21 Jul The Bankruptcy Means Test
The 2005 amendments to the bankruptcy code created a new “Means Test.” The main purpose of this test is to a) determine if an individual is eligible to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and b) to determine the disposable income of a Chapter 13 debtor who is above the median income.
In order to determine eligibility to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the means test is conducted by entering the debtor’s income figures for the prior six months into form B22 of the bankruptcy petition. If the debtor is below median income, no further steps need be taken and the debtor is presumed to be able to file Chapter 7.
If the debtor is above median income, further sections of form B22 must be filled out. The debtor’s estimated monthly income (based on the prior 6 months) is calculated and deductions are made using both IRS standards (for most living expenses) and some of the debtor’s actual expenses (including secured debt payments and health expenses).
If, after these deductions, it is determined that the debtor has minimal or no monthly disposable income, the means test is satisfied and the debtor is presumed eligible to file Chapter 7. If the debtor fails the means test, he or she is presumed ineligible to file Chapter 7, and absent special circumstances warranting an exception, must seek relief under another chapter of the code (usually Chapter 13).
In order to determine disposable income in a Chapter 13 case, the Means Test is conducted much the same way as in a Chapter 7 case. If the debtor is below median income, the remaining sections if form B22 need not be filled out and the debtor’s disposable income will be based on his or her actual income and expenses at the time the petition is filed. If the debtor is above-median income, the remaining steps of the means test are performed and disposable income is the figure reached through the above-described means test calculation. In many instances the figure yielded by the means test will be close to what the debtor pays every month over the life of the Chapter 13 plan.
You can read a bit more here about choosing between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
Nicholas Ortiz, Boston Bankruptcy Attorney
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