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Bankruptcy and Income Tax

Bankruptcy and Income Tax – what are my obligations?

Bankruptcy cannot eliminate all tax liability. The Bankruptcy Code does offer many debtors substantial income tax relief. If a bankruptcy filing relieves your tax debt depends on several factors including the nature and the status of tax liability and the type of bankruptcy proceeding.

Only individuals can discharge certain taxes through bankruptcy. The only tax eligible for discharge is federal income tax.  The IRS has the power to file a tax lien to perfect its tax claim against individuals. A tax lien, once filed, becomes a secured lien on all of the taxpayer’s property. If a tax lien is in place prior to your filing bankruptcy, the IRS’s secured tax lien has priority over the bankruptcy filing, and bankruptcy cannot dislodge the lien from the your property. Even property which would otherwise be exempt in a bankruptcy, such as homestead, cannot be sold or transferred without payment of the IRS tax lien. In this instance, bankruptcy provides no tax relief.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy will eliminate all income taxes except the following tax liability:

a. Taxes for which a tax return was due to be filed within three years (plus extensions) prior to the date of filing bankruptcy. For example, the tax return for 2003 income taxes was due to be filed on April 15, 2004 (plus any extensions), and therefore, these income taxes cannot be discharged by filing bankruptcy on or before April 15, 2007 (plus the time of extensions); OR

b. Taxes assessed by the IRS within 240 days before the filing of bankruptcy. Assessment date is the date that tax liability is entered on IRS records; OR

c. Taxes not yet assessed but still assessable; OR

d. Taxes for which a tax return was filed late and filed within two years prior to filing bankruptcy; OR

e. Taxes of a debtor who committed fraud related to a tax return or willfully attempted to evade or defeat taxes sought to be discharged.

Income taxes that do not fail any of the above five tests may be wiped out in a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.

Tax Relief in a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

Taxes which are non-dischargeable in Chapter 13 are considered priority debts and must be paid in full during the Chapter 13 plan without interest.  There are often additional legal and fact issues in any particular bankruptcy that determines the treatment of income tax debt.

If you find yourself in such a position it is best to consult an attorney with substantial bankruptcy experience.  There are so many different circumstances that a proper answer to your particular problem can only be obtained by a trained and experienced lawyer.

If you are considering bankruptcy or have a question about bankruptcy, our firm may be able to help you.

If you require the immediate services of a highly experienced and aggressive attorney, please call for a FREE CONSULTATION

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