We’ve written a series of blog posts answering common questions regarding Chapter 13 bankruptcy in Wisconsin and how it impacts your finances. Call (262) 827-0375

How much debt is needed to file bankruptcy?

If you are wondering how much debt you need to get the ball rolling with bankruptcy, it might come as a surprise. You see, if your debt is less than $10,000 U.S., then you have what is called “non-dischargeable debt.” This means that even if you are successful in discharging most of your debts through bankruptcy proceedings, these outstanding debts will not be wiped off the books.

What about those people with more than $10k in outstanding balances? Well, there is hope for them yet! If your total amount of non-dischargeable debt across all credit cards and loans exceeds $10k U.S. (and there are a few exceptions), then you will be able to discharge your debts through avoidance procedures. Some of these procedures include the following:

1. Live Below Your Means (LBM)
2. Payment Plans
3. Make-A-Wish Foundation (if debt results from an illness or accident) and
4. Auto Financing Protection Plan (this is for automobiles only, not for homeowners).

The good news is that if you have credit card balances with balances that are less than 31% of your total credit limits or for which you make timely and consistent payments, then it could take just a couple of years before you hit the $10k U.S. limit.

The sad part about this is that if you are like most people, then your credit profile will be damaged and it can remain damaged for years.

This is due to how the lending industry keeps tabs on you. Essentially, they buy your credit report from the three major bureaus (Experian, Trans Union, and Equifax) each time you are approved for a new loan. This is done via a purchase order (PO). The purpose of this purchase order is to collect information on you and to make sure that they are getting their money’s worth by making sure you repay them in full at all times.

Chapter 7 bankruptcy vs. Chapter 13 bankruptcy

Chapter 7 bankruptcy, or “wage earner’s” bankruptcy, is a great way to get rid of debt and start fresh. In case you have never heard of a Chapter 7 filing, then here is a quick explanation of what it is all about.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy allows total unsecured debts to be wiped off the debtor’s credit report once they pay off secured debts if they choose to do so. This can be accomplished by means of things like payment plans, but that is not the primary route used to recover from this type of bankruptcy filing.

Rather, the debtor will normally liquidate (sell off) whatever assets they can and take a lump sum of cash from the sale in order to pay off their outstanding debts. This is a great solution for those persons who find themselves in deep financial ruts, but the one downside is that most secured debts are not covered by this type of bankruptcy.

Chapter 13 bankruptcy is sometimes referred to as “reorganization” bankruptcy. This type of filing will lower monthly auto payments or give you extra time to pay off your mortgage if that is necessary. The good news about Chapter 13 filings is that they do not have to be made by businesses but can be handled on an individual basis. The bad news is that a credit report will reflect this type of filing for 7 to 10 years after the fact.

Due to the length of time that your financial history will be associated with a Chapter 13 filing, most people find this type of filing completely unacceptable, if not completely undesirable. This is because seven years from now, you might find yourself struggling financially again and need another solution to get rid of your debt problems. This means that you could lose out on a second chance at getting out from under your debt load if you use Chapter 13 filings to solve your financial problems today.

Just remember that Chapter 7 bankruptcies only erase unsecured debts, not secured debts. Secured debts are things like mortgages, car loans, and credit card balances that are backed (or secured) by assets such as real estate or collateral of some sort. If you have these types of assets and have a large debt pile to work through, then Chapter 13 is probably the best route for you to take in order to get rid of your debt load once and for all.

Chapter 13 bankruptcies allow people with large amounts of non-dischargeable debt to reduce the amount of money needed to pay off their non-dischargeable debt through repayment plans set up with their creditors. If you have a large amount of non-dischargeable debt, then this would be the best option for you to choose when filing bankruptcy because it will not leave your credit score tarnished for years.

If you are concerned about the reputation of your financial history once the bankruptcy is over, then Chapter 13 filings are not for you. If it is possible to get rid of all your non-dischargeable debt using a Chapter 13 filing and still having enough money to pay off secured debts, then that might be what you need to do. The good news is that there are people who can help guide you in this decision process so that you are aware of all your options.

You need to consider a lot of things prior to filing for bankruptcy. This is why it is always best to let an expert guide you through the process. Bankruptcy should be the final resort and not the first thing you try. It might seem like a good idea to file for it at first, but you will regret it later if you do.

