Taking the Mystery and Mean Away From the Bankruptcy Means Test

Means Test and Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

It Has Never Been Easier to Determine Whether You Qualify for Relief Under Chapter 7 of the United States Bankruptcy Code in Pittsburgh.

Means TestIn 2005, Congress put in place very substantial changes to the United States Bankruptcy Code through an amendment known as the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (BAPCPA).  The BAPCPA amendments set new requirements for eligibility to be a debtor under chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code and to receive a discharge under chapter 7.  Importantly, debtors must now undergo a means test if their income exceeds the then-applicable median income for consumers of debtors’ household size in the state in which they reside.

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Eligibility for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy – Median Income Analysis

Debtors whose income does not exceed the relevant median income need not undergo further means testing.  Median incomes information is calculated and published by the United States Census Bureau and median income data is adjusted periodically.  The Office of the United States Trustee publishes median income information on its website.  As of the date of this entry, the median income applicable to debtors in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania with a household size of one is $50,501.  A household of two in Pennsylvania can earn up to $60,508 without further means test analysis.  A three-person family in Pennsylvania has a median income of $74,083.  With four people the Pennsylvania median income is $89,690 and increases by $8,400 for each additional member of the household.
Median Household Income in the United States: 2015

[Source: U.S. Census Bureau]

The Bankruptcy Means Test Exception Applicable to People with Primarily Business Debts

Individuals whose debts are primarily business debts are excused from the means testing analysis.  The means test analysis under section 707(b) of the Bankruptcy Code applies to individual debtors whose debts are primarily consumer debts.  A Pittsburgh bankruptcy lawyer will be able to help you make the determination of whether your debts are primarily consumer debts or whether you may be exempt from further means testing because of the primary nature of your indebtedness.

The Chapter 7 Means Test and the Presumption of Abuse

The chapter 7 bankruptcy means test is codified in section 707 of the Bankruptcy Code and individual chapter 7 bankruptcy debtors in Pittsburgh and throughout the United States must submit an Official Form 122A-1, Chapter 7 Statement of Your Current Monthly Income.  Debtors must disclose information relevant to their income and household size to determine whether they need to complete the means test.  The means test itself is incorporated into Official Form 122A-2, Chapter 7 Means Test Calculation.  Debtors must draw income data for the means test from the income during the six-month period preceding the filing of their bankruptcy cases.  The Bankruptcy Code permits debtors to subtract from their household any portion of the income of a non-filing spouse that is not dedicated to the payment of household expenses or expenses of debtors’ dependents.  The means test also provides that certain expenses be deducted from a debtor’s adjusted current monthly income to determine monthly disposable income.  That monthly disposable income is then multiplied by 60 to determine a debtor’s five-year disposable income.  If a debtor’s disposable income over five years is less than a certain threshold value (currently $7,700), then the presumption of abuse does not arise.  If the five-year income exceeds the threshold value and a cap value (currently $12,850), then the presumption of abuse arises but the debtor may still elect to complete a statement of special circumstances that justify additional expenses or adjustments of current monthly income for which there is no reasonable alternative.  A showing of special circumstances may justify continued eligibility for relief under chapter 7.  If a debtor’s five-year disposable income is between the threshold and cap values, the presumption of abuse will not arise unless the five-year disposable income is at least 25% of the debtor’s total nonpriority unsecured debt.

Close Call on the Means Test?  Discuss it with a Pittsburgh Bankruptcy Lawyer!

The increase in the administrative cost and duration of a chapter 13 bankruptcy case from a chapter 7 bankruptcy case is considerable.  In many cases a chapter 13 bankruptcy may be warranted but for other individuals a fresh start under chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code will offer the optimal path away from financial distress.  A free consultation with a Pittsburgh bankruptcy attorney could help you understand all of your bankruptcy nonbankruptcy options before making any decision.

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The Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Process

If your financial situation is dour and you do not expect it to improve, you may want to consider a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. You’ll know you are experiencing difficulties when you begin to miss credit card, car note, house note and other payments. You also may begin to experience significant harassment by these creditors aimed at forcing you to pay. They may call you at all hours, inundate your mailbox with dunning notices and generally make your life miserable. Eventually, some might turn your debts over to collection agencies that may employ the same tactics only with more intensity.

