What to do When You’ve Forgotten a Creditor

FORGOTTEN CREDITORS

Chapter 7

If you forgot a creditor, do you still owe it when your case is over?  In most Chapter 7 cases, no you don’t.

Of course the analysis is different for the different chapters of bankruptcy.  In Chapter 7 bankruptcy if you inadvertently leave a creditor off your petition, whether you have to pay them back or not depends on two things:  1. Did you rip this creditor off or cheat them out of their money or intentionally injure their person or property? OR 2. Did the Trustee assigned to your case set a deadline for creditors to submit claims for money.

Pretty much, if a creditor is left off your chapter 7 bankruptcy and if you didn’t cheat them out of their money in some way or intentionally harm them, then in most cases your debt will be discharged even though it was left out of the petition.

This is true only when your bankruptcy trustee did NOT set a deadline for creditors to make claims for money. The debt is automatically discharged. You don’t even have to reopen your case and add them to it, you just send them a copy of your discharge and remind them that you owed them before you filed your bankruptcy.  See Beezley v. California Land Title Co, (In re Beezley), 994 F.2d 1433, 1434 (9th Cir. 1993) (per curiam).

A bankruptcy trustee will only set that deadline if you have money or property that he can take away from you, sell, and pay the proceeds to your creditors.  For the vast majority of you, this will never happen.

To make the issue just a little clearer than mud, here’s a copy of the statute, 11 USC Section 523(a)(3):

[A debt is not discharged in bankruptcy if it is]

(3) neither listed nor scheduled . . .  with the name . . . of the creditor to whom such debt is owed, in time to permit—
(A) . . . timely filing of a proof of claim, unless such creditor had notice or actual knowledge of the case in time for such timely filing; OR
(B) [if you did commit fraud, embezzlement or intentional injuries or damage] . . . . , timely filing of a proof of claim AND timely request for a determination of dischargeability of such debt . . . unless such creditor had notice or actual knowledge of the case in time for such timely filing and request; 

11 USC Section 523(a)(3)(A)

ON THE LIGHTER SIDE: A bankruptcy trustee only sets a deadline for creditors to submit proofs of claim when he finds that you property that he can take away from you, sell, and pay your creditors.  This deadline is called a claims bar date.  So, for instance, you have a house with $50,000 in equity and you also have a cabin in the woods worth $10,000.  More typical is your home has $50,000 in equity and when that happens you can only protect about $3000 in cars.  If your car is worth $10,000 then your trustee is going to sell it and pay you a $3000 check.  You won’t be able to keep both the house and the car.

Your bankruptcy trustee will sell your car or cabin and split the proceeds among your creditors and that is true even if it would only pay your creditors 1% of what you owe them. Of course, if your cabin really is only worth $10,000 then he might not find a buyer.  What if he doesn’t?  Your trustee will still have already set the claims bar date anyway because he sets that long before he finds out that no one wants to buy your cabin afterall.

Your bankruptcy trustee might not set the claims bar date until months after your case has already discharged.  Once the trustee notifies the court that there may be assets, a claims bar date is set.  That date is usually 90 days after the bankruptcy trustee notifies the court.  At that point, you should definitely make sure that every creditor listed in your case is listed with the correct address.  Double check all of your records to make sure none were left out.  If you listed a creditor at the wrong address, then they won’t know about the bankruptcy and won’t get a share. So, Google all their corporate addresses.  Go to AnnualCreditReport.com or FreeCreditReport.com and to help make sure no one is missing.

If your creditor was not notified or if you used the wrong address, or if you found the right address but notified them too late to submit a proof of claim, then that creditor will not be discharged and you will owe them in full.  That is the start of a bad day.

Unless you can prove that the creditor had notice or actual knowledge.  So, for example, you had a business partnership and you listed both of your partners as creditors.  If however one of them moved but then he finds out that you filed from the other partner who didn’t move . . . then you just have to be able to prove that he knew in spite of the move.

It could be as simple as getting the one to testify and say that he told the other. Good luck with that one, they’ll probably collude to testify that he didn’t and then split what you owe the guy who moved.  Or if the move-away partner telephoned and left a snarky or nasty message about it.  You’ve got him.  If you scanned the notice of commencement of case and emailed it to him, then you’d be able to prove that you’d done that.

Best of course, if you realize that a creditor has been left out, and if you know that the bankruptcy trustee is setting the claims bar date, double check everything and amend your bankruptcy as necessary.  That’s going to cost some money, but it’s better than paying them back.

11 USC Section 523(a)(3)(B)

THE DARK SIDE: Basically the gist of this is: If you cheated a creditor either by fraud, theft, embezzlement, or intentional injury to person or property, then leaving them off your bankruptcy is not going to protect you from them.  You cannot beat these kinds of creditors by adding them late by amendment with only a week or two to go to the end of your case.  If a creditor would have a claim for this kind of debt, they must ask a judge to exclude them from your discharge.  But they must make that request in writing and file it with the court during the 60 days after your first hearing date.

