How bankruptcy can help you with your overdue taxes

It is that time of year again: tax season. Although this time of year is often considered to be among the more unpleasant, if you have fallen behind on your income taxes, it can be even more miserable. If you are in this situation, you may be considering bankruptcy as a means to get back on your feet. Although bankruptcy can help with certain back taxes, it is not always a complete solution for this type of debt.

How bankruptcy treats tax debt

Income tax debts are treated differently than other types of debt under the bankruptcy laws. Unlike other debts like medical bills and credit card debt, tax debt does not automatically qualify for a discharge. Each tax return and tax year is considered separately in determining whether the taxes owed may be discharged.

Regardless of whether you decide to file Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the tax debt must meet certain criteria under the law in order to be discharged:

  • The bankruptcy filer must have filed tax returns for at least two years before filing bankruptcy.
  • The outstanding tax debt must have been due for a minimum of three years. If any extensions were granted by the IRS, the tax debt must have been due for three years following the extended due date.
  • The IRS must have assessed the tax debt in question at least 240 days before the bankruptcy filing date. If the IRS, for whatever reason, suspended its efforts to collect the tax debt, this minimum period may be extended.
  • The bankruptcy filer must not have attempted to evade his or her taxes or filed fraudulent returns.

If your tax debt meets these four requirements, it may be discharged in bankruptcy. In addition to the tax debt itself, a discharge also relieves the filer of the obligation to pay any late payment penalties assessed.

However, if your tax debt does not meet these criteria, bankruptcy may still be able to help you. Since many people that fall behind on their taxes are struggling with other debt as well, bankruptcy can help by relieving most of the other debt. Once completed, bankruptcy would allow you to devote more of your financial resources to your tax debt. If you simply need more time to pay your taxes, Chapter 13 bankruptcy can help you by allowing you to pay your back taxes over a three to five-year period.

Speak with an attorney

The right option for you depends on several factors. If you have fallen behind on your taxes, an experienced bankruptcy attorney can review your situation and recommend a course of action that would best address your unique financial problems.