Since the amendments to the bankruptcy laws went into effect on October 17, 2005, the greatest change for the average person has been “qualifying” to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Basically, there are two ways to qualify: one is the Median Income Test and the other is the Means Test. Both tests refer to “household size,” which frequently raises the question, “How big is my household?” In this case, size matters!
At least twice per month, I consult with a potential debtor living with a roommate with whom living expenses are shared. Is that roommate part of the same household? Well, in a practical sense, yes, but usually not for the purpose of qualifying for relief under Chapter 7.
The official United States Trustee position on household size is “the debtor, debtor’s spouse, and any dependents that the debtor could claim under IRS dependency tests.” The UST further states that it uses the same IRS test for the definition of both “household” and “family.” IRS Publication 501 explains the IRS test for “dependent.” Simply, if you can claim your roommate on your taxes as a dependent (or vice versa), then your roommate is part of your household.
If you want to include a roomate or housemate in your household, see the BLN post, “Can I include my roommate in my household size?”
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Last modified: October 22, 2012