I Filed Bankruptcy And Got A 1099 Do I Owe Tax?

by Kent Anderson, Esq.

November 26, 2008

You filed for bankruptcy and thought you were rid of that credit card or loan.  But you open your mail and find a 1099 from one of the creditors in your case for the debt that you discharged.  Why did this happen, and do you now owe tax?

The IRS requires banks and financial institutions to report the cancellation of debts.  This can happen when there is foreclosure, if there is a settlement on a consumer debt, or if the bank is simply unable to collect the debt within the time allowed by law.  Bankruptcy can prevent tax liability but some creditors will report a cancelled debt even when a bankruptcy has been filed.

What do you do when you receive a 1099 stating that debt has been cancelled?  It is best to report the debt cancellation on IRS Form 982.  The form is complicated but most tax preparers know how to prepare it.   Be sure to give them a copy of the 1099 so that they will know about the problem.

Do you have to pay tax if you get a 1099?  The cancellation of debt may be reportable income on your tax return.  However, there are several important exceptions. If the 1099 is generated by foreclosure of your personal residence; the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007 may save you.  Beware; the statute is limited in many ways.

Bankruptcy is the most important exception to tax on cancelled debt.  If the debt was cancelled due to bankruptcy, you owe no tax.  If the IRS sends you a notice claiming you owe tax because a 1099 was filed by a creditor, you must respond immediately.  If you filed bankruptcy, send them a copy of your discharge notice with a short letter telling them the debt was discharged in bankruptcy.  Follow-up with a telephone call to the number on the notice you received to make sure they got your letter within the time allowed.

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I was admitted to practice in 1978. I am certified as a Consumer Bankruptcy Specialist by the American Board of Certification. I regularly speak on tax and bankruptcy issues at state, regional and national conferences. Years of experience in practice before the Internal Revenue Service and Oregon Department of Revenue have given me the background to resolve a large variety of consumer tax issues.

Last modified: February 23, 2013