Tax Refunds and Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

It is that time of the year again. Starting in the beginning of the year and until April 15, debtors are filing their federal and New York State income tax returns.  For those debtors who are thinking about filing Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, it is usually a good idea to receive and use their income tax refunds prior to filing for bankruptcy. For those debtors who filed for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy during the past year, it maybe the time to provide copies of their income tax returns to the bankruptcy trustee.

Debtors who filed for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy usually learn during their meeting of the creditors whether the bankruptcy trustee will want to see their income tax returns for the past year. The reason that the bankruptcy trustee will want to see the income returns because it will allow him to figure out what portion of the income tax refunds, if any, is the property of the bankruptcy estate.

Tax refunds are probably the largest single type of asset which debtors lose in bankruptcy.   In New York, the tax refund may protected by your cash exemption up to $2,500, if the bankruptcy was filed prior to January 24, 2011, and up to $6,000, if Chapter 7 Bankruptcy was filed after January 24, 2011, and if you are not claiming a homestead exemption.

The trustees’ goal is to see whether or not  a portion of the income tax refund can be pro rated from the beginning of the year to the date of filing bankruptcy. If this prorated portion of the income tax refund is large enough, the trustee may make a demand that a portion fo the refund be turned over to the trustee. If only one spouse is filing for bankruptcy, and they file a joint tax return, Rochester Chapter 7 trustees usually take position that one half of the refund belongs to the trustee, subject to the applicable exemption.

It is important to disclose the tax refund to your lawyer and the bankruptcy trustee, since a bankruptcy trustee can simply write to the Internal Revenue Service and have it send the tax refund directly to the trustee, and a deliberate failure to disclose information can be a basis for a denial of discharge. Some of the Rochester bankruptcy trustees will ask debtors to sign a stipulation at the meeting of the creditors, requiring the debtors to provide copies of their income tax returns as well as a portion or all of the income tax refunds to the trustee. If debtors fail to do so, their bankruptcy discharge may be revoked.

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.