If you are really struggling financially, then Chapter 7 bankruptcy is probably your best bet for getting rid of your debt so that you can start over with a clean slate. This is why most people who have used Chapter 7 filings have found that their credit scores improved after the bankruptcy was over, and this allowed them to get approved for loans on more favorable terms.

Discharge in Bankruptcy – Bankruptcy Basics

A discharge in bankruptcy is the release of one or more debts by the bankruptcy court. A discharge means that all debts, including any discharged debt obligations, are legally forgiven. There are two types of discharges: general and special. General discharges are any debts belonging to one or more people who can be held liable for the debts, such as cosigners on mortgages and guarantors of student loans. Unusual discharges are not personal debts a debtor has, such as a wage earner’s retirement plans. The courts determine which debts are discharged and which are not by appointing a trustee (or “trustee” in the original, unadorned type of a discharge order). A trustee holds the money owed to creditors and transfers it to the court. The court then distributes the money to creditors on their filed claims.

A general discharge wipes out an individual’s outstanding debts with no remaining liability for those debts. An available shot eliminates the repayment of all debts that would otherwise have been paid through a chapter 13 bankruptcy repayment plan or a chapter 7 liquidation. A particular discharge will only reduce or eliminate debts owed to a creditor, such as credit card debt incurred within the last year.

When does the discharge occur?

After the court has ruled that a debtor is bankrupt and discharged its debts, the debtor is no longer liable for any outstanding debts. The discharge date will be on the court’s bankruptcy order, but if a discharge has not occurred when a debtor has completed all repayment plan requirements, she may request that the court issue an order to make her eligible for release.

The effect of a discharge order

After the granting of a discharge, there are no conditions for filing past-due income taxes and no filing of an “Adversary Proceeding” that stops an IRS audit. The court may also require the debtor to reapply for Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) membership. A debtor must file a tax return yearly during his bankruptcy until he obtains a final discharge. If a debtor receives any income under Chapter 13 or 7 bankruptcy protection, they must disclose this to their trustee.

Individuals can receive chapter 7 or 13 protection only once every eight years. Once an individual files Chapter 7, he cannot file again for seven years. Similarly, if a debtor files for chapter 13 relief within 3½ years of receiving chapter 7 bankruptcy relief, they must wait another three and one-half years before filing again.

For individuals who have committed fraud in their bankruptcy case(s), it is suggested that the copy be resolved before the completion of their bankruptcy discharge. It is always best to consult with an attorney specializing in bankruptcy law so that your intentions and the facts regarding your situation can be thoroughly evaluated and any actions can be taken accordingly.

Chapter 7 in Wisconsin is also a more popular option than chapter thirteen in Wisconsin because of the extra protection that it provides from creditors. It means a bankrupt can be discharged without paying back taxes and interest due on their investment accounts and real property such as their homes.

How does the debtor get a discharge?

After the bankruptcy was filed, a notice was sent to each creditor listed in the petition. The message informs creditors of the bankruptcy petition and provides them with information about the case, including when the plan should be received. A debtor must also file a list of creditors with all required debt and creditor information to the court.

Are all of the debtor’s debts discharged or only some?

Under chapter thirteen, all but secured creditors are discharged. Under chapter seven, all debts are removed. However, a debtor may choose to pay some debts ahead of others, so there is not always a complete discharge of all debts in the first case.

What happens if the creditor disagrees with the discharge?

Creditors have 60 days from being served notice of the bankruptcy to object and state their reasons for objecting to the order discharging their debts. Suppose a creditor needs to file an objection within 60 days of being notified of the bankruptcy petition. In that case, he cannot later object that he was unaware that you filed for bankruptcy or that he was never told of your claim, even if you lied about helping him.

What about taxes?

Federal and Wisconsin income taxes are automatically waived for persons who have filed for bankruptcy relief. However, the creditor may object if a debtor fails to file a federal or state income tax return. Similarly, if a debtor owes state or FHA-insured mortgage loans, the trustee may object to a discharge of those debts and then counterclaim against the debtor in an attempt to collect on the debt. Suppose a debtor fails to pay FICA or ERISA withholding tax owed on wages such as Social Security or Medicare benefits. In that case, his creditors may object to the discharge of those debts and then counterclaim against him in an attempt to collect on these debts. Once the trustee has collected the withheld amounts, he forwards the funds to the Internal Revenue Service for distribution.

