Bankruptcy, Cancellation of Debt and Tax Issues

I am often asked if the debt discharged in bankruptcy is treated as debtor’s income and is subject to taxes.  The answer to that question under the Bankruptcy Code, for both Chapter 7 Bankruptcy and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy is unequivocally no.  Debt discharged in bankruptcy does not result in taxable income to the debtor.

While I have written previously about the problems with debt settlement, this is one more advantage that bankruptcy has over various debt settlement arrangements.  If the debtor has his debt reduced or cancelled, the creditor may issue an IRS Form 1009-C form and the debtor would have to report it on his taxes.  As a result, the amount of cancelled debt will be added to the debtor’s income as miscellaneous income, and while not subject to self-employment or social security tax, it will be subject to income taxes.  If the amount of the cancelled debt is significant, the debtor may face an unexpected tax liability amounting to thousands of dollars.

One exception to the above is cancellation of mortgage debt. The Mortgage Debt Relief Act of 2007 generally allows debtors to exclude income from the discharge of debt on their principal residence. Debt reduced through mortgage restructuring, as well as mortgage debt forgiven in connection with a foreclosure, qualifies for the relief as well.

This provision applies to debt forgiven in calendar years 2007 through 2012. Up to $2 million of forgiven debt is eligible for this exclusion ($1 million if married filing separately). The exclusion does not apply if the discharge is due to services performed for the lender or any other reason not directly related to a decline in the home’s value or the taxpayer’s financial condition.  For a detailed discussion of IRS’ position on these issue, please follow this link.

Occasionally, even the debtor who filed fro bankruptcy may receive 1099-C from one of his creditors. Nonetheless, if the debtor received a discharge as a result of either Chapter 7 Bankruptcy or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, the debtor is able to file IRS Form 982, which will inform the IRS that the debtor went through the bankruptcy and any discharged debt should not be included in his gross income.  If you are considering your options between a bankruptcy or debt settlement, one of the issues that you should discuss during a consultation with a bankruptcy lawyer is what impact either approach would have on your tax liability.

If you contemplating filing Chapter 7 Bankruptcy or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, or are dealing with debt problems in Western New York, including Rochester, 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 with a Rochester, NY, bankruptcy lawyer.