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tax refunds in bankruptcy

Tax Refunds In Bankruptcy

Your tax refund is an asset in bankruptcy. This is true whether you file Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. Your refund is treated differently in each chapter, but generally you can keep your tax refund in bankruptcy.

Chapter 7

In Chapter 7, your bankruptcy assets are any assets you already own, or reasonably expect to own. A tax refund is a great example. If you have not filed your taxes yet, but you know that you will receive a refund, that refund is part of your bankruptcy estate. Because the refund does not represent income earned in the last 60 days, it cannot be exempted under N.C.G.S. 1-362. It can, however, be exempt under N.C.G.S. 1C-1601(a)(2). This is commonly known as your “Wild Card” exemption. It can be applied to any assets.

By claiming an exemption, you are exercising your right to protect certain assets. Your Wild Card exemption is available to cover up to $5,000 of assets. So, as long as your refund is $5,000 or less, you can use your Wild Card exemption to protect it. If you’re filing with a spouse, you both have a Wild Card exemption, for a total of $10,000 in Wild Card exemption available.

By protecting your tax refunds in bankruptcy with an exemption, your bankruptcy case can move forward without the bankruptcy trustee taking that asset. You will receive your discharge, and when you receive your tax refund, it’s yours to keep.

Another option is to receive and spend your tax refund in bankruptcy before you file. So long as you spend the refund on normal living expenses, you are not running afoul of the bankruptcy rules. Additionally, if you purchase household goods like furniture, you can still protect those new purchases with your household exemption under N.C.G.S. 1C-1601(a)(4).

Chapter 13

If you are in Chapter 13, the same rules apply as outlined above for Chapter 7. However, these rules are only applicable to the year in which you are filing your Chapter 13. Because a Chapter 13 case runs for three to five years, you need to be concerned about future tax refunds in Chapter 13.

If you receive tax refunds in Chapter 13 in a year beyond your first year, you must disclose this refund to the Chapter 13 bankruptcy trustee. Generally, you are allowed to keep $1,000 per debtor each year. Additionally, if you have any unused Wild Card you can apply it to your tax refunds received in subsequent years. Lastly, if your tax return shows that your refund is due to an earned income credit or a child tax credit, the refund is yours to keep.

If you cannot protect your tax refund in Chapter 13 in the above manner, you can also petition the court to keep your refund due to the fact it is necessary for living expenses. An example would be that you have been putting off repairs to your home or vehicle, and the non-exempt tax refund will be used for those repairs. Quite often, clients are making ends meet but putting off normal and routine household expenditures to do so. For this reason, the court entertains a request to use your tax refund in Chapter 13 to get ‘caught up’ on household expenses.

Adjusting Your Withholding In Bankruptcy

One allowable way to help insure you don’t lose any money in Chapter 13 is to adjust your tax withholding. This way, rather than receive a large refund in bankruptcy at the end of the year, you receive more income each month. Your Schedule I and J filings in Chapter 13 should reflect this, and your overall budget will change slightly; however, it will help you avoid an annual chore of trying to prove to the Chapter 13 court that you should be allowed to keep your tax refund.

Speak With A Charlotte Bankruptcy Attorney Today

Bankruptcy is a very powerful solution with long-lasting positive effects. If you’d like to speak with a lawyer about filing bankruptcy, we’re here to help. Consultations are free and answering questions is part of the job. Call us at 704.749.7747 or click for a FREE CASE EVALUATION and we will reach out shortly.

Bankruptcy And Mortgage Payments

Bankruptcy And Mortgage Payments

If you’re wondering how bankruptcy and mortgage payments work together, there is good news. Most bankruptcy clients are pleasantly surprised to find out they can keep their home in bankruptcy. After all, for most of us our home is our largest investment.

Chapter 7 And Mortgage Payments

If you are filing Chapter 7, you can keep your home if your equity in the home does not exceed the allowable exemptions in bankruptcy. Generally speaking, this is $35,000 per spouse or owner. Your equity is defined as the fair market value minus the total debt securing the home. We can also make adjustments for cost of sale (realtor fees, etc.) as well as repairs that you might expect a home purchaser to request. You can find one estimate of the fair market value of your home at Zillow.com.

