December 15, 2019

IRS May Soon be Out of the Business of Seizing Income Tax Refunds for Benefit of Chapter 13 Trustee

As you probably know, there are two types of consumer bankruptcy cases available to you – a Chapter 7 which wipes out debt, and a Chapter 13 which creates a five year payment plan in which you pay back some or all of your debt with your “disposable income.”  When I prepare a Chapter 13 case, we work with you to create a liveable budget.  The money “left over” after you pay for housing, food, transportation, insurance, utilities and other necessities must be sent to the Chapter 13 trustee, who then disburses these funds to your creditors based on a plan of reorganization that we submit to the court.

What happens if you need to file a Chapter 13, you have not yet filed your tax return for last year, but you know that a refund will be coming your way.  The simple answer is that unless you are paying back your creditors at 100%, your Chapter 13 will demand that you turn over your tax refund check, and will use that money to pay your creditors.  If you know that a refund is headed your way, make sure to tell your lawyer before you file – there are some steps you can take to preserve some or all of your tax refund money.

Your Chapter 13 trustee will also want future refunds paid to the trustee.  This situation is easier to handle – you will want to adjust your payroll withholdings so that you do not have any refund coming.  As far as the Chapter 13 trustee is concerned, your tax refund is kind of like a savings account that artificially reduces your net pay amount.

All of the Chapter 13 trustees in the Northern District of Georgia require debtors who are paying less than 100% to creditors to include in their Chapter 13 plans a provision that authorizes the IRS to intercept any refund payable during the years that your plan is in effect and send this money to the Chapter 13 trustee.  And until now, the IRS has cooperated with the Chapter 13 trustees in redirecting refund money. [Read more…]

Why Tax Refunds Payable to the Chapter 13 Trustee Will Do Little to Decrease Your Plan Balance

At least two of the three Chapter 13 trustees in the Northern District of Georgia require a Chapter 13 plan provision which provides that any tax refund payable to the debtor during the term of the debtor’s plan shall be paid to the Chapter 13 trustee.   These trustees will object to any plan that does not include a tax refund provision.

Although I explain the implications this provision, many of my clients express shock and outrage when their expected refund of $3,000, $4,000 or more does not show up in their mailboxes, but instead ends up in the hands of the Chapter 13 trustee.  These clients, quite naturally, expect that the tax refund payment will reduce their Chapter 13 obligation and either reduce the term of their plans or possibly allow for a reduction in the regular monthly payment.

More recently one of my clients fell behind on his Chapter 13 plan and had to enter into a consent order with the Chapter 13 trustee to pay extra each month to cure the delinquency.   Shortly after the consent order was filed, this client saw a  $2,200 tax refund to to the trustee and he wanted to see that money applied to his delinquency and thus reduce the burden of his delinquency cure.

Unfortunately in both of these situations, my clients will not get the desired benefit from the “seizure” of their tax refunds.  The funds will go into the plan, but instead of reducing the balance or the term of the plan, they will increase the dividend payable to unsecured creditors [Read more…]

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