IRS Bankruptcy Chapter 7
By Steven A. Leahy
There are six things you can do if you owe the IRS money. First, you can simply write the IRS a check for the full amount. For many, that is simply not a realistic option. Often, if the tax obligation is not too significant, borrowing money from another source (friends, family, bank loan, credit cards, etc.) may be a less costly alternative than an installment agreement with the IRS. Second, you can enter into an Installment Agreement; pay the IRS over time. Third, you can obtain an Offer-in-Compromise: A lump sum settlement for less than the tax owed. Fourth, you can be declared Currently Not Collectible; pay the IRS nothing (for a period of time). Fifth, you can file for protection under the bankruptcy code. And the last option – you can do nothing, and let the IRS do what they will to you, your family and your assets.
This article addresses the fifth option – Bankruptcy. The Bankruptcy Code is found in United States Code: Title 11. Think of the Bankruptcy Code as a book, and like other books, it is divided into chapters. That’s why you hear so much about Chapter 7, Chapter 9, Chapter 11, Chapter 12, Chapter 13, or Chapter 15. Each chapter has a different remedy for a different situation. Chapter 7 is titled “Liquidation,” Chapter 9 “Adjustment of Debts of a Municipality,” Chapter 11 “Reorganization,” Chapter 12 “Adjustment of Debts of a Family Farmer or Fisherman with Regular Annual Income,” Chapter 13 “Adjustment of Debts of an Individual with Regular Income,” and Chapter 15 “Ancillary and Other Cross-Border Cases.” Generally, individual taxpayers rely on Chapter 7, Chapter 11 or Chapter 13.
This article will focus on the first kind of bankruptcy available for individual taxpayers, IRS Bankruptcy Chapter 7 “Liquidation.” Taxpayers who file Bankruptcy are referred to as “Debtors.” Under IRS Bankruptcy Chapter 7 all the Debtor’s assets, above a certain level of exemptions allowed by law, are sold and the proceeds of that sale are used to pay their creditors all or a portion of what the creditor’s claims are. In a vast majority of cases, there are not any assets above the exemptions allowed by law. So, most Debtors don’t lose any assets, but most of their debts are discharged. Not all debts are dischargeable – for example, past due child support, student loans, government fines and recent taxes are not dischargeable in bankruptcy, but most other debt is.
While recent taxes and some specific types of taxes (e.g. Trust Fund Recovery Penalty, excise taxes, etc.) are never dischargeable, some tax debts are dischargeable. There are three important dates to remember if you are trying to discharge IRS tax debts in bankruptcy. First, the due date for filing the tax return in question must be more than three years before the date of the bankruptcy filing. Second, the tax return in question must have been filed at least two years before the date of bankruptcy filing. Finally, the tax claim must have been assessed more than two-hundred and forty days before the date of the bankruptcy filing.
The taxpayer’s conduct may also come into question. In order to discharge taxes in bankruptcy, in addition to the time criteria, the Debtor must not have filed a fraudulent return or willfully tried to evade taxes.
Discharging taxes in bankruptcy can be very complicated. For example, there are events that may extend the dates discussed here; there may be questions about exactly when a return was “filed” or when a tax was “assessed.” Objections may be raised about whether the document filed meets the technical definition of “Tax Return,” or whether the taxpayer’s conduct to evade taxes was “willful.”
This is just a general overview. If you owe the IRS and are unable to pay the full tax obligation immediately, bankruptcy may be your best option. Never hire a firm to help you with your IRS problem unless the firm is experienced in helping taxpayers use the bankruptcy code to protect them from the IRS. Before you do anything, you should give me a call. We can discuss your all your options. Opem Tax Resolutions & The Law Office of Steven A. Leahy, PC (312) 664-6649. Call NOW to set up your FREE Consultation.