What about non-tax debts, such as credit card debt?

Under chapter 7, non-tax debts such as credit card debt and medical bills are discharged. The debtor will also be relieved of liability for student and automobile loans secured by real property. Generally speaking, under chapter 7, all debts are discharged other than those specifically identified on the bankruptcy petition. But a debtor may choose to pay some debts ahead of others so that there is not always a complete discharge of all debts in the first case.

Clear that a person in a bankruptcy proceeding can begin to discharge any debts not listed on the petition. However, if you are ever unsure of your options, consult an experienced bankruptcy attorney. In chapter 7 and chapter 13, the trustee(s) is appointed by the court and given complete control over all debtor’s assets. The proceeds of any sale or transfer of property will then be split between the creditors according to their claims.

CAN YOU FILE FOR BANKRUPTCY WITHOUT AN ATTORNEY?

CAN YOU FILE FOR BANKRUPTCY WITHOUT AN ATTORNEY?

“He who represents himself has a fool for a client.”

Abraham Lincoln has often been credited with imparting this sage legal advice over the years but researchers have also credited others before Lincoln including William De Britaine in 1682 and Roger L’ Estrange in 1692. The quote has even been cited as an ancient Italian proverb.

Regardless of who first authored the phrase, the point is crystal clear. Sure, you can certainly file pro se for bankruptcy. But why would you? Seeking the advice of a qualified attorney is strongly recommended because filing for bankruptcy has long-term financial and legal consequences.

When filing for personal bankruptcy under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 your attorney must thoroughly prepare and have a clear understanding of legal issues. Misunderstandings about the law or making mistakes in the process can affect your rights. The law also prohibits court employees and bankruptcy judges from offering legal advice.

There are many ways that your lawyer can help you with your case including giving you advice on whether to even file a bankruptcy petition and, if so, under which chapter you should file. He or she can also advise you on whether your debts can be discharged and whether you will be able to keep your home, car or other property after you file.

Your lawyer can also:

– Advise you of the tax consequences of filing
– Advise you on whether you should continue to pay your creditors
– Explain and help you understand bankruptcy law and procedures
– Assist you in completing and filing forms
– Assist you with most aspects of your bankruptcy case

Those who choose to be pro se litigants need to follow the rules and procedures in federal courts and should be familiar with the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure and the local rules of the court in which the case is filed. Local rules, along with other useful information, are posted on the court’s website and are available at the local court’s intake counter. Court employees and bankruptcy judges are prohibited by law from offering legal advice.

Bankruptcy Forms are available to the public free of charge.

You will need to use the forms that are numbered in the 100 series to file bankruptcy for individuals or married couples. If you plan to file a bankruptcy on behalf of a nonindividual such as a corporation, partnership, or limited liability company (LLC) you will need to use the forms that are numbered in the 200 series. Sole proprietors must use the forms that are numbered in the 100 series. In addition, many courts require local forms so you should check your court’s website before filing any documents.

So you’re still thinking about going it alone without an attorney? Consider this. If you file bankruptcy pro se you may be offered services by non-attorney petition preparers. By law, these preparers are only allowed to enter information into forms. They are prohibited from giving you legal advice, explain answers to legal questions, or assisting you in bankruptcy court. Further, the petition preparer must sign all documents they prepare for you as well as print their name, address and social security number on the documents. They must also provide you with a copy of all documents and they cannot sign documents on your behalf or receive payment for court fees.

If you need help finding a bankruptcy lawyer here are a couple of resources that may help. If you can’t afford an attorney, you may qualify for free legal services.
American Bar Association’s Legal Help
Legal Services Corporation

FILING FOR BANKRUPTCY – THE COST FACTOR

Bankruptcy.

The very word can send chills up your spine. Many people fear filing for bankruptcy because they dread the thought of being ruined financially. What will this mean for my family? How will it affect my employment or business opportunities moving forward?

As is with so many things in life, two more burning questions come to mind: “How much does bankruptcy cost?” And “Will I have to give up all of my assets?” The answers to these last two may surprise you.

