Car Ownership Expenses On Means Test When No Car Is Owned

by Peter Orville, Binghamton Bankruptcy Lawyer

October 31, 2007

Courts are split about evenly as to whether an over-the-median bankruptcy debtor can take an ownership expense deduction on the means test if they own a car but do not have a car loan or lease on it.

Could a debtor borrow money to purchase a car shortly before filing bankruptcy, give the lender a lien on the car, and agree to make monthly payments on the car? Sure, it happens all the time. In that situation, the debtor will be able to take the full ownership expense allowance on their means test. This might make the difference in determining whether they can file a chapter 7 petition, or can greatly reduce their required monthly payments if they are filing a chapter 13

So there should also be no problem if prior to filing bankruptcy, a person who owns a car without a loan against it, borrows some money (say for filing and legal fees for their bankruptcy) using the car as security. Even if the lender is a relative, and even if the monthly payment is very low, as long as the lender gets a proper lien on the vehicle, and the transaction was not done in bad faith, the debtor should be able to take the full allowance for ownership expenses.

This is but one more example of the poor legal drafting that went into BAPCPA, the now two year old Bankruptcy law.

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Peter Orville is a bankruptcy lawyer in Binghamton, located in the Southern Tier of New York. He is a member and New York co-chair of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys.

Last modified: October 28, 2011