Here’s how it works.
Seven days before the 341 meeting of creditors—the meeting that all bankruptcy filers attend—you must provide the bankruptcy trustee (the court-appointed official tasked with overseeing your case) with your most recent tax return. If you can’t, you’ll have to demonstrate that your failure is due to circumstances beyond your control. Otherwise, the court will dismiss your case.
From a practical perspective, you’ll probably want to complete your return before starting a bankruptcy case. Even so, not everyone is legally mandated to file a tax return. For instance, if you didn’t work or make income during a particular year, you’d have nothing to report and no taxes to pay. Therefore, you wouldn’t be required to file a return. Additionally, you’d be able to present a legitimate reason for not providing the trustee with a tax return, and would avoid a dismissal of your case.
Although this issue is relatively straightforward, it’s always possible that you’ll find yourself faced with an unusual situation. In that event, it would be prudent to consult with a local bankruptcy attorney.