First, bankruptcy may not cost as much as you might think. While the cost factor will vary depending on the situation, the idea that you will lose all of your assets is just a myth. Under Chapter 7 bankruptcy law you may have to liquidate some of your assets but you will also find that many of your assets are exempt. Not only that, filing for bankruptcy under Chapter 13 requires zero asset liquidation!

Filing for bankruptcy is not as financially destructive as you might imagine. However, there are some costs you will need to consider.

Attorney Fees

Under Wisconsin law you don’t actually have to hire an attorney to file for bankruptcy. This is called filing pro se. However, one of the big downsides to taking this route is that you might find yourself vulnerable to push-back from creditors and other issues. This is where an experienced attorney can help guide you through the process efficiently and help you avoid obstacles along the way while keeping creditors at bay at the same time.

At the end of the day, hiring an attorney might end up saving you money. Each time you have a setback in the process that kicks you back to the starting line will cost you more money lost in interest and late payments that you will have to deal with in bankruptcy.

Filing Fees

Again, the price of filing fees vary depending on the type of bankruptcy but if you file Chapter 7 bankruptcy that fee is $335. If you file Chapter 13 bankruptcy the fee is $310. These fees are the same whether you are filing alone or jointly with your spouse and the fees are subject to change. Sometimes the court will allow you to pay the fees in installments.

Credit Counseling Fees

When filing for bankruptcy the state of Wisconsin requires you to take a credit counseling session beforehand. Then, before you are discharged you must take an additional debt management course. The cost for each of these services will depend on who is offering them. The classes are available online or you can take them over the phone and, under Wisconsin law, the providers are required to offer reduced rates or fee waivers in certain situations.

Additional Fees

During the bankruptcy process you may incur a variety of other fees. For example, if you miss a creditor in the initial filing and need to add it in there may be an extra fee. Should you need to file a motion may also require a fee. By hiring an experienced attorney you can save yourself a lot of headaches and cut your risk of extra fees because your attorney will very carefully review your particular situation to make sure that nothing is missed from the very start.

For more information about bankruptcy and how we can help you, call Milwaukee Bankruptcy attorney Michael Burr and the experts at the Burr Law office at (262) 827-0375.

What Happens in Foreclosure & Bankruptcy?

When you’re having financial problems, it is likely that all of your household bills are affected, including your mortgage payments. While shelter is a basic survival requirement, you may have prioritized immediate needs like food, etc., and neglected your mortgage payments. When you fall behind on mortgage payments, your home may be foreclosed on, and suddenly, the possibility of losing your home looms large. There are ways to save your home. In this post, we’ll explore the interplay between foreclosure and bankruptcy.

Timing is crucial

Under federal law, your mortgage lender cannot officially begin foreclosure proceedings until you have missed four months of mortgage payments. Within that time period, you can take the initiative by filing for bankruptcy before any foreclosure begins. If you have received notice of your lender’s intent to begin foreclosure, you can still forestall it by filing your bankruptcy petition. Even after the foreclosure has begun, filing bankruptcy will interrupt it.

Automatic Stay

Whenever you file bankruptcy, all collection efforts of all types are automatically halted. That means that even if foreclosure proceedings have been initiated, they must be paused. This gives you valuable time to develop a strategy that may save your home. The experienced attorneys at Burr Law can negotiate on your behalf and work with your specific circumstances to preserve your most valuable assets, including your home.

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

In Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you devise a repayment plan that will clear your secured debts over a three to five year period. This plan will include your past-due mortgage payments, and your continuing mortgage payments. Because your attorneys work with you to create the plan, it ought to be one that you can achieve. Again, the experts at Burr Law can work with your particular circumstances to help you make a realistic plan. As long as you make all of the required payments for the length of the repayment plan, you will avoid foreclosure and be able to stay in your home.

Importantly, if you have a second or third mortgage on your home, Chapter 13 bankruptcy may well serve to eliminate those debts. Typically, Chapter 13 entitles bankruptcy courts to recategorize second and third mortgages as unsecured debt. Unsecured debt receives the lowest priority in Chapter 13 bankruptcy, and usually does not have to be repaid at all.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Chapter 7 bankruptcy is also known as liquidation bankruptcy. It eliminates debt completely by selling your assets. So it sounds as though it would mean that you would lose your home. However, that is not usually the case, especially if your home is your only or primary residence. There are exemptions in Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and one of the most important is your home, known as your homestead. The law in Wisconsin allows an individual filer an exemption of up to $75,000 in value in a homestead, and a couple filing together would have an exemption of $150,000. Other exemptions can also be applied to your home. The experts at Burr Law can make sure that you receive all exemptions possible.

