Tax refunds can be thousands of dollars which most people count on getting each year and if you want to keep your refund from the bankruptcy Trustee you must read this post. My clients use this money to catch up bills or unpaid utilities; get caught on up the mortgage or rent; maybe a down payment on a car; or even home repairs or clothes for the kids. If you want to keep your tax refunds from, here are some things you need to know.
1. Federal tax refunds cannot be garnished from the IRS. They can be garnished from your bank account once you receive them. If you want to keep your federal tax refunds from a judgment creditor that is garnishing you, then avoid direct deposit and get a check sent to you. Cash it. Spend it. Save it in a mason jar under the chicken coop. Don’t put it in a bank account that you think a creditor is going to garnish.
2. State refunds in Michigan can be garnished by a judgment creditor from the Department of Treasury. A judgment creditor doesn’t have to wait for it to get into your bank account. Only thing you can do to stop this type of garnishment is to file for bankruptcy protection. If you file after it is garnished and sent to the judgment creditor, you may be able to recover it as a preferential payment.
3. Disclose, disclose, disclose. A tax refund or credit is an asset even if you haven’t received it yet. You must disclose what you think or know you will be getting on Schedule B and exempt the refund on Schedule C. Failure to list a tax refund as an asset will likely result in losing your tax refund to the Trustee who will then distribute it to your creditors.
4. If you are in a Chapter 13, you may be able to keep some or all of your Federal tax refund. As discussed in a prior post, you must turn over your Federal tax refunds to the Chapter 13 Trustee for distribution to your creditors. Your bankruptcy judge may allow you to keep it if you can show you need it. Maybe you need it for a necessary repair to the house, a repair to a car, or a new washing machine if your old one broke.
5. Prepare your tax returns. This sounds really basic but it’s true. Bankruptcy requires all your tax returns to be filed by the Section 341 Meeting of the Creditors. Failure to do so can result in a dismissal of your case. Also, if you don’t know what you are getting back, you will not be able to protect it. Your Chapter 7 Trustee may keep your case open until the tax returns are done so he can see how much money he can seize.
If you and your lawyer know these basic rules, you are ahead of the game in keeping your tax refunds and credits.