A Chapter 7 bankruptcy is often referred to as “liquidation” and is a common form of “consumer” bankruptcy. It can generally wipe out the following types of balances:

*Credit card balances
*Utility bills
*Judgments obtained by unsecured creditors
*Debt from lines of credit
*Billings and invoices from healthcare organizations
*Personal unsecured loans
*Deficiency judgments (balance owed after a home foreclosure or car repossession)

You can file bankruptcy without a lawyer but the bankruptcy process is complex and will require you to understand and complete financial schedules and statements. In fact, a typical complete bankruptcy petition will run up to 50 pages. Also, Bankruptcy Code contains strict deadlines within which you must complete certain filings and tasks.

The Means Test

Usually, the first step is to consult with a bankruptcy attorney. Your attorney will explain the Means Test. The first part of this test is a comparison of your last six month’s income to the median income for your state. In Pennsylvania, currently it is $44,688 (single), $53,011 (two-person family),
$67,262 (three-person family) and $78,780 (four-person family).

If your income was less than that over the prior six month period, you will qualify for Chapter 7. If your income exceeds those levels, whether you qualify for relief under Chapter 7 will depend upon other factors.

Gathering Creditor Information

Once the means test is settled the bankruptcy attorney will gather your creditor information from your credit report and add them to your bankruptcy schedules so that they (your creditors) will receive a notice of your bankruptcy filing. By law, nearly all kinds of adverse creditor actions are immediately stayed.

The attorney will also record the amount you owe to each creditor. You will be asked to check your petition, schedules and related documents for accuracy and completeness.

Certain kinds of debt are not dischargeable. Tax obligations for which you have not filed a tax return and recently incurred taxes are usually not eligible for discharge in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Also, unless your federally guaranteed student loans impose an undue hardship, you will remain responsible for them after your bankruptcy case is closed.

After you are certain that all of the eligible debts are listed and your bankruptcy petition is complete and accurate, the attorney will file your bankruptcy case.

Asset Exemptions

In a Chapter 7 case, the trustee has the authority to liquidate assets and distribute the proceeds to your creditors according to the priority scheme set out in section 507 of the United States Bankruptcy Code. However, under section 522 of the Bankruptcy Code, most or all of your property can be kept from the reach of the trustee by the conscientious application of exemptions. Available exemptions vary from state to state but, typically, exemptions exist for your primary residence, automobile, household furnishings and other items.

Meeting of Creditors

Soon after you file your bankruptcy case, you will receive a notice for a meeting of creditors. This usually occurs within four to six weeks after the bankruptcy petition is completed. At the hearing, the trustee will ask you questions regarding your assets, income and other information contained in your bankruptcy petition. The trustee will report to the bankruptcy court regarding the information you provide during the meeting of creditors. For most consumer debtors, this is the only hearing they will attend in their bankruptcy case.

Contact Robleto Law now to find out more about the bankruptcy process and for an immediate, confidential consultation about your financial situation by calling the number at the top of the screen, or simply fill out our quick contact form.

Debt Lawyer in Pittsburgh

How do you stop all of the calls from obnoxious creditors once and for all? There’s no need for a new telephone number. Call a qualified debt attorney in Pittsburgh today. We will not charge you a fee for a no nonsense conversation. We are lawyers; we are not a bankruptcy mill and we are not interested in selling you a product that is not a good fit for you. We consider your present financial position and future goals.

We will discuss your debt and your expectations. Are you looking to buy a house in the next year or save the home you live in now? Do you owe more on your car than it’s worth or need to replace it but aren’t sure whether you can? Talk to a Pittsburgh bankruptcy lawyer.

We stop creditors calls. We stop foreclosures. We stop law suits. We help you discharge most unsecured debt obligations. We help you get a fresh start.

Credit Card Debt

The ease and convenience of credit cards is undeniable. However, quick access to credit often becomes a pathway to burdensome debt. Sometimes this is the result of frivolous spending. Many people continue to finance that two dollar, late night Taco Bell feast during college, many years after graduation. For others, a medical emergency or loss of income forced them to rely upon credit cards to live.

If your credit card debt is becoming unmanageable, it’s time to consider options other than continuing to blindly pay your monthly minimum. Consider how much better off you would be if you did not have to spend hundreds of dollars each month on credit card payments. If your financial condition would be drastically improved without your credit card debt then you owe it to yourself and your family to contact an insolvency expert. A bankruptcy attorney can evaluate your unique financial condition and determine what course of action is most appropriate for you. Whether a debt-workout plan, bankruptcy filing or some other action is most suited for you, contacting a professional for a free consultation could be one of the most rewarding calls you will ever make.