Your first hearing date is called your first meeting of creditors.  The request that a creditor must file against you is a special type of lawsuit called an Adversary Proceeding.  If they were notified properly AND don’t file this lawsuit, then they have already lost.  It’s like a mini-Statute of Limitations, but it only works if they in fact knew about it.  If the creditor knew that you filed, and does not sue, then they lose by Default.

But subsection (B) of the statute has that little word, “and” in the text, what does that do?  “filing of a proof of claim and timely request for a determination of dischargeability”.  Does that mean that if you cheated a creditor out of money that the bankruptcy trustee must still file a notice to set a deadline to file proofs of claim in order for their claim to survive the bankruptcy discharge order?

Basically it works this way: Above on the lighter side, where there was NO fraud, NO embezzlement,  and NO intentional harm, the debt was discharged with nothing more happening.  In the dark side, where you DID cheat the creditor or you DID intentionally harm the creditor, the debt is NOT discharged.  However, the creditor has the same requirement to file an adversary proceeding to prove it.

When do they have to file that lawsuit though?  Since they didn’t get notice, then whenever they file it, it will be timely.  So, my recommendation is to reopen the case, add the creditor, and ask the court to determine a last date for that creditor to file their lawsuit against you.

Most creditors even when they have pretty good cases will still never bother to sue you in the bankruptcy court.  Especially when we’re talking about institutional creditors like the big banks.  A small creditor like The Piano Credit Company will sue you for fraud even when anyone can see that you never did it.  Your best friend who lent you some money or your former business partner, those are the ones that sue you.

Chapter 13

In chapter 13 bankruptcy, every case is an asset case and every case has a deadline set automatically for creditors to submit proofs of claim.

So, it is very important to make sure that your addresses are all correct, and that you have listed every one you might owe money or property.  You can download each of your three credit reports for free at AnnualCreditReport.com, and for a small fee you can download them at FreeCreditReport.com.  Keep in mind however that not all of your creditors will have reported to the credit reporting agencies and sometimes they are temporarily off of the reports.

If you are in bad financial circumstances, do not throw anything away.  Keep every invoice or billing statement that you ever get.  Keep every collection letter and every letter from an attorney.  If ever have to come and see me, you may wish you still had them someday.  Do not throw them away.

Bankruptcy Attorney’s Fees in Chapter 7 and Chapter 13

Chapter 7

Chapter 7 is a short procedure.  Also called a straight bankruptcy, it lasts about 4 months.  You pay for it in advance to your attorney via cash, check or money order.  I no longer take checks. I’ve learned something: Every time a client  makes the effort to tell me that his check is good, it isn’t.  And that’s the case so far, every single time that a client has told me that.  So most of us won’t ever take a check.

Reasonable Fees

Sometimes your bankruptcy will cost a pretty penny even with me.  Whether you file in Riverside, San Diego, Santa Ana or Los Angeles, whether you live in Murrieta, Temecula, Menifee, Wildomar, Lake Elsinore, or Canyon Lake, I’m nearby and my fees are reasonable.  I aim to keep things affordable by basing my fees on your income.  If you’re on social security disability my current fees are $800 + the Filing Fee for a chapter 7.

Higher fees are what you will usually find with the other guys.  If your attorney has a big expensive office or several names on the door, you’re going to pay more.  Sometimes that’s what you want, if you’ve committed fraud or basically if you’ve cheated a few people or banks out of money, then you may want a law firm with that kind of litigation support.  However, remember that defending against creditors that you cheated out of money is going to cost you a lot extra, so having a higher priced firm might be a bad idea. If you cannot afford to defend yourself for your misdeeds then if you get sued, you’re going to lose no matter who your attorney is, because we don’t defend those for free.

And if you’re just a regular person who got caught in bad circumstances such as a divorce, medical emergency, death in the family, your company closed etc, then a boutique firm is probably going to be a better option.  However, attorney’s fees in any bankruptcy case must be reasonable.

Within the bankruptcy petition, the fees must be disclosed on two different forms.  If the fees disclosed are not reasonable the bankruptcy trustee assigned to your case is supposed to ask your attorney about it.  Make sure as you review your petition that the fees disclosed match the fees you paid.  If they don’t, you might bring it up to your bankruptcy trustee at the hearing.  If for instance your attorney charged you $4000 for a chapter 7 bankruptcy then listed that he’s charged you only $2500, then he’s trying to hide the actual fees from the bankruptcy trustee.  If he says he’s charged you $700 when he charged you $900 it’s an insignificant typo.  Don’t sweat it.

