The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (“BAPCPA”) included significant changes to the prior bankruptcy law, specifically, a financial test which allowed bankruptcy courts to determine who could qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and who could not. This test is commonly called the “Means Test.” If you fail the Means Test, you may still file for bankruptcy protection, however, you would be limited to filing under Chapter 13 of the Bankruptcy Code, and would have to repay all or a portion of your debt over time.
The Means Test is a two-part test that compares your income and expenses.
The first part of the Means Test compares your current monthly income to the median monthly income in your state for a family the size as yours. For the cases filed after March 15, 2009, this table is found here. If your income is less than the median income, you qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and do not need to complete the second part of the Means Test. For New York State, the median income numbers are:
One Earner Two People Three People Four People*
$46,523 $57,006 $67,991 $83,036
* Add $6,900 for every individual in excess of four.
If your income is higher than the median income, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, but it requires you to proceed to the second step in the test which is more complex.
The second part of the Means Test contains two-parts. First, you subtract your allowed monthly living expenses (determined by IRS guidelines) from your monthly income to come up with your monthly “disposable income.” If your projected disposable income over the next five years totals less than $6,000 ($100/month), you pass the Means Test and can file under Chapter 7.
If your projected disposable income over the next five years is greater than $10,000, you fail the Means Test and will not be allowed to file Chapter 7.
If your projected disposable income is between $6,000 and $10,000, yet another calculation is required. This calculation compares your disposable income over the next five years to a percentage of your unsecured debt to determine whether any significant repayment to your creditors is possible. If your disposable income over that five years is greater than 25% of your unsecured, non-priority debts, you fail the Means Test and cannot file under Chapter 7. If your disposable income over a five year period is less than 25% of your unsecured, non-priority debts, you pass the Means Test and can filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
If you qualify under the Means Test, it does not require you to file under Chapter 7. There may additional reasons why you should not file under Chapter 7, and instead choose to file under Chapter 13. Any decision to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy should be made only after considering alternatives and consulting with a knowledgeable bankruptcy lawyer.
If you don’t pass the Means Test, you may still file bankruptcy but are limited to using Chapter 13 bankruptcy which is a 3 to 5 year debt repayment plan. In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, your payment plan is based upon what you can afford to pay your creditors, not on what your creditors want you to pay.
The above is a short summary of the Means Test. There are other factors that may have an effect on the Means Test.
If you are dealing with debt problems in Rochester, New York, Canandaigua, Brighton, Pittsford, Penfield, Perinton, Fairport, Webster, Victor, Farmington, Greece, Gates, Hilton, Parma, Brockport, Spencerport, LeRoy, Chili, Churchville, Monroe County, Ontario County, Wayne County, Orleans County, Livingston County, and being harassed by bill collectors, and would like to know more about how bankruptcy may be able to help you, contact me today by phone or email to schedule a FREE initial consultation.