When you file Chapter 7, you should be current on your mortgage payments, or less than 30 days behind. By the time you have your 341 meeting (about 45 days after filing), you’ll want to be sure you are current.

Chapter 7 And Your Mortgage Obligation

By filing Chapter 7, your mortgage debt is discharged. This means you technically no longer owe it. However, if you want to keep the property, you’ll need to keep the debt that goes with it. You will be given the option to sign a Reaffirmation Agreement in Chapter 7. This agreement renews the contract terms between you and the mortgage company, to be exactly what they were before you filed Chapter 7.

There are instances where you can keep the home and avoid signing a reaffirmation agreement, and your Charlotte bankruptcy attorney can discuss those instances in detail with you. In summary, you can keep your home in Chapter 7 and you may sign a reaffirmation agreement to go with it.

Chapter 7 And Surrender Of Your Home

You can also surrender your home in Chapter 7 if the mortgage payments are too much for you, or if the home is “upside down” (mortgage balance is higher than the fair market value). By doing this in bankruptcy, you avoid a situation where the mortgage lender can pursue you for any loss they take on the property. Your Chapter 7 filing protects you. You simply give the lender the home, and walk away from the debt.

Chapter 13 And Mortgage Payments

If you want to keep your home in Chapter 13, you can do so. This is true even if you are behind on mortgage payments at the time you file. Chapter 13 is unique in that it allows you to continue to pay your normal mortgage payment while slowly making up the amount you were behind at the time of filing.

Provided your Chapter 13 plan is approved and you follow the rules of Chapter 13, there is nothing your mortgage lender can do to prevent a successful filing. In fact, your mortgage lender is probably happy they are being paid in Chapter 13. When your Chapter 13 ends, you will be current on your mortgage and all of your pre-petition back payments will be caught up.

Speak With A Charlotte Bankruptcy Lawyer Today

If you have questions about bankruptcy and mortgage payments, call us at 704.749.7747 to discuss your situation. You’ll get answers to your questions, and you’ll understand your options. You can also click for a FREE CASE EVALUATION and we will reach out to you to discuss your case.

Bankruptcy and your credit score

People often put off filing bankruptcy because of the fear of what it will do to their credit score. However, your bankruptcy and credit score are tied together in ways most of us don’t consider. We have been taught that a high credit score is a requirement for a happy life. In fact, it is not. You can be perfectly happy and make healthy financial decisions with a low or recovering credit score. But you can’t do it if you’re overwhelmed with debt. A bankruptcy fixes that. And, your credit score WILL recover– faster than you think.

When Will My Credit Score Recover?

Your bankruptcy and credit score go hand in hand. Bankruptcy will remain on your credit report for a number of years. However, most clients report that one year after filing bankruptcy their credit score is better than it was before filing. The reason is that when you file bankruptcy, your debt to income ratio improves. Your income hasn’t gone up, but your debt has gone way down. In the eyes of creditors, you’re actually a GREAT candidate for credit– you have no other debt, and they know you can’t file bankruptcy again. All this means you are likely to make your monthly payments on credit card debt.

Having a bankruptcy on your credit report will take you out of the home purchase market for a few years, it’s true. However, most clients start getting credit card offers a month after they file bankruptcy. My hope is my clients have a new clarity around managing their money and make smart decisions about credit after filing bankruptcy. Here are a few thoughts to consider.

I Need To Own A Home, Right?

There are millions of Americans who don’t own their home. This has always been true. It doesn’t mean you’re not spending your money wisely. If you are renting you are missing out on interest deductions on taxes and on appreciation on the value of the home over time. One look at today’s market will tell you that experts are unsure as to whether prices will continue to drop. In fact, if you bought a home three years ago, you’ve most likely lost money on it.