Fees in California must be not “Unconscionable” which basically means something to the effect of does the fee charged shock the conscience of the court.  But in Bankruptcy, the fees must be reasonable even in California.  This is a safeguard for you to protect you from unscrupulous attorneys.

UNPAID Attorney’s Fees

Listen, this is my favorite issue:  If at time of filing of your Chapter 7 bankruptcy, there are any unpaid attorney‘s fees, they are added to your credit card balances and are discharged. From the moment of filing your attorney can never ask you to pay your balance of attorney’s fees ever again. Your attorney knows that of course, better than anyone, and therefore your attorney can never ask for you to ever pay your fees ever. Never, never, never.  Is that enough Nevers yet?

If he does you can most likely get the bankruptcy judge to order your attorney to pay you punitive damages.  See In Re Waldo, 417 B.R. 854 (Bankr. E.D. Tenn., 2009) and this Article. So, if an attorney suggested filing your Chapter 7 case without paying any attorney‘s fees prior to filing the case, take it.  If he then asks you to pay your attorney‘s fees after filing your case, let me know, and I’ll sue him for you, where he will lose and he will pay my attorney‘s fees to sue him and he may also be required to pay you punitive damages.  

Chapter 13

In Chapter 13 instead of a straight bankruptcy you are in a Chapter 13 reorganization plan where you pay a portion of your debts back usually over a 3 to 5 year period.  For attorney‘s fees you pay a down payment to your attorney via cash, check or money order, it could be as little as the filing fee, but could more.  I’ve seen a case where an attorney takes only $75 against the filing fee then he asks the court to allow you to pay your filing fee in installment payments.  Personally, I find that odd because if you can’t afford to pay even the filing fee how are you going to pay your chapter 13 plan payments?I usually charge as up front fees the same amount as a chapter 7 and of course you must also pay the filing fee for the chapter 13 prior to filing the case.  The balance of the $4000 in attorney‘s fees (standard for a chapter 13) are paid through the monthly payment plan.  So, if you put down $1000 plus the fling fee then the other $3000 would be divided by 60 months and added to your monthly payment.

These are Rare But I have Seen Them Happen

Often attorneys who have no morals will put you into a payment plan type bankruptcy, or chapter 13 when you cannot afford to pay your attorney‘s fees prior to filing the case.  That way they get more attorney‘s fees out of you.  It’s an Up-Sell to a chapter 13.  You cannot afford the $1000 or $1200 for a chapter 7 but your house is about to be foreclosed or your wages are about to be garnished or your bank account is about to be taken by a creditor called a bank levy.  Rather than suggesting you sell something or borrow from your mom, he just charges you the filing fee for a chapter 13, and presto your case is filed.  Your bankruptcy protection is started.

Is it just to get you to pay the $4000 in attorney‘s rather than the closer to  $1000 for a chapter 7?  Sometimes yes.  But if you easily qualify for a chapter 7 then filing a 13 is a disservice to you because you will not be able to sustain the plan payment in the long run, not even a little one, and then you’ll be wishing for a chapter 7 anyway.  Then he can charge you to convert your bankruptcy case to a chapter 7 and get coming and going.

I’ve met clients of an attorney who actually told people that their county, San Bernardino, only allowed a minimal amount of rent on the chapter 7 qualification test (means test) as an expense regardless of family size and that therefore those 4 clients could not file a chapter 7.  I went to the US Trustee’s Main Office in Riverside and told them so because this is patently false.  The housing expense in the means test increases as your family size increases in every state and county in the country.There was another attorney who told an old lady from Menifee that she could pay her attorney‘s fees after the case had been filed.  She paid her filing fee but after her case was over she could still not afford to pay.  So, that attorney’s paralegal called her and told her that her bankruptcy Trustee was going to reopen the case and start investigating assets again, however, the paralegal continued, the little old lady’s attorney could make it go away if the little old lady would just pay him $1000 in cash by the following Tuesday.So I telephoned her bankruptcy Trustee and found out that it was all a lie and that her bankruptcy trustee had not even contacted the attorney.  I suggested that the little old lady turn him in to bar, her bankruptcy Trustee, the US Trustee’s Office and to write a letter to the judge assigned to her case.  She did.

I’ve also seen attorneys who would file an emergency filing or “bare bones” case for you real cheap. When you do that you must within 14 days file the balance of the schedules and statements i.e. the pages of the petition which explain who your creditors are and what your income and expenses are and if you pass the means test or not.  So, what the attorneys did was to charge you a mere pittance to file the emergency case but an arm and a leg to file the balance of schedules.  The emergency case was $200 plus the filing fee but the balance of schedules was another $3500, and you’re over a barrel, you must file the balance or your case will be dismissed by the court.  

