Chapter 7 Bankruptcy and Tax Refunds

If you file a bankruptcy case between January and April, you may be expecting a tax refund.  Your Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustee may try to take your tax refund from you.  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 you are not claiming a homestead exemption.

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.

In addition, here in Rochester, some of the Chapter 7 trustees frequently ask for a copy of the debtor’s income tax return for the year the bankruptcy is filed in.  This request may make place early in the year, even though the tax return would not be filed several months later.  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.

One way of dealing with these issues is to wait to file your bankruptcy until after the tax refund was spent on family necessities.  It is important to disclose the tax refund to your lawyer and the 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.

If you 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 bankruptcy attorney.

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