There Are Other Ways To Invest

If you’re concerned about missing out on the appreciation that comes with home ownership, don’t be. Keep in mind you can set aside the same amount of money each month into an IRA or other investment vehicle—stocks, bonds, etc. Even when recovering from bankruptcy, you can be responsibly planning for the financial future. Filing bankruptcy and your credit score won’t keep you from doing this.

Consider Your Needs Today

A choice to file bankruptcy is both a long-term plan for financial stability and a short-term plan. While there are costs associated with credit extensions, the bigger picture is that you will reap the immediate reward of financial freedom. You will once again have disposable income. That is the foundation for building wealth. If you manage that disposable income wisely—by investing it and saving it rather than spending it on monthly credit card bills—you will start to accumulate wealth. And you do it under peaceful financial conditions. Less stress and more clarity.

Make a Call

Make a quick phone call today to talk to me about bankruptcy. I am genuinely excited to help people see the path before them and quickly achieve financial freedom from financial stress. You deserve the quality of life that comes with it.

Email me at chris@thelaytonlawfirm.com or call 704.749.7747 today for a free consultation about bankruptcy and an honest discussion about your best options. Or, click for a FREE CASE EVALUATION.

Debt Settlement

Bankruptcy Or Consolidation?

If you are overwhelmed by the choice between bankruptcy or consolidation, there is great news: you have options. Most individuals wait much longer than they should before exercising their options regarding debt—do yourself a favor and act now. The solutions are powerful and the relief is immediate.

Debt Consolidation

Clients who have one looming debt, or smaller debts which are causing problems can consider bankruptcy or consolidation. Generally, debt consolidation combines your debts into one loan. You can accomplish this on your own with a personal loan or a home equity line. You can also hire a debt consolidation company to handle bundling your debt into one payment. If you enter into an agreement with a debt consolidation company, you will typically pay one party each month—the debt consolidation company. However, there are pitfalls associated with working with debt consolidation companies.

Pitfalls Of Debt Consolidation

Debt consolidation companies offer confusing, lengthy contracts which often promise very little to you. We consistently work with clients who believed their debt consolidation company had bundled all of their debt, only to find out it wasn’t true. Those clients make consistent payments and hold up their end of the deal. At the end, they find out there are still one or more credit card balances that remain unpaid. This is a horrible result! Finally, debt consolidation companies consistently remind you they are only estimating the arrangements they can reach with your creditors. In the end, their promises often go unfulfilled.

How Is Debt Settlement Different From Debt Consolidation?

One option in addressing debt is debt negotiation which leads to debt settlement. As a bankruptcy law firm, we have had success negotiating debt for our clients. Our strategy is to show the creditor that we are working with the client to file bankruptcy, which is true. However, in many cases the client would rather settle a debt than file a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. This is also true. In the end, the creditor is faced with the option of getting paid little to nothing in bankruptcy, or reaching a fair negotiated agreement with our firm.

The downside to debt settlement is that not all clients have the funds available to successfully engage creditors in negotiations. To reach your best negotiated agreement, the creditor will want the new lower balance paid off very quickly. They are not interested in lowering the balance AND accepting a series of monthly payments extending more than a few months.

Bankruptcy Is Often The Way To Go

If you’re trying to choose between bankruptcy or consolidation, let us help. Filing bankruptcy is one of the most powerful options a consumer has at their disposal. The amount of money you will spend to negotiate one credit card will often exceed the full bankruptcy fee to your bankruptcy attorney. Additionally, you address numerous debts at once. While clients have concerns about credit scores and keeping vehicles or homes, a free phone consultation usually puts the client at ease.

Final Thoughts On The Bankruptcy Or Consolidation Decision

First, we understand bankruptcy is foreign to most individuals. Second, we know there is stress and anxiety associated with debt and the mystery of filing bankruptcy. Lastly, we have seen over and over how our client’s lives change for the better simply by deciding to file bankruptcy. In fact, bankruptcy will change your life for the positive.Most bankruptcy filings usually end with the client giving the lawyer a hug—that should tell you a lot about the relief you will experience if you decide to file.