I recently saw a case where a client’s bankruptcy attorney was suspended by the California bar during their chapter 13 and they didn’t even get notified by their attorney.  They went to that attorney‘s former office and found out about it.  The new attorney working in the office offered to take over the case for $500 which they were supposed to pay to that attorney.  However, in a chapter 13, only the initial payment of attorney‘s fees is ever paid directly to the attorney by the client.  After that, no fees get paid without court approval.  I told them that.  They went back to that attorney in Temecula and that attorney “just stared at me blank faced”.  Once a chapter 13 plan is confirmed by a bankruptcy court judge, you can never accept any fees directly from the client without a court order.  Then the bankruptcy trustee on your chapter 13 case pays those attorney‘s fees to your attorney through the chapter 13 plan as a plan distribution.  

If you have any other concerns, questions or comments please write back back in the comments section below.

Bankruptcy and Income Taxes and Tax Liens

The California Board of Equalization and California Franchise Tax Board are a bunch of rats clamoring over a cadaver with very little meat left on it’s bones. If you ever make an offer to compromise a debt, never have the money in an account with your name on it. Your attorney’s trust account might be a good place.

DISCLAIMER: Nothing in this article OR WEBSITE may be mistaken as legal advice. Attorney David Nelson, is licensed only in California, and this article is intended only for readers in California. This article is for entertainment, educational, extra-curricular, and medical purposes only. If you decide to rely on this, heaven help you. Remember also that I’m not a tax attorney, I’m a bankruptcy attorney in Murrieta near Temecula CA.

Chapter 7

Yes, you can discharge taxes in bankruptcy. No, not all of them but some of them. I hate to mention this part, when it comes to credit cards, medical bills and collection agencies, I only want one statement so that I have the addresses, account numbers and balances. But with the IRS, Franchise Tax Board and Board of Equalization, I want you to bring every letter with you that they ever sent you. In those letters are the answers to many of the questions and rules we will go over below. California sales taxes are calculated against gross receipts and therefore discharge in bankruptcy under ALMOST the same rules. For the specifics of the noticing requirements which you must give the California Board of Equalization in an article written Mark Sharf regarding the Ilko case, Ilko v. California Board of Equalization, click HERE.

To discharge income taxes, whether Federal or State, or California Sales Taxes, many rules have to be followed. Because this article only discusses income taxes, then it is important to remember that these are taxes that are assessed against gross income or gross receipts. See 11 USC 507 a 8 and 11 USC 523 a 1

There are several rules involved. What’s worse is that the rules all involve the timing of the bankruptcy. Often you’re in my office because of a lawsuit or a wage garnishment, or your bank account has recently been levied and you want to file immediately in order to stop the bank or your employer from sending your money to the Sheriff’s Office.

Problem is this, if you owe a bunch of money to the IRS and have to wait to file your bankruptcy in order to get rid of the tax, you’re going to have to decide whether the amount of tax to be discharged is more or less important than the amount of money the Sheriff is about to take away from you. Notice that I said more important not bigger.

