Can I erase back taxes in a bankruptcy?

By May 27, 2014No Comments

Bankruptcy can be lifesaver for so many people drowning under debt they know they can’t pay back. It can erase credit card debt, medical bills, and many other types of unsecured debt and give people the opportunity to start on a fresh financial footing.

However, discharging debt in bankruptcy has its limitations; not all debt can be erased. Amid the upcoming tax season, many people have questioned whether back taxes can be discharged in a bankruptcy as well. The answer is: it depends.

Discharging taxes in Chapter 7 bankruptcy

Taxes can be discharged in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy-also referred to as liquidation bankruptcy. Essentially, in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, an individual’s qualifying assets are liquidated and the proceeds are used to pay off his or her debts. All remaining eligible debt thereafter is erased.
However, not everyone who owes back taxes can get them erased; certain factors must be met.


To be eligible for a discharge of taxes in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy the following must exist:

  • The taxes can only be income taxes; payroll taxes cannot be erased in Chapter 7 bankruptcy
  • A tax return must have been filed for the specific taxes a person wishes to discharge at least 2 years before he or she files for bankruptcy
  • The taxes owed are at least 3 years old from the date the bankruptcy is filed
  • At least 240 days must pass from the date of the IRS assessment on the taxes owed
  • The individual did not file a fraudulent tax return or willfully attempt to avoid paying taxes

The caveat

However, even if all of the above criteria are met, an individual may still not qualify for a discharge of his or her taxes in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If the IRS has already recorded a lien against the individual’s’ property before the bankruptcy is filed, the taxes cannot be discharged in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The IRS isn’t obligated to remove the lien even if a filing takes place and the obligation to pay the tax lien remains.

Consulting with a bankruptcy attorney

Due to the intricate nature of the requirements, qualifications, and procedures involved with bankruptcy law, consulting with an experienced bankruptcy attorney who understands the intricate nature of the law is advised-particularly when taxes are involved. A lawyer can offer advice and the best route to take as it pertains to individual circumstances.