Speak With A Bankruptcy Lawyer Today

If you’d like to speak with a Charlotte bankruptcy lawyer today, we’re here to help. We are happy to discuss bankruptcy, debt consolidation, or debt negotiation. Part of the job is answering questions. You can reach us at 704.749.7747 or click for a FREE CASE EVALUATION. We know you have choices. We hope you choose to Recover With Us.

Reaffirmation Agreement

When you file your Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, you will have to declare on your Statement of Intention form, whether you plan to reaffirm certain debts. When you sign a Reaffirmation Agreement, you are simply recommitting to the debt associated with property. This property can be your vehicle or your home. Whether you should sign a Reaffirmation Agreement depends on the circumstances and the type of debt.

What Effect Does Bankruptcy Have On My Mortgage?

If you file Chapter 7 and receive a Discharge, you will effectively no longer be obligated to pay the debts which were discharged. This presents a dilemma when the debt is associated with property such as a home or vehicle. In those instances, the lender has the right to force you to either a) return the property associated with the debt, or b) sign a Reaffirmation agreement.

Because a mortgage debt is such a large debt, the Bankruptcy Courts have held that you actually have a third choice with regard to your home mortgage. That choice is that you can “Retain and Pay”. This means that you do not have to reaffirm your mortgage debt, and so long as you continue to make your mortgage payments, you can stay in the home.

What Are The Reasons To Not Sign A Reaffirmation Agreement?

First, if you or your spouse lose your job after bankruptcy, or if the economy and housing values decline, you’ll be protected. If you do not reaffirm, you can simply walk away from the home and you owe nothing to the lender. You simply turn over the keys. If you reaffirmed, then you would be responsible for the loan balance on the mortgage. If the lender sold the home in foreclosure and did not receive enough to pay off the mortgage, they could pursue you for the remainder. In the alternative, if the lender forgave the remaining debt, there is a chance you would receive a 1099 for forgiveness of debt. This would trigger a tax obligation for you.

Second, the terms of your mortgage will not change. The interest rate and underlying agreement with the bank will continue. Each time you make a payment, your balance will decrease. In other words, you will receive credit for all payments made.

What Are The Reasons To Sign A Reaffirmation Agreement?

Truthfully, the only real reason to reaffirm your mortgage debt is related to credit reporting. Most lenders will not report your mortgage payments to the credit bureaus unless you reaffirm the debt. One of the fastest ways to rebuild your credit is through making mortgage payments. There are alternatives, however. If you obtain a retail credit card or secured credit card, or if you’re making payments on vehicle loans, you will receive credit for those payments when the creditors report to the credit bureaus.

Speak With  A Charlotte Bankruptcy Attorney Today

If you’re considering filing Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, call us at 704.749.7747 to speak with a Charlotte Bankruptcy attorney today. Or you can click HERE to request a consultation. Most consultations are done by phone and they are free—you deserve to understand your options. We hope you’ll choose to Recover With Us.

Can I File Bankruptcy

One major concern when filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the potential for your bank to freeze your bank accounts. This article addresses the reasons why a bank might freeze your bank accounts, and how to avoid it.

Why Will The Bank Freeze My Bank Accounts?

Generally, when you take out a debt with a bank, the credit agreement contains a right to set-off. This means the bank has the right to reach into your checking, savings or other accounts held by the same bank, and use those funds to pay the debt owed to them. Therefore, if you bank with Wells Fargo, and also have a Wells Fargo credit card, you should take steps to make sure the funds are not frozen when you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Often the funds in question are exempted on your bankruptcy petition. This means you have protected these funds and you will ultimately be allowed to keep them. However, this may not keep the bank from temporarily freezing the funds until your bankruptcy attorney or the bankruptcy trustee makes a formal request to have them released. As a result, you will experience the inconvenience of losing the use of those funds for an extended period of time.

How Can I Avoid Having My Bank Accounts Frozen?