The Rules

  1. The tax year must be over. Kind of a “No Duh” moment.
  2. The tax return (if required) must have been filed. This is also sort of a “No Duh” moment. Prior to 2005 you used to be able to discharge the tax even you hadn’t filed your return if you chose to file a chapter 13 bankruptcy instead of a 7. Many great things about the bankruptcy code were eviscerated in 2005 when republicans and democrats who had taken hundreds of millions of dollars in lobby money over the course a decade finally gave us bankruptcy reform. Conveniently this happened right at the start of the economic downturn. Literally, the housing market went flat one month before the bankruptcy reforms went into effect. Hmm, I wonder how the banks knew it was finally time to get the bankruptcy reforms passed? Bottom line is, if you owe federal or state income taxes in California and you haven’t filed your returns, your bankruptcy is not going to help you get out of paying your taxes. So file your tax returns, make sure you get proof that they received them, and call back in two years. But what if you were audited, and at the end of the audit, you signed the audit, that is not a substitute for your filing of your return? What if you didn’t file a return and the IRS files one for you? When it comes to filing returns, YOU must be the one who files it, not the IRS, or other taxing authority. If you cannot remember if you filed the returns, contact the IRS and get an IRS Transcript for the tax year or years in question. You can download the Transcript request from the IRS website.
  3. If it turns out that you didn’t file your return, then you will have to decide if you want to file your tax return now and then wait for just over two years to file your case, can you handle the other wage garnishments, bank account levies and lawsuits that will take place during that time. You will have to weigh the amount of tax you can get rid of compared to the amount of wages that will be garnished and what will happen to your bank accounts and having to go to court for judgment debtor exams, and if you don’t go to the judgment debtor exam, the court will issue a bench warrant for your arrest and on and on.
  4. DISCLAIMER: Make sure that you speak with an attorney now and get this advice from an attorney as bona fide legal advice before you make your decision. This article is not your legal advice.
  5. The tax return’s due date must have been more than 3 years prior to the filing date of your bankruptcy petition. Notice it says “Return’s Due Date”. Commonly called the 3 year rule, this is where most people stumble and file their bankruptcy petition too early. Tax Returns are due in April! On top of that, if you got an extension to August, then they were due to be filed in August. What if you extended to October? If you cannot remember if you extended, contact the IRS and get an IRS Transcript for the tax year or years in question. You can download the Transcript request from the IRS website. Alternatively if there is nothing else pressuring you to file you could just wait until October 20th to file. I assume you can get a tax transcript from the Franchise Tax Board or Board of Equalization if you need one. A little while ago, the IRS decided that all extensions were automatically extended to October 15th, I don’t remember which year that started, but from now on, if you think you filed your extension to August, then you must file your bankruptcy in November 3 years later.
  6. If you filed your tax returns late, your returns had to have been filed with the IRS or other taxing agency at least 2 years prior to filing your case. This is true whether you owe income taxes to the IRS or the State of California or whatever state you owe taxes too.
  7. Assuming you have beaten the 3 year rule, and the late filing rule, you still have to have beat this one. The tax must be assessed at least 240 days prior to filing your bankruptcy petition. That’s about 9 months. Assessed means that they have decided you owe, how much and told you so. In California, you get a letter that says: Notice of tax due. It won’t say “assessment” and probably won’t say “assessed” either. California’s notice of tax due is a weird animal, it does not become effective until 60 days after they send it. So, in California, it’s a 300 day rule from the first letter. Our Franchise Tax Board will send a 2nd letter stating that the notice is “final” and from there your 240 days starts. At this point people often ask the IRS, Franchise Tax Board or Board of Equalization if they will take less, give them a break. Called an offer to compromise, if you’re going to file a bankruptcy, DON’T DO IT. An offer to compromise delays the 240 day rule. Sort of like the extensions on filing your tax returns under the 3 year rule. You have to add 60 days to the time that your offer is pending plus the time that your offer is pending to the 240 days. That can extend your 240 days automatically by 60 days even if you withdraw the offer to compromise the tax debt on the same day as you make the offer. If you filed a bankruptcy previously during the 240 day period and it was dismissed and now you have to refile, you must add the amount of time your bankruptcy was pending to the 240 days plus another 90 days. So, even if your previous bankruptcy was dismissed after a month you must add 4 months to the 9 months. That’s an overdue baby.

A client, and no kidding his real name was Groucho Marx, (the names were changed to protect the innocent) owed $50,000 to the Board of Equalization, and $250,000 to the IRS. And no kidding, his rich uncle, (it wasn’t his uncle) died and left him some money, 15% of the total taxes owing. After calling the IRS and talking them into taking a 15% pay off, the IRS put a condition on the deal, he had to get the State of California’s Board of Equalization to take the same deal. Stupid condition but that’s what they told him. So, he calls the BOE and says hey they’ll take 15% if you do, what do you say? Unfortunately, they said, “we’ll get back to you.” A week later they answered by taking all of his money out of his bank account.

Even if since Bush the IRS is kinder and gentler, the Board of Equalization and Franchise Tax Board in California are a bunch of rats clamoring over a cadaver with very little meat left on it’s bones.

“Maybe you can’t squeeze blood from a turnip, but you can eat the turnip.”
~David L. Nelson and yes, I just quoted myself.
 

If you ever make an offer to compromise a debt, never have the money in an account with your name on it. Never have it in your wife’s account. Never have it in your S Corp’s or your LLC’s name. In fact, you might want to have it in a hole in your back yard before you make the call.

I had another client who back in 2006 owed every year from 1995 to 2000. Turned out he had filed every year except 1996 which the IRS had filed for him. He was dead certain that he had filed it and was totally surprised when it wasn’t he that had done the filing. Fortunately for him there is a 10 year statute of limitations on the collection of federal income taxes. In his case, because he had been sued, the creditor had a big judgment against him and his wife and was about to garnish both their wages he could not file his return himself and wait out that two years. The amount that would have been garnished would have been greater than the amount of tax he would have discharged by waiting. If you cannot remember if you filed or extended, contact the IRS and get an IRS Transcript for the tax year or years in question. You can download the Transcript request from the IRS website.

Chapter 13

The rules are nearly the same but you get to put the taxes you owe into a payment plan. Plan details can be tricky but you no longer get the good benefits such as discharging taxes without filing the returns and so on like you did before the law change.

Tax Liens and Statute of Limitations

Many of you have asked about Tax Liens. Yes, there is a 10 year statute of limitations on the collection of the tax. Tax Liens are only one method of collection. The question of how long is the tax lien enforceable once recorded is a different question which we will get to in a moment. Have a look at Internal Revenue Code IRC 26 USC 2605.

