When you file for bankruptcy, you should be prepared to provide tax documents to the bankruptcy trustee. By reviewing your tax documents, the trustee can verify your income and, to some extent, your expenses and other financial transactions.
(Learn more about what documents you must provide to the bankruptcy trustee.)
Tax Documents Required by Bankruptcy Law
You must provide your bankruptcy trustee with certain tax documents. Here's what the law requires:
Copies of Tax Returns You Filed Before the Bankruptcy
If you file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you must provide to the bankruptcy trustee a copy of your tax return for the most recent tax year for which a return was filed. You need to provide the return to the trustee at least seven days prior to the meeting of creditors (also called the 341 hearing or meeting). (To learn more about the meeting of creditors and your bankruptcy trustee's role, see Nolo's Bankruptcy Meeting of Creditors topic area.)
If you do not timely provide your tax return, the meeting cannot take place. The trustee has the discretion to reschedule the meeting or to ask the court to dismiss your bankruptcy case altogether.
Copies of Tax Returns You Filed After the Bankruptcy
If the Court, United State Trustee, your bankruptcy trustee, or another party in interest requests it, you must provide copies of any tax returns filed while your bankruptcy is pending. This rule includes:
- returns which came due after the bankruptcy filing
- returns you filed post-petition for a tax period which ended within the three years preceding the filing of your bankruptcy case, and
- any amended returns for those time periods.
This requirement is only triggered if someone makes a formal request. In most cases, no one makes the request -- which means you don't have to file post-bankruptcy tax return documents with the bankruptcy court.
Other Tax Documents Requested by the Trustee
Trustees commonly request that debtors provide additional tax documents for the trustee’s review. The trustee has the duty to investigate the financial affairs of the debtor, and the debtor has the duty to cooperate and turnover all financial records to the trustee.
Tax documents, such as personal income tax returns, business income tax returns, W-2's and 1099's, and depreciation schedules may provide the trustee with information on:
- the debtor’s income and expenses
- losses or reductions in income
- transfers of property, or
- ownership of business interests.
Annual Income Tax Returns in Chapter 13
In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you are required to contribute all of your disposable income to the Chapter 13 plan. The payments go on for three to five years, depending on the length of your plan. It is quite likely that your income will change over this time period. By requiring that you provide copies of your tax returns each year, the trustee can monitor your income and determine whether your plan needs to be modified to include additional post-petition income which was not anticipated at the time your plan was proposed. (Learn more about the Chapter 13 repayment plan.)
The procedure varies by district and by trustee. Some trustees make case specific requests for the returns, some request language in the confirmation order which requires that the returns be provided to the trustee yearly, and, in some areas, the procedure for turning over copies of tax returns is part of the local rules.