Fresh Start on a New Year

The first few months of the year are a busy time for bankruptcy attorneys. There are two reasons for this: first. First, it is the start of a new year and a good time for a change. The holiday season has passed and families begin making plans for the future. When you take a look at your finances and an ugly pile of unpaid bills is looking back at you, it is probably time to consult with an experienced bankruptcy attorney.

The second reason is tax season. While filing for bankruptcy is cheap compared to many other legal services, finding extra cash to pay court fees, the credit counseling class, and your attorney’s fees can be challenging. Many debtors use income tax refunds to pay bankruptcy fees.

The safest advice for a debtor expecting a tax refund is to postpone filing bankruptcy until after you have received and spent your income tax refund. Any expected refund that has not been received is property of the bankruptcy estate. The debtor must account for the expected refund and then apply a legal exemption to protect it. If you underestimate your refund, and do not have enough legal exemptions to protect it, you may lose a portion of your tax refund.

Taxes that have been received and spent before filing bankruptcy are not property of the bankruptcy estate. However, it is important to spend your income tax refund wisely. Any payment of over $600 to one creditor just prior to filing must be reported, and the bankruptcy trustee may ask the creditor to return the money. Gifts or loan payments to friends or family members can also be “avoided” by the trustee. Consult with your attorney before spending your income tax refund.

Tax season is a good time to file bankruptcy. Your income taxes have been recently prepared, and this information is needed for your bankruptcy case. Your attorney can advise you concerning the best time to file bankruptcy. Make your new year a fresh start on a better financial future.

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