Federal Tax Debt and Filing for Bankruptcy: What It Can and Can’t Do

First and foremost, you need to know this: If you are under audit, filing for bankruptcy will not stop the audit. All that filing for bankruptcy will do is suspend any collection action while the bankruptcy is pending – and that is only if there is no Stay of Relief filed by the IRS. The filing of bankruptcy is a serious matter and the court tends to look poorly upon people playing games with the process – case in point is this fool here.

Seriously, how willfully stupid do you have to be to overtly offend a federal judge?

I digress.

Anyway, let’s break down what bankruptcy can and can’t do for your federal tax debt. It differs depending on the chapter of bankruptcy that you are filing under. The two most common filings for individuals are Chapter 7 and Chapter 13, so we’ll tackle those first.

Chapter 7:

  • Chapter 7 is a “liquidation bankruptcy” available only to those businesses and individuals who can’t resolve their debts, whether they are solvent or insolvent.
  • Chapter 7 comes with qualifications that the debtor must meet before being allowed to file for Chapter 7 instead of 11, 13, or other bankruptcy types.
  • The taxes in question must be personal federal income taxes. Payroll taxes (for a business) must still be paid, as must tax liens, property taxes, or fines and penalties.
  • If you filed a fraudulent return or attempted to evade paying taxes, bankruptcy will not help you.
  • You must have filed a return for the debt you are trying to clear more than  two years prior to filing and the liability (tax year) needs to be at least three years ago.  Also, the tax liability must have been assessed by the IRS at least 240 days prior to the filing.
  • If the debt is not eligible for discharge, then the debtor may enter into an installment agreement or offer in compromise to settle the debt.

In short, that’s a lot of hoops to jump through and– you need to have a lawyer with you who knows bankruptcy law front to back and is up on all the current changes.

Chapter 13: 

  • Chapter 13 is a reorganization bankruptcy, and treats tax debt differently than a 7 in that you pay the priority or non-dischargeable tax debt off through the payment plan while the non-priority, unsecured, dischargeable portion of the tax debt gets put into the unsecured pool and is discharged at the end of the repayment plan.
  • The criteria to have tax debt classified as unsecured non-priority debt is the same as for Chapter 7, however it is unlikely that you will be required to repay the full amount of your tax debt.
  • Even if your tax debt is classified as priority debt, you will still be able to pay it down through the period of the plan and will not need to liquidate in order to pay it off immediately.

Again, there are still a lot of hoops to jump through, and you should have an experienced attorney on your side to defend your best interests. Give us a call for a free consultation, and let’s start working toward a good result!

About Chad Van Horn

Chad T. Van Horn, Esq. is a South Florida business leader and founding partner attorney of Van Horn Law Group, P.A. Through a combination of dedicated philanthropy, spirited entrepreneurship and legal expertise, he applies his resources and network to helping people. Learn more about Chad Van Horn

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