Chapter 7 bankruptcy also forgives the homeowner for tax liability for losses the mortgage or home-improvement lender incurs as a result of the homeowner’s default. This may be debt that you have not even considered, but is important in determining which bankruptcy type to pursue. This law initially applied to the years 2007-2010, but has been extended five times and now applies to debts forgiven in the years between 2007 to 2020. Again, this is an aspect of bankruptcy that your attorneys can advise you about.

If you are concerned that your property may be foreclosed upon, or if foreclosure proceedings have already been initiated against you, contact the professionals at Burr Law. We can guide you to the best solution so you and your family can stay in your home.

Things to Know About Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in Wisconsin

There are two main types of bankruptcy that individuals can pursue, Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. This post focuses on Chapter 13. Chapter 13 bankruptcy acts more like a reorganization than anything else. It’s often called the “Wage-Earner’s Bankruptcy,” because it is designed for someone who has a regular income, but has become overwhelmed by debt. Unlike Chapter 7 bankruptcy (also called “Liquidation Bankruptcy”), it doesn’t have an income limit and you won’t need to worry about losing your valuable assets. It does have limitations on the amount of debt you have, though. To be eligible to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you must have no more than $419,275 in unsecured debt and you also can have no more than $1,257,850 in secured debts, which includes mortgages and car loans. If your debt falls within these parameters, Chapter 13 bankruptcy may be for you. Here’s what you need to know.

Chapter 13 Plan Lasts from 3 to 5 Years

The typical Chapter 13 reorganization plan lasts from three to five years. That’s a long time. Many debtors find it impossible to maintain, though they are contractually and legally obligated to do so. Again, seeking professional advice from attorneys dedicated to bankruptcy law makes a tremendous difference here. Crafting a reorganization plan that anticipates periodic extra expenses and realistically assesses your earning potential over the next five years makes the length of the reorganization workable.

Chapter 13 Protects Your Assets

Filing Chapter 13 causes all collection actions to stop, including home foreclosure. Chapter 13 bankruptcy preserves your secured assets, so you don’t have to worry about losing your home or car. The objective is reorganization of debt rather than liquidation of assets.

Chapter 13 Eliminates or Diminishes Unsecured Debt

Unsecured debt includes credit card debt, medical bills, and other debts that don’t depend on collateral. Chapter 13 bankruptcy results in unsecured debt being discharged entirely or diminished significantly. If the debt is not completely eliminated, you will be paying off a small portion of what you owe over the course of three to five years.

Second Mortgage Can Become Unsecured Debt

If your home’s second mortgage is worth less than what you owe on your first mortgage, then you can petition the court to have your second mortgage classified as unsecured debt. Upon completion of your debt repayment plan, your second mortgage may be reduced greatly or discharged. This is a situation where the guidance of the experts at Burr Law can make the difference.

Other Debt Included in Chapter 13

One of the professional bankruptcy attorneys at Burr Law may be able to help you incorporate debts not usually available for reorganization. For instance, while domestic support obligations (DSO) like child support remain due and payable, past-due amounts can be worked into the reorganization plan and paid over three to five years. Likewise, if you owe back taxes, there are some situations where some amounts of tax debt can be incorporated into the reorganization plan too.

Necessary Forms

A typical Chapter 13 bankruptcy package could be 100 or more pages. When you file Chapter 13, you must complete the approved bankruptcy forms and any local bankruptcy forms required by the bankruptcy court. The forms for a Wisconsin Chapter 13 case include information about your eal estate, personal property, bankruptcy exemptions, debts, income, expenses, co-debtors (your spouse or life partner), leases and executory contracts. This is not an exhaustive list. The Statement of Financial Affairs is a form with almost two dozen questions about your received financial transactions. It includes income for the past two years, recent payments to certain creditors and insiders, a list of lawsuits, gifts, contributions, leases, transfers, and other information. The experts at Burr Law can assist you in gathering all the necessary information and completing the forms correctly and comprehensively.

