in order to pay back your awaiting creditors.
But, just in time to file (for taxes and/or bankruptcy), here are some timely tips for protecting your tax refund:

Alter Your Exemptions
If you’re expecting a larger tax refund in the same year you plan to file for bankruptcy, your first best step is to alter your tax exemptions and allowances in the months prior to a bankruptcy filing. Increasing your exemptions now means you’ll receive more money in your paycheck to use throughout the year and less money in the form of a lump sum tax return. In addition to the benefit of being able to apply that money to necessities throughout the year, that’ll be less money available for creditors to seize at the time of any necessary bankruptcy filing.

Apply for Advanced Earned Income
If you receive what’s known as an “earned income” tax credit you can also head off some bankruptcy issues by providing your employer with a W-5.  This special tax form allows you to receive your earned income credit on a monthly, weekly or quarterly basis. And like the tax refund, this process disburses this money directly to you, keeping your money out of government coffers and potentially out the hands of awaiting creditors.

Know Your Refund
While some can’t wait to file, many people time their bankruptcy for a time following the potential for receiving a non-exempt, but sizeable, sum.  As such, when considering your bankruptcy, it’s important to determine what your refund will be. Depending on whether you’re receiving a generous refund, you may consider holding off on your bankruptcy filing until you have had an opportunity to use the refund on your family’s necessities—spending the money on food, clothing, medical co-pays, car repairs, etc., keeping all receipts as you spend.  In the alternative, if you are planning to file for bankruptcy, do not use your tax refund to pay back relatives or friends, large sums of unsecured debt to any one unsecured creditor, or purchase luxury items, all of which could cause a problem with your bankruptcy filing in terms of creditor claims.

Know the Rules for the State You’re In
Your own state’s laws could mean your refund is partially or fully exempt from creditor claims. As a result, it is essential that you consult with a qualified bankruptcy attorney to review your individual bankruptcy situation in and around tax time. This consultation can assure you’ve attempted to protected your precious tax refund from every imaginable angle.

If you are considering bankruptcy, knowing a qualified bankruptcy attorney can also help you with additional tax decisions, yielding the right kinds of support, information and insights—at a low cost— for a financially 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 +1-919-646-2654, or during the off hours, you can make your own appointment right online at Simply click on the yellow “FREE Consultation Now” button.

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