One issue that periodically comes up in Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases is unsatisfied tax liability. As of late, the IRS and New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, have been aggressive in enforcing their claims with respect to unsatisfied tax liabilities.
One common problem associated with back taxes is that the amount owed by the debtor tends to grow rapidly because of the interest and penalties that are imposed by the taxing authority. In their collection efforts, the government agencies can engage in a variety of collection activities, including garnishment, levies, tax liens, seizure of physical assets, intercept of tax refunds, and other collection activities.
For many people with unpaid taxes, bankruptcy may be a way to improve their situation by either improving their financial state and having funds available to pay the taxes owed, or by discharging certain tax liabilities.
In Chapter 7 bankruptcy, certain past due taxes can be eliminated depending on how old the unpaid taxes are and whether the debtor filed an income tax return for the year the taxes came due. For some people filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy will be a way to permanently eliminate their past-due taxes without having to pay them. To figure our whether or not your taxes can be discharged in bankruptcy you will need to know exactly what taxes you owe and for what years.
There are four general requirements for discharging an income tax in bankruptcy. In this post, I will discuss the first: The tax must be one for which the return was not last due within three years of the filing of the bankruptcy. Therefore, if a 2005 income tax return was last due on April 15, 2006, the three-year requirement would be met after April 15, 2009.
A complication concerns the “last due” requirement. What happens when the debtor requests and receives an extension? The answer is that the three-year clock starts after the last extension. See In re Wood, 866 F.2d 1367 (11th Cir. 1989).
The three-year period is also tolled during the time when the taxing authority is barred from collecting the debt because of a prior bankruptcy.
There are four general requirements for discharging an income tax in bankruptcy. Initially, the tax must be one for which the return was not last due within three years of the filing of the bankruptcy. Therefore, if a 2006 income tax return was last due on April 15, 2007, the three-year requirement would be met after April 15, 2010.
Second, for an income tax to be dischargeable, it must not have been assessed with 240 days of the filing of the bankruptcy. When a return is timely filed, the assessment date is usually around the time a return is filed.
Third, if a return is filed late, it must not be filed within two years of a bankruptcy for the tax to be discharged. This requirement is subject to the following limitations: (1) amended returns count as returns for purposes of this rule; (2) if in the course of correspondence with the IRS, the debtor gives financial statements with all the information needed to complete a return, this can also be deemed to be a return.; and (3) the two-year period begins once the taxing authority actually receives the return, not when the return is mailed, as is the case with timely-filed returns.
The fourth requirement is that the income tax return must be filed by the tax payer, it must not be fraudulent, and the debtor must not have attempted to evade the tax.
If the above requirements are satisfied, a bankruptcy lawyer can help you by obtaining a discharge of unpaid taxes.
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 lawyer.