Preparing to File for Bankruptcy in Wisconsin

You might think that making the decision to file for bankruptcy is the only real preparation necessary. However, whether it is Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy you plan to pursue, careful preparations need to be made in order for the bankruptcy code to work to your advantage. It is vital to work with bankruptcy experts (like those at Burr Law) who will guide you through the whole bankruptcy process, and that process starts well before the petition is filed in court.

Time of Filing

Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the best choice for actually getting rid of your unsecured debt. It requires a means test, though; you can’t make more than the median household income for your state. For Wisconsin, that amount is $64,168. The calculation of your household income is made from all of your income for the six months prior to the month in which you file for bankruptcy. So if there are particular times of the year when you receive money (for example, a bonus from your work or a payout from an investment) it would be wise to file for bankruptcy so that any extra income isn’t included. For instance, if you get a work bonus around the 20th of December every year, filing in December means that your household income is figured from June 1 through November 30. It is especially important to consider timing if your household income is close to the limit allowed for Chapter 7.

Credit Card Spending

When you are contemplating bankruptcy, it may be tempting to make a number of purchases on your credit cards. You may think that it is a good idea to use them while you still have them, and that it’s your final chance to buy something major. There is some truth to this thinking. No matter whether you declare bankruptcy using Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, you will no longer have access to your credit cards. However, it is important for you to know that some credit card debt can be determined nondischargeable. If you go on a spending spree just before filing bankruptcy, your credit card company can claim those were fraudulent purchases, that you never intended to repay them, and request that they be declared nondischargeable. You would need to be able to prove that you intended to repay them or that you didn’t plan to declare bankruptcy.

Presumed Fraudulence

There are some instances where the law presumes that your intent was fraudulent. If you use your credit cards in the three months before filing bankruptcy for luxury goods and services totaling more than $725, fraud is presumed (11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(2)(C)(i)(l). Likewise, If you use your credit cards for cash advances totaling more than $1,000 within 70 days before filing bankruptcy, fraud is presumed (11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(2)(C)(i)(l).

Necessary Spending

The designation of luxury goods is significant. The court will not penalize you for using your credit card for necessary expenses. So, while buying an in-home sauna would not be allowed, paying for your heating for the winter would. If you are considering taking a cash advance on your credit card in order to pay for necessary living expenses, it would be better to use your card to pay for the gas you need to get to work and the groceries to feed your family. Those expenses are easy to describe as necessary.

Bankruptcy Exemptions

Finally, Wisconsin is one of only 16 states that allows you to choose whether to use federal bankruptcy exemptions or Wisconsin state exemptions. This is an either/or choice though, you can’t choose a few Wisconsin exemptions, and mix them in with federal exemptions. The professionals at Burr Law will be able to give you the best advice for your particular situation.

When you decide to pursue bankruptcy, you need the help of experts right from the start. At Burr Law, we will be with you from the beginning—preparing to file, choosing which Chapter to use, deciding on the exemptions, and pursuing the bankruptcy through to completion.

What Happens to Your Credit Cards When You File for Bankruptcy?

When your financial situation is overwhelming, you may consider filing for bankruptcy. One of your worries might be what would happen to your credit cards should you pursue bankruptcy. That’s a legitimate concern; you may well lose access to your credit cards. Then the question becomes whether filing bankruptcy would bring more benefits than the detriment of losing your current credit cards. In this post, we’ll explore what happens with credit cards when you pursue bankruptcy.

What Kind of Debt Is it?

Credit cards are unsecured debt. Unsecured debt refers to any kind of debt that is taken on to buy everyday goods and services. Credit cards issued by banks or other financial institutions, department store cards, gas cards–all are examples of revolving credit. It is unsecured because you haven’t had to offer any kind of collateral in order to get it. Unlike your auto loan, where the vehicle itself functions as the collateral, credit card companies offer you short-term loans that you agree to repay with the stated interest. You can pay for your groceries with your credit card just like you can buy a computer with your credit card. In either case, the credit card company cannot come and take the food out of your refrigerator, or the computer off your desk. Since there is no collateral with credit cards, there can be no repossession.