26 USC 2605(a) Length of period

Where the assessment of any tax imposed by this title has been made within the period of limitation properly applicable thereto, such tax may be collected by levy or by a proceeding in court, but only if the levy is made or the proceeding begun—
(1) within 10 years after the assessment of the tax, or
(2) if—
(A) there is an installment agreement between the taxpayer and the Secretary, prior to the date which is 90 days after the expiration of any period for collection agreed upon in writing by the Secretary and the taxpayer at the time the installment agreement was entered into; or
(B) there is a release of levy under section 6343 after such 10-year period, prior to the expiration of any period for collection agreed upon in writing by the Secretary and the taxpayer before such release.
If a timely proceeding in court for the collection of a tax is commenced, the period during which such tax may be collected by levy shall be extended and shall not expire until the liability for the tax (or a judgment against the taxpayer arising from such liability) is satisfied or becomes unenforceable.

So, the date the statute of limitation starts the assessment date and it runs for 10 years from the assessment. Is that true in every case? Of course not. There a few notable exceptions, all of which only add to the 10 years, none of them subtract from it.

The one that matters the most on my page is the bankruptcy extension of the 10 year period. Extensions of statutes of limitations are calling “tolling” of the statute of limitations. It just means that you did something that made it impossible for the IRS to collect for a certain amount of time therefore you have that amount of time added to the total amount of time that they get to collect. The Statute of limitations is extended.

Filing bankruptcy extends that statute of limitations for the amount of time you are in bankruptcy plus six (6) months. If your chapter 7 bankruptcy lasts 4 months and plus 6 more then they get to collect against you for 11 years for any pre-bankruptcy non-discharged taxes.

In the Severo case, Severo v. IRS (9th Cir. 2009) the Severos owed money for 1990 income taxes. They filed an extension on the filing of the tax returns to October 15th 1991. However, they filed their bankruptcy in Sept of 1994. You can see by reading above that they filed about a month too early to discharge the tax. Oops. They also filed a chapter 11, then about a year later converted it to a chapter 7. Just as an aside, the chapter 11 bankruptcy not only extended the 10 years statute of limitations on the collection of the tax, it also extended the “three year rule” listed above. So, if they wanted to discharge the tax in the chapter 7 they would have had to dismiss the chapter 11 and wait a little while then refile as a 7. Sadly they didn’t do that

Also their chapter 7 case lasted until early 1998 when they got the chapter 7 discharge. So, from Sept of 94 to March 1998 they were in a bankruptcy. That gave the IRS an additional 3 1/2 years to collect. In other words the 10 year statute of limitations grew or expanded to a 13 1/2 year statute of limitations. That’s what tolling does.

Notice that during that 10 years, if the IRS sues you and obtains a judgment then they can enforce the judgment for the amount of time that your state allows them to. In California judgments are good for 10 years and may be renewed for an additional 10 years. So, they could conceivably follow after you for 30 years

Length of Time of the Lien

Internal Revenue Code Section 6321 states that the lien is created when the tax is assessed, the IRS has sent you a notice and you don’t pay it. If the lien is created when you don’t pay or it’s inception is at assessment is at present an unresolved issue. In most cases, it’s probably a non-issue because they’re coming to get you either way. Circle the Wagons!

How long does the lien last? Internal Revenue Code Section 6322 states that the lien will continue until the assessed tax is satisfied or becomes unenforceable by reason of lapse of time. So now you can see why I spent so much time on the Statute of Limitations

Here’s an excellent discussion of Tax Liens by Attorney Tony Mankus.

Disclaimer: Nothing in this article may be mistaken as legal advice. Attorney David Nelson, is licensed only in California, and this article is intended only for readers in California. This article is for entertainment, educational, extra-curricular, and medical purposes only. If you decide to rely on this, heaven help you.

Debt Consolidation Loans

In Murrieta and Temecula there are great places to obtain debt consolidation loans.  In many cases a debt consolidation loan is a fantastic financial tool for restructuring your debt and making life easier and finances manageable.  Particularly when your debts are for the types of obligations that are not revolving or renewing. 

If you’re considering a debt consolidation loan, a chapter 13 bankruptcy may be just what you need.  A chapter 13 bankruptcy allows you to consolidate your debts and separate them into classes.  You can reduce a car payment, both by cutting the interest rates and extending the term of the loan and paying it off ahead of the credit cards.  You can include child support and income taxes and give them a higher priority in the payment plan so that they get paid off completely and ahead of the credit cards too.  Your credit cards and medical bills and gambling markers get paid whatever is left over. 

