Completing the Means Test (Form 22A) in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

On Form 22A of the bankruptcy forms, you determine if you pass or fail the "means test."

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When you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you must complete Form 22A – Statement of Currently Monthly Income and Means Test Calculation.  The purpose of this form is to find out if you have enough income to repay creditors a certain amount (called the “means test.”) If you do, then you don’t qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and instead must file for Chapter 13.

(To learn about the other forms you must file, see Completing the Bankruptcy Forms.)

What Is the Presumption of Abuse?

The means test form talks about the “707(b)(2) presumption” or the “presumption of abuse.” The idea is this: Your Chapter 7 case is an abuse of the bankruptcy system if you have enough income to repay creditors in part through a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. If you have too much income, the presumption of abuse arises. In this situation, it is very likely that you will not be allowed to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

(To learn more about Chapter 7 bankruptcy and the means test, see Chapter 7 Eligibility & the Means Test.)

How to Get Form 22A

You can find the most recent version of Form 22A on the U.S. Court’s website at www.uscourts.gov. To learn more about getting the official and other forms, see The Bankruptcy Forms: Getting Started.

How to Complete Form 22A – The Means Test

Here’s a general discussion of the information required in each section of the form, and the reason you must provide this information. For in-depth information on completing this form, consult with a good self-help book or a bankruptcy lawyer.

Part I. Exclusions From the Means Test

There are a few categories of bankruptcy filers that don’t have to take the means test -- they automatically qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The first section of the means test describes each of these categories in detail. Briefly, they are:

  • disabled veterans
  • filers whose debts are primarily business debts, and
  • certain members of the armed forces reserves and the National Guard.

 If you qualify for any of these, follow the instructions for checking the appropriate box and signing the form. You are essentially done with the form. (However, in the case of reservists and the National Guard, you may have to later take the means test if your exclusion period ends before the time runs out to challenge the means test presumption.)

(To learn more, see Exceptions to the Means Test Requirement.)

Part II. Calculating Your Monthly Income

In the second section of Form 22A, you provide the court with information about all sources and amounts of your income. The figures are based on the six complete months before you file for bankruptcy. For example, if you file for bankruptcy on August 15th, the income information on Form 22A must be from January 1 through June 30. The income figures you provide on 22A may be different from the numbers you included on Schedule I, because that schedule asks for your current income, not your income over the prior six months.

(To learn more, see "Current Monthly Income" for the Bankruptcy Means Test.)

Be sure to state each income amount as a monthly figure, regardless of how often you receive that income.

On the last two lines of Part II (Line 11 and Line 12), you total the amounts in each column and add together the income of both spouses (if applicable), to come up with your total monthly income.

Part III. Taking the First Part of the Means Test

In the third section of Form 22A, you compare your annual income to that of the median income in your state for the same household size. To do that, you multiply the figure you came up with in Part I (your monthly income) by 12 months. This is your annual income. You then compare this to the median income in your state. You can find that figure on the U.S. Trustee’s website at www.justice.gov/ust, here.

Less than the state median income. If your income is less than your state’s median income, you pass the means test without further calculations. On the form, you check the first box, “the presumption does not arise.” Because your income is low enough, your Chapter 7 filing is not an abuse of the bankruptcy system.

In this situation, you skip the rest of the form, other than signing it in Section VIII.

More than the state median income. If your income is more than your state’s median income, you must do more calculations to see if you qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Part IV. Marital Adjustment

The next section gives you the chance to deduct some amounts of your spouse’s income in certain situations.

If you are married, not filing jointly with your spouse, and contend that some of your spouse’s income should not be included in your income calculation, you list those amounts and your reasons for excluding them on line 17. This is referred to as the “marital adjustment.”

The resulting number is the income figure that you use for the rest of the form.

(To learn more, see The Marital Adjustment Deduction on the Means Test.)

Part V. Calculation of Deductions From Income

In the fifth section of Form 22A, you calculate your living expense and debt payment deductions.

For some living expense categories, you must use standard national, regional, or state figures, rather than the actual amount you spend in that category.For example, on Line 19A, if you are a two-person household, you may deduct $985 for food, housekeeping supplies, clothes, and personal care, regardless of how much you actually spend on these items each month. The form directs you to the most current figures to use for each category. These are all found on the website of the U.S. Trustee at www.justice.gov/ust.

For other categories, you list the actual amounts you spend each month.

In Subpart C of this section, you deduct the amount you would have to pay to secured creditors during the next five years. You also deduct arrears on secured debts, the amount you’ll have to pay on certain priority claims, and the commission you would pay to the bankruptcy trustee if you were to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. For all of these, you divide the total amount by 60 to come up with a monthly amount.

The idea behind Subpart C is to determine the amount you would have to pay for these items through your repayment plan if you filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. (Remember, the purpose of the means test is to determine if you could fund a Chapter 13 repayment plan instead.)

In Subpart D you total all of your allowable deductions.

Part VI. Determining If the Presumption of Abuse Arises

In this section, you find out whether you have enough income left over after your allowable deductions to fund a Chapter 13 plan. If you do, the presumption of abuse arises and you probably cannot file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

First, you subtract your deductions from your income and then multiply by 60. This is your “60-month disposable income” (Line 51).

  • If this amount is less than $7,475, you pass the means test. You check the “presumption does not arise” box and sign the form.
  • If this amount is more than $12,475, you don’t pass the means test. You check the “presumption arises” box and sign the form.
  • If this amount is between $7,475 and $12,475, you have to do more calculations.

Additional calculations.  If you must complete the rest of the form, you next determine if the income you have left over is enough to pay at least 25% of your unsecured debt. If it is, the presumption arises. If it is not enough, then you pass the means test.

Part VII. Additional Expense Claims

If you don’t pass the means test, you can list additional expenses in this section that are not included elsewhere on the form. The U.S. Trustee will take them into account if they are reasonable to support your family. Keep in mind though, that these expenses will get special scrutiny.

Part VIII. Verification

By signing Form 22A, you declare under penalty of perjury that everything is true and correct.

This article provides general information only. There are many legal issues involved and important decisions to be made when filing for bankruptcy. You must understand the entire bankruptcy process, learn about the applicable federal and state laws, and determine how those laws will affect your particular situation before you complete the bankruptcy forms. If you want to file bankruptcy without a lawyer, use a good do-it-yourself book like Nolo's How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy to ensure you make well informed decisions about your bankruptcy case.

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