Credit Card Interest

Because credit cards are actually short term loans, they charge a high rate of interest. In the first 3 months of 2022, Americans’ credit card balances reached $841 billion, and the average credit card interest rate is 21.33%. Department store interest rates are even higher. So there is a lot of money in play. If you pay your minimum amount due every month, you’re paying only the interest and are locking yourself into perpetual, costly debt. Wisconsinites have an average of $4587 on their credit cards. That means that if you want to pay off the entire amount in 6 months, you have to make monthly payments of over $800. If all of this sounds discouraging, you’re not alone.

Credit Card Debt and Chapter 7

Chapter 7 bankruptcy is called Liquidation Bankruptcy, but don’t let that name scare you off. While it is designed to repay a portion of your debts through the sale of your assets, there are exemptions, and the experts at Burr Law can make sure your car and your home remain yours. The truth is that using exemptions to their fullest, you can completely eliminate your credit card debt while keeping your most valuable possessions. There is no minimum or maximum amount of debt needed to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. There is an income status requirement, though. Your income needs to be equal to or below Wisconsin’s median income, $64,168. If you are close to or slightly over that number, the professionals at Burr Law can help with timing or calculation to make Chapter 7 work for you.

Credit Card Debt and Chapter 13

Chapter 13 bankruptcy functions more like a reorganization. A trustee assigned by the bankruptcy court draws up a plan whereby you repay a portion of your debts over the course of 3 to 5 years. Your creditors then need to agree to the plan, and the bankruptcy court approves it. Credit card debt is often, but not always, eliminated. Even when it is not entirely written off, you will end up having to repay only a small portion of your credit card debt. With this type of bankruptcy, you will retain your car and your house as well. There is no income status requirement, though there is a maximum debt level. To be eligible to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you must have no more than $419,275 in unsecured debt and no more than $1,257,850 in secured debt, which includes mortgages and car loans.

Basically, if most (or all) of your crippling debt is credit card debt, you might find that it’s worth it to lose access to your current credit cards and get rid of that debt. The best course of action is to contact the experts at Burr Law. They can listen to your specific situation and guide you to the best decision.

Does Bankruptcy Clear Tax Debt?

If you have any tax debt and you are considering bankruptcy, it is absolutely essential that you work closely with experts in bankruptcy law and IRS regulation. It is indeed possible to eliminate tax debt when filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy, but it is not easy to do so. In this post, we will explore how bankruptcy can clear tax debt.

Criteria

You won’t be surprised to find out that IRS rules and regulations are complex, and even more so around tax debt and bankruptcy. You should expect that the IRS will object to eliminating your tax debt if it can find any reason to do so. There are a number of conditions that must be met before tax debt is eligible to be discharged through bankruptcy. Briefly they are:

  • You did not deliberately evade paying your taxes or file a fraudulent return
  • Your tax debt is at least 3 years old
  • You have filed a tax return for the 2 years prior to your bankruptcy filing
  • Your tax debt assessment can’t be over 8 months old, or not yet done

Automatic Stay

The moment that you file for bankruptcy, whether it is Chapter 7 (most commonly) or Chapter 13, all your creditors must stop harassing you for payment. That includes the IRS. The automatic stay also applies to property. So no matter what stage the IRS collection effort is in, the automatic stay stops it completely. However, an automatic stay is just a pause. If you want to eliminate IRS debt as well as other debts, choosing the right time to file for bankruptcy is crucial.

Income Taxes

Chapter 7 bankruptcy only discharges income tax debt. Your 1040 taxes are obviously income taxes, but other taxes are not. For instance, property taxes and trust fund taxes are definitely not income taxes. So the kind of taxes you owe makes all the difference. If you do owe unpaid state or federal income taxes, then debt can be discharged. Then there are some rather complicated regulations dependent on timing.

Taxes Filed for Last 2 Years

You have to have filed your taxes for at least the last 2 years (if you were required to file). At the time you file for bankruptcy, your tax returns need to be with the appropriate state tax department and with the IRS. This applies whether or not you filed those taxes on time. If you didn’t file and the IRS prepared substitute returns to determine what you owed, those do not count as taxpayer-filed returns.

Tax Debt Must Be at Least 3 Years Old

Your income tax debt must be at least three years old. And it’s crucial to remember that Tax Day is not always April 15. Some years, it could be the 16th, 17th, or even 18th. In 2020 it was July 15 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. IRS lawyers have been known to object to discharge if the timing is off even by one or two days. So, make sure you file the petition on the correct day, or else you will have to start over.