Example: if you owed $15000 on a car, $15000 in back child support and $30,000 to credit cards, and if your budget only allowed a payment of $700.  You’d setup a 60 month plan for $700/mo.  Normally you’d have to pay probably $1500 to $2000 per month on that debt depending on interest rates and terms.  Of the $700/mo that you would pay for the 60 month plan, your credit cards would get approximately only $200/mo.  Less in fact because the bankruptcy trustee would take his fees out of that $200 and also the car would have a small interest rate applied but not compounded.

Recent Taxes

While sufficiently old enough income taxes can be discharged in a bankruptcy, more recent income taxes cannot be.  Income taxes that date back only one, two or three years cannot be discharged in bankruptcy.  This is true in California for the Federal and State income taxes as well as California Sales Taxes.  If the debt is sufficently high you may want to consider waiting out the time required and then filing a bankruptcy when they are ripe enough to do a bankruptcy. 

However, if the debt would be manageable if you just had a low interest rate and a fixed payment for 36 or 48 or 60 months, then a debt consolidation loan might be right for you.  Keep in mind that the interest that the IRS charges is 10% but on top of that, stiff penalties are added whenever the debt has a remaining balance.  If you set up a minimum payment plan directly with the IRS, you’re having more than a 20% interest rate and unpaid interest and penalties are capitalized back into the loan.  Worse is that if you end up owing money next year your payment plan will be cancelled and the full balance on both years will be immediately required by the IRS.

A Debt Consolidation Loan may be exactly what you need in this situation.  As a quick side note there is a special bankruptcy rule which states that if you obtain a loan to pay a tax and then try to discharge the new loan in a bankrutpcy, you must follow the same bankruptcy rules as though it were still a tax in order to discharge it.

Student Loans and Back Child Support 

Neither of these is dischargeable in bankruptcy.  However, neither Student loans nor Child Support have that same rule as the income taxes.  If you obtain a consolidation loan to pay off student loans or child support, and you later find yourself unable to pay off the new loan, there is no bankruptcy rule forcing you to follow the student loan bankruptcy rules nor the child support rules for the consolidation loan.  So, they get discharged.

There are plenty of student loan debt consolidation programs and some have 20 year payment plans, or extended plans and some have income contingent plans.  However my favorite is to just get a normal consolidation loan.  It does better things for your credit files and credit scores and if you fall on hard times afterwards, you can discharge it in a bankruptcy. 

Open Credit Cards with Zero Balances

By far the worst thing you can do is to consolidate credit cards with a new loan or line of credit.  Examples I’ve seen come into the office include but are not limited to the following, a couple has $60,000 in debt consolidation loans and another $60,000 in revolving credit on 10 different credit cards.  Ike, the husband had gambled up $60,000 in credit cards so his wife, Inez went to the bank and got a consolidation loan and paid them off.  However, it left 10 credit cards open with zero balances.  

That’s like handing an open bottle of Rum to an alcoholic pirate; no impulse control and he gambled them all up again.  

In Murrieta and Temecula, if your debts are primarily credit cards consider filing chapter 7 bankruptcy or if you make too much money, file a chapter 13Imagine how much happier Inez would be if she’d talked him into filing a bankruptcy instead of running up the 10 credit cards over again.  How many arguments about money could have been avoided?  How many arguments did they have about the low income, the missed vacations, missed investments, missed retirement savings? If those credit cards had been closed permanently, they might have stayed married. 

I’ve seen a spouse get a consolidation loan, and then call all the credit card companies and close the accounts.  It didn’t work.  The other spouse just called all the credit card companies the next day and asked for the cards to be opened back up again.  And the credit card companies did it.

If you’re considering a debt consolidation loan, a chapter 13 bankruptcy may be just what you need.  A chapter 13 bankruptcy allows you to consolidate your debts and separate them into classes.  You can reduce a car payment, both by cutting the interest rates and extending the term of the loan, and you pay it off ahead of the credit cards.  You can include child support and income taxes and give them a higher priority in the payment plan so that they get paid off completely and ahead of the credit cards too.  Your credit cards and medical bills and gambling markers and whatnot get paid whatever is left over. 

All the cards are closed and no one is going to call back and reopen them either.  Call me now and lets get you started doing something about your debts.  Take action and fix your finances.  951-200-3613.

Reaffirmation Agreements

REAFFIRMATION AGREEMENTS

A Reaffirmation Agreement is a new promissory note to keep paying on an old contract for the purchase of goods where the lender can repossess or foreclose the goods.  Because you have signed a security agreement the lender has the right to repossess or foreclose if you do not pay for it.

Chapter 7 bankruptcy discharges your personal obligation to pay the loan, or in other words, you no longer have to legally pay on the note.  However, the lender still has a lien on the object(s) in question. Jewelry, refrigerators or large appliances, and most notably cars can be repossessed in this way.

What a reaffirmation agreement does: It allows you and the lender to agree that you may keep the goods so long as you continue to pay for them.  When executing a reaffirmation agreement with the lender sometimes the lender will reduce the balance owing, the interest rate or both.  As a result the payment and term can be reduced.

