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.
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
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.
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.