Generally speaking, the safest way to avoid having funds frozen is to withdraw those funds prior to filing bankruptcy. You can hold the funds as cash on hand, or you can transfer them into another bank where you do not have any debt. The only funds a bank can freeze are the funds in the account on the day the bankruptcy was filed. For a lot of Chapter 7 clients, this means they keep the account open, but leave a very low balance in it on the day of filing. This minimizes the damage if the funds are frozen.

Is This Going To Raise Suspicion With The Bankruptcy Court?

No. Transferring funds in this manner is permissible. This is distinguishable from transferring the funds to another individual, which may constitute a gift or a preferential transfer.

How Will I Know If I Need To Transfer Funds Prior To Filing?

Consult with your Chapter 7 bankruptcy attorney regarding this specific issue, prior to the filing of your petition. Identify if you have debt and deposits with the same bank. If so, devise a plan of action with your attorney so that on the date of filing your balance is low enough that even if the funds are frozen you will not be inconvenienced.

Speak With A Charlotte Bankruptcy Attorney

If you’re considering filing bankruptcy and would like to know more about your options, call us to set up a free phone consultation, at 704.749.7747. Or, click HERE to quickly request a call from us. Bankruptcy provides a powerful way out of stressful financial situations. We hope you’ll choose to Recover With Us.

Paying For Bankruptcy

I’ve always found that paying for your bankruptcy makes an otherwise difficult financial time even more… difficult. Fortunately, if you’re able to put together the funds for bankruptcy, you will experience immediate financial relief upon filing, as your creditors are no longer allowed to attempt to collect on debts. We understand the difficulty associated with paying for your bankruptcy, and we try to be flexible in that regard. Call our office at 704.749.7747 for more details, or click HERE to request a fee quote.

Down Payments Toward Bankruptcy

Our firm will start working on your bankruptcy with you, prior to receiving any funds from you. If you are willing to do the work involved in preparing to file, we take that as a showing of good faith on your part and we work with you to get started. After the firm has reviewed your submitted information, we will schedule a call with you. Once we are comfortable you will be successful in your Chapter 7 filing, then we ask you to make a deposit toward the total fee.

Using Credit Cards To Pay For Bankruptcy

Unfortunately, you can not use a credit card to pay for bankruptcy. When you place a charge on a credit card which you have no intention of paying back, that debt will survive the bankruptcy. A bankruptcy fee would fall into that category.

When Will My Bankruptcy Be Filed

The Federal Bankruptcy Code requires that the final payment be received by the attorney prior to the actual filing of the bankruptcy. So, the remainder of your payment is due any time prior to filing. Once we receive the final payment from you, we are typically ready to file your case within a week. Upon filing, which is done electronically, your bankruptcy attorney automatically receives a bankruptcy case number. The court also immediately notifies your creditors of the filing.

Can Someone Else Pay For My Bankruptcy

Yes, someone else is permitted to pay for some or all of your bankruptcy. While many clients have already borrowed money from friends or family in order to try to keep up with mounting debts and gaps in income, our clients find those same friends and family members are interested in assisting with bankruptcy payments because it represents an end to a difficult situation for you.

Other Fees In Bankruptcy

For Chapter 7 bankruptcy, we charge a flat fee and we will explain to you the work included with that flat fee. In some rare circumstances, a Chapter 7 may require additional attorney work to defend against an aggressive creditor. Those situations are usually evident prior to filing and your Charlotte bankruptcy attorney will make sure you understand the risk of having to spend additional money on the bankruptcy. Typically, this is not the case.

Who Pays The Bankruptcy Court Filing Fees

In addition to the attorney fee, there are fees due to the court for filing a bankruptcy. Our firm includes those fees in our flat fee, and we pay the court fees directly, together with any 3rd party fees associated with your bankruptcy.

Taking Next Steps

Most clients tell us they feel better already after simply having a phone consultation with the attorney. If you’d like to take the next step toward financial freedom, simply call us at 704.749.7747 and speak with an attorney today. Or you can click HERE and request a call. Bankruptcy is a powerful resource which provides great relief and marks the start of your financial recovery. We hope you’ll choose to Recover With Us.