Nowadays most lenders will not reduce the interest rates and balances on cars.  Home mortgages never do.  You can often reduce the balance and interest rates on appliances, jewelry, computers and motorcycles.

If you do sign a reaffirmation agreement, you will have 60 days to change your mind and rescind it.  Rescissions must be in writing, served on the creditor and preferably filed with the court.

MORTGAGES

You would never reaffirm a mortgage.  Never.  Seldom but sometimes a mortgage lender will tell a client that the client’s post bankruptcy mortgage account would show up as good credit on their credit report if the client had just done a reaffirmation agreement.  It’s all the bankruptcy attorney’s fault that the client’s credit is not better than it is right now because he didn’t tell the poor client to reaffirm the mortgage.

Most mortgage companies will not do this to you, just a few.  Ones that do are unscrupulous and are aiming to get you to sign your life away.  They want you tied to that mortgage through the reaffirmation agreement come hell or high water.  If they can just do that, then if you foreclose, maybe they can sue you.  If you are in a worse position later, maybe you have to short sell, and when you do, they will ask you to pay them back sometimes, $10,000 to $50,000 in order for them to approve the short sale.

No, we don’t know what will happen, but I have a client right now who is being sued by a lender, his former first mortgage, who asked him to sign just such a promissory note in order to approve his short sale.  Fortunately for him, he did not do a reaffirmation on his mortgage during his bankruptcy.  Therefore, his mortgage company cannot in fact stick him with the debt, but for some reason they think that they can.  Wrong, they cannot.  We will be suing them soon for violating the Bankruptcy Discharge Order.

Because we do not have a crystal ball, and because the length of the term of a mortgage is so long, we NEVER sign a reaffirmation agreement on a mortgage.  This is the industry standard.

CARS AND VEHICLES

Legally, WITHOUT a reaffirmation agreement the lender can repossess your car, even if the car payments are current.  However, at this writing, the only companies who do are Ford Motor Credit & Jaguar Credit & California Coast Credit Union.   I cannot promise that other companies will not change their policies and begin behaving like Ford.

WITH a reaffirmation agreement, as long as the payments are current, then they cannot take the car just as before the bankruptcy.  However, just as before the bankruptcy, if you get behind in payments they will take the car AND sue you for a deficiency balance.

If you get behind, WITH or WITHOUT a reaffirmation agreement, they will definitely repossess the car.  So, the thing to do is to ask yourself, is the economy getting better or worse?  Answer:  Worse, my business is constantly picking up.  Everyone who comes in tells me that the business they work for is dropping off.  Fewer orders, fewer sales, employees are being let go.

So, if you just keep making the payments and don’t worry about it, you have a great probability of nothing changing, and eventually once the vehicle is paid off, they will still have to give you the pink slip.

If you sign and file a reaffirmation agreement, and then change your mind, you have 60 days to do so in writing and it must be in writing, signed and filed with the court.

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Bankruptcy Attorney David Nelson

Temecula Bankruptcy Attorney David NelsonTEMECULA BANKRUPTCY ATTORNEY DAVID NELSON

I have been a Bankruptcy Attorney since the very beginning. Having graduated in the top 15% of my class I passed bar the first time and in June of 1994 I opened my law office.  Back then there was a recession and it was just natural to open a bankruptcy practice.  I saw a need and was able to fill it.

I’m an expert in the field of bankruptcy.  Since 1994, I have been passionate about getting my clients out of the troubles they find themselves in.  Certainly many of us might think that if we’d just planned better, we would have been able to avoid the challenges facing the country right now.  While it might be true, it’s probably more accurate to say that there was no way to plan our way out of the whole economy crashing down on us.

I’ve seen first hand the blessing that Bankruptcy can bring to individuals and families.  Think about this for a moment:  What is it that you fight about the most?  Is it too much money, “Dang what are we going to do with all these 20s honey?”  No, it’s the lack of money.

But what if we could cut the arguments in half?  What if we could at least take the arguments from: which debts do we pay this month with the little bit of money we have? and transform those to: how do we set up a savings for the little that we have?  That’s what Bankruptcy can do for you.

If you could start the day knowing that your credit cards, medical bills, repossessed cars, 2nd mortgages, and so on were all going to just disappear, how would you feel the rest of the day?

Wouldn’t you treat your spouse better?  Wouldn’t you be kinder to your children and co-workers?  Wouldn’t you have a better marriage, family, career?

I’ve probably saved more marriages than most marriage counselors over the same time period. You don’t need to know how to talk to each other about money, you must do something about it.

What if you could go back to paying your tithing or your favorite charity again?

Do something about it.  Make the Call Right now to set the Appointment that will change your lives.  Call 800 FILE AWAY or 800 345 3292, call right now.

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