240 Day Rule

Your tax assessment can’t be more than 8 months old, or must not have been assessed yet. If the IRS has not assessed the debt within the last 240 days, the income tax debt is not dischargeable. It’s almost impossible to tell if the IRS has assessed the debt or not, because this process is an internal accounting tool. But generally, if you’ve not received a bill which breaks down the amount due by tax years, the IRS has probably not assessed the debt yet.

Burr Law Helps with Complexities

At Burr Law, our professionals have years of experience dealing with bankruptcy law. We understand the complicated IRS rules around bankruptcy, and will work with them to make sure your tax debt is included in your bankruptcy. Don’t leave something this important to chance.

Wisconsin Bankruptcy Exemptions

When you’re interested in filing for bankruptcy, there are a lot of factors to consider. Should you file Chapter 7 or Chapter 13? Or maybe even Chapter 11? Does it matter when you file? And often, most important to people is this question: Will I be able to keep my house, car, and other important personal property? The answer to that last question depends on whether or not those items are considered exempt from the bankruptcy proceedings. Because bankruptcy is nation-wide, there are certain exemptions that have been established at the federal level. Some states only allow those federal exemptions, others require you to use the state exemptions. Wisconsin is one of only 16 states that allows you to choose.

Residency Requirement

If you want to choose Wisconsin exemptions, you must have been a Wisconsin resident for about 2 ½ years. The law says that you must have lived in Wisconsin for at least 2 years, but it is not that clear-cut. If your domicile hasn’t been in the same state for over two years, the rules get more complicated. You’ll need to choose the state exemptions of the state that you lived in the longest during the 180 days immediately before the two years before filing. For example, if you plan to file on July 1, 2022, your two-and-a-half-year period would start January 1, 2019. Imagine that you were living in Iowa (for instance) on January 1, 2019 and moved to Wisconsin in May of that year. You would need to use Iowa state exemptions. If you moved to Wisconsin in March, though, you could choose to use Wisconsin exemptions or federal exemptions.

No Cherry-Picking

When deciding whether to use Wisconsin state exemptions or federal exemptions, it’s important to remember that it’s a slate of exemptions you’re choosing. You must accept all the exemptions in whichever slate you’ve gone with; you can’t pick a few from the Wisconsin list, and a few from the federal list to create the most advantageous situation for you. Given that fact, it’s wise to have one of the experts at Burr Law examine your particular situation to determine which set of exemptions most suits your needs.

What Are The Wisconsin Exemptions?

The most relevant Wisconsin exemptions are for your home, car, tools of your trade, and personal property. The homestead exemption in Wisconsin is $75,000 of the equity in the home, or $150,000 for joint filers. That compares to the federal exemption of $25,150 or $50,300 for joint filers. The exemption for your car is $4,000 (plus any unused portion of the $12,000 allowed for your personal property). Any tools of your trade (like business equipment, inventory, or actual tools) are at $15,000 compared to $2,525 for the federal exemption. Your personal property is exempt too, up to $12,000, as are your bank deposits up to $5,000. College savings accounts or tuition trust funds will not be touched. Only some retirement accounts apply, though. It really requires professional analysis to make the best choice.

Federal Nonbankruptcy Exemptions

The federal nonbankruptcy exemptions are federal exemption laws that exist outside of the Bankruptcy Code and protect property from creditors whether or not a bankruptcy case has been filed. By contrast, federal bankruptcy exemptions are listed in the Bankruptcy Code and provide protection only in a bankruptcy proceeding. If you are using Wisconsin state exemptions, you can still use the federal nonbankruptcy exemptions as a supplement for additional protection of your property, assuming you qualify for them. The qualifications vary, and the experts at Burr Law will be able to guide you in evaluating whether you can benefit from them. These federal nonbankruptcy exemptions include retirement benefits, death and disability benefits, survivor’s benefits, and other miscellaneous exemptions. Each has its own qualifications.

If you are filing for bankruptcy in the state of Wisconsin, you are fortunate to be able to decide whether the Wisconsin state exemptions or the federal exemptions will better protect your assets. The professionals at Burr Law have extensive experience in working with the exemptions, and will talk you through your options.