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Orlando Bankruptcy Law Blog

Can I get debt relief from my taxes?

Tax season is not always a pleasant time of year. While some Florida residents are expecting to receive a nice refund, you might be struggling with the reality that you are still not quite caught up on the taxes that you already owe. While it might seem impossible, tax debt relief is possible. Here is what you need to know.

Not all types of tax debt can be discharged during bankruptcy. Chapter 13 bankruptcy generally gives you the option to discharge more tax debts than Chapter 7. It is also important to remember that there are many different types of taxes, including federal, state, property, sales and more. However, whether you are filing Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, you can usually discharge tax debts if you meet the following standards:

  • Your back taxes are at least three years overdue.
  • You filed the returns for the debt two or more years ago.
  • The assessment for those taxes happened at least 240 days before filing.
  • You did not commit tax evasion or fraud.

Ready to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy? Don't take on new debts

Even in small amounts, debt can be an ever-present stress. From the emotional toll of trying to juggle multiple payments to receiving harassing phone calls from creditors, being in debt is not easy for people in Florida. Getting out of debt can be even harder. If you are struggling under the weight of debt, Chapter 13 bankruptcy can be a viable option. Here are a few things you should know before going down this path.

As difficult as it may seem, you should avoid incurring any new debts before you file for bankruptcy. If you accumulate a lot of new debt when you already know that you are in a situation that will require bankruptcy, the court might consider your actions fraudulent. Fraudulent debts cannot be discharged during bankruptcy, and in some cases the court may choose to throw out your entire case. This would leave you with both the old and new debts.

Could Chapter 13 bankruptcy address my medical debt?

Health care is both essential and expensive, which can put Florida patients in extremely difficult situations. Some individuals even delay seeking medical attention out of fear of related costs. In some cases this can further complicate matters, as a person's situation might deteriorate and the individual could need even more extensive -- and costly -- care than before. The problem is serious and not going anywhere, and some patients may need to turn toward Chapter 13 bankruptcy for relief.

Data from Care indicates that approximately 25 percent of Americans between the ages of 25 and 54 have at least some unpaid medical bills. Those between the ages of 65 and 74 seem to be somewhat better off with only 10 percent of this age group on the hook for overdue health care bills. These past-due bills pose a serious problem no matter how old the patient is, though.

Other than bankruptcy, how else can I achieve debt relief?

Dealing with debt is not always a crisis, but it often feels like that to those who are in the throes of past-due notices and harassing phone calls from creditors. Still, personal bankruptcy can be an effective option for many people in Florida. Despite this, some are hesitant to move forward with the process of bankruptcy, and instead are interested in finding ways to achieve debt relief on their own. Here are a few options that some may want to consider.

Student loans are an enormous burden that make it difficult for many college graduates to move forward with their lives. However, rather than continue struggling with several different monthly payments, borrowers can potentially refinance their student loans. This allows borrowers to consolidate their various student loans into just one monthly payment. There is no fee for refinancing student loans and repayment terms can range from between five to 20 years.

Chapter 7 bankruptcy can help stressed student loan borrowers

It is no secret that the cost of a college education is significantly out of reach for the average person in Florida. However, since securing a successful career often hinges on earning a degree, most students are willing to take on the monumental costs, including student loans. While most graduates work diligently to repay their loans, some are hit with an unexpected surprise after tying the knot -- their monthly payments go up. Even a moderate increase can quickly become too much to handle, a problem that Chapter 7 bankruptcy can help address.

Approximately 60 of those who recently graduated college had to borrow money in order to attend. The burden is not small, either, as the average grad left school with $28,500 in student loans. Most borrowers already expect to delay buying a home or having children until these debts are paid off, but what about getting married? Delaying marriage might not be necessary, but student loan borrowers need to understand how aspects of marriage can affect their payments.

Credit card debt influenced by age, income

Over two-thirds of American adults have at least one credit card, and the average balance is perhaps less than ideal. Adults of all ages and income brackets struggle with the burden created by their credit card debt. However, some people in Florida might have an easier time than others when it comes to addressing these debts.

The average consumer has not just one credit card, but three. While the average credit card debt for an individual is at about $5,331, those between the ages of 45 and 54 are struggling the most. Consumers in this age group carry an average of $9,096. For comparison, those over the age of 75 generally only have about $5,638 on their cards. While age plays a role in the average amount of credit card debt, experts say that income is also a factor.

How bankruptcy may affect your tax return

Bankruptcy is a complex process in itself. When you add the confusing element of filing taxes to the mix, it can seem a bit overwhelming. 

To ensure both processes go as smooth as possible, it is important to have specific knowledge. As such, there are a few key things to understand about bankruptcies and tax returns.

As credit card debt grows, personal savings shrink

Adults in Florida generally understand the importance of building up an emergency savings account. Unfortunately, this is often easier said than done. Many consumers currently have more in credit card debt than they do in their emergency savings. While this might seem like a cost of modern life, it can actually pose a significant threat to people's financial stability.

Approximately 74 million people in America owe more on their credit cards than they have stashed away in their emergency savings. A leading consumer financial services company reports that a mere 44 percent of households in the United States actually have a higher balance in their savings. The company also conducted a survey of more than a 1,000 people and determined that the rate of people whose credit bills outweigh their savings is the highest it has been in nine years.

Medical debt still driving factor in personal bankruptcy

Getting sick is one of those facts of life that most people in Florida will have to deal with. Unfortunately, so are medical bills. Despite efforts by lawmakers, medical bills are still an enormous burden to the average person and are a significant contributor to personal bankruptcy filings.

Lawmakers passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010. Aimed at reducing the burden of a for-profit health care system, experts generally expected that fewer people would need to seek debt relief for medical bills. The Consumer Bankruptcy Project recently looked at bankruptcies that were filed from 2013 to 2016 and came to a disappointing conclusion -- the ACA did not seem to impact the rate of bankruptcy filings caused by medical debts.

Personal loans increasingly used for debt consolidation

Paying off debt can be easier when bills are consolidated into a single, manageable monthly payment. Debt consolidation is nothing new, but it is certainly growing in popularity. Some people in Florida might even be using this method to avoid filing for bankruptcy, but there can be drawbacks to this method.

Debt consolidation is the most commonly-cited reason for personal loans, with 61 percent of loans used for this purpose. The concept is simple enough -- a person who has several debts and monthly payments spread across accounts takes out a personal loan, pays off the existing debt and then focuses on repaying the loan through single monthly payments. These payments are often smaller and much more manageable, but at what cost?

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Paul Urich
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