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Bankruptcy & Taxes: Discharging Tax Debt Under Chapter 7

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Discharging Tax Debt Under Chapter 7

A common misconception is that federal taxes cannot be discharged through bankruptcy. A Chapter 7 filing can be a very powerful tool in obtaining relief for past due taxes.

What is Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?

A petition filed under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code is used to discharge debt through liquidation of assets. However, exempt and excluded assets are retained by the debtor. Examples of exempt assets include your homestead up to 1 acre, personal property ($30-60K), life insurance, pensions for state and local employees, tools of trade, earned but unpaid wages, and unpaid commissions up to 75%.

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IRS Offer-in-Compromise vs. Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

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Settling Tax Debt: IRS Offer-in-Compromise vs. Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

A common misconception is that you cannot discharge federal tax debt in Chapter 7 bankruptcy. In fact you can both discharge some of your tax debts under Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, as well as settle your debts with an Offer in Compromise.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Tax debt is dischargeable in Chapter 7 bankruptcy if they meet specific requirements under the Bankruptcy Code. These requirements are often called the 3-year, 2-year, and 240-day rules.

  1. The 3-year rule. The return was due at least three years ago before you file for bankruptcy. For example, Bob’s 2010 return was due on April 15, 2011. The earliest he can file for bankruptcy for his 2010 tax debt is April 15, 2014. Note that a tax return extension will also extend the 3-year rule.
  2. The 2-year rule. The return must be filed at least two years before the bankruptcy filing. For example, Bob’s 2010 return was due on April 15, 2011, but didn’t actually file his tax return until October 31, 2011. The earliest he can file for bankruptcy for his 2010 tax debt is October 31, 2013.
  3. The taxes were assessed at least 240 days ago. For most taxpayers, the taxes are considered assessed as of the date the return was filed. However, if you file an amended return or are audited and owe additional taxes, then the 240 days on the additional tax begins to run when the additional taxes are assessed.

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