Wage Garnishments and Bankruptcy

If you are considering filing either a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, it is important to understand what happens to any current wage garnishment that you may have. A wage garnishment is a court order that enables a creditor to take money out of your paycheck. Once a wage garnishment starts, it is difficult to stop. Bankruptcy is an effective method to stop a wage garnishment. For most types of debts, either a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13 filing will immediately stop a wage garnishment. Many people consider filing bankruptcy solely because of a wage garnishment.

There are many different types of wage garnishments

Some of the most common types include: child support, alimony, income tax debt, student loan debt (federal and private) and judgment creditors (such as banks and credit card companies). Each type of wage garnishment has different rules that apply, and these rules are affected differently by a bankruptcy filing. Most of these rules are specific to your state of residency.
Each type of wage garnishment has different rules that apply, and these rules are affected differently by a bankruptcy filing. Most of these rules are specific to your state of residency.

A bankruptcy filing, whether a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, puts an immediate stop to most wage garnishments

This is called the “automatic stay.” This stays in place for the duration of your bankruptcy case (or until further order of the bankruptcy court), which can last up to 5 years, depending on the type of bankruptcy that you file. A Chapter 7 will generally eliminate the debt completely.

A Chapter 13 may require you to pay the debt back, or a portion thereof, pursuant to a Chapter 13 plan. No matter the chapter of bankruptcy, once you receive a discharge, you will no longer have any of your wages garnished for that particular discharged debt.

Another thing to realize is that if you are unable to pay current debts and obligations, filing for bankruptcy may prevent a wage garnishment from ever starting in the first place. Meeting with a qualified Atlanta area bankruptcy and wage garnishment attorney can help you assess your situation to see if this would be a good idea for you. An attorney can help to determine the options that best suit your needs, and help guide you through the process for the best possible outcome.

The Bankruptcy Means Test

The Bankruptcy Means Test operates in two ways:

  1. It will determine if you qualify for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy; and/or
  2. If you do not qualify for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, the means test establishes what you are required to pay your creditors in a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy.

What is the Means Test?

The means test is based on income and was established as part of the amendments to the Bankruptcy Code, and enacted by Congress in 2005 (BAPCPA). The means test takes into consideration the individual’s income for the six months preceding the month prior to filing.

If your income is less than the median income level, then you are presumptively eligible to file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

In Georgia, the current median income for a family size of 4 people is $85,763.00. For a family of 2, it is $63,850.00. If your income exceeds the median income level, you may likely be required to file a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy.

A majority of the deductions that are taken on the means test are standardized. Some of the actual deductions that can be taken are: income taxes, health insurance, mandatory retirement accounts, court-ordered domestic support and care for an elderly/ill/disabled household member.

Talk to a Bankruptcy Attorney

A qualified bankruptcy attorney will work with you to determine your eligibility for a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, and will explain the pros and cons of Chapter 7 Bankruptcy versus other alternatives. Your attorney will help you complete and submit 2 forms: Chapter 7 Statement of Your Current Income and the Chapter 7 Means Test Calculation Form. Even if you do qualify for a Chapter 7 under the means test, there are additional considerations as to whether a Chapter 7 is the best choice for you, your family and your current financial situation.

How Bankruptcy Can Help With Back Taxes

Debt Consolidation in Georgia


If you owe back taxes (federal, state, or local), this can be a tremendous stress. Many people inquire as to whether filing bankruptcy can help deal with their tax debt. While every situation is different and needs to be assessed by a qualified bankruptcy attorney, there are ways in which a bankruptcy filing may help you with your back taxes.

If you owe money for back taxes, the IRS or State Revenue Department can garnish your wages or your bank account. Filing a bankruptcy will stop a tax garnishment. This is what is known as the automatic stay, which requires all creditors (including the taxing authorities) to immediately cease collection action. What happens to your taxes next depends on the chapter of bankruptcy you are filing.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Certain taxes are dischargeable in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Here are the general rules regarding dischargeability of taxes in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.

The Three-Year Rule

The tax return was due at least three years ago. Most returns are due on April 15 for the previous tax year. If the taxes were due from a return filed on April 15, 2017, they would be eligible for discharge (provided all other criteria are met) after April 15, 2020.  Do not forget to take extensions into consideration. This means that the three year rule applies to the extension date.

The Two-Year Rule

You must have filed the return at least two years before you filed your bankruptcy case. If you don’t file a return, sometimes the IRS will file one for you. Many bankruptcy courts do not consider that a return for purposes of fulfilling this rule.

The 240 Day Rule

The taxes must have been assessed at least 240 days prior to filing Chapter 7. When the taxing authority enters the liability on its records, they have “assessed” it. This doesn’t necessarily happen the minute you file your return. It could take weeks or months. In some cases, the taxing authority will audit your return and assess additional taxes years after the return is filed. This period could be tolled or extended if you filed an offer in compromise with the IRS or if you filed a bankruptcy case during that period that was discharged or dismissed.

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

If you cannot discharge your income tax liability in Chapter 7, you can certainly treat the income tax liability in Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Plan of Reorganization. This means that you can propose to pay back the tax liability over a period of up to five years. The Chapter 13 will also stop future interest and penalties from accruing on the amount outstanding.

Your attorney will determine which taxes are and are not dischargeable in Chapter 7.

How is My Credit Score Affected After a Bankruptcy Filing?

Many people who file for bankruptcy already have a low credit score and/or are unable to obtain credit cards or a mortgage. With unpaid bills piling up and possible lawsuits from creditors,  a person’s credit score continues to go down as time goes on.

After filing for bankruptcy, your credit score will lower at first

It is important to know that this is not in any way a permanent situation, and your bankruptcy attorney will advise you on how best to rebuild your credit and increase your score.  Ultimately for the majority of people in a tough financial predicament, filing for bankruptcy will be the better choice than ignoring bills and missing more payments.  

A Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing will remain on your credit report for 10 years. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing will remain on your credit report for 7 years.

Given the fact that a credit score can go up quickly once the proper steps are taken, you can begin to rebuild and repair your credit immediately.  

Some ways to quickly and positively impact your credit (once you have filed bankruptcy) include:

  • continuing to make monthly mortgage payments on time (if a Chapter 13 was filed),
  • continuing to make all car payments on time (if you are keeping your car), and
  • paying off any credit cards in full every month (for credit cards obtained after your bankruptcy filing). 

Many credit card companies will offer credit cards to people with a bankruptcy filing because you have either reorganized your debt (Chapter 13) or had your debt discharged (Chapter 7). Therefore, you have less debt than many credit card holders. These credit card companies are more willing to take a risk on you because you have shown that you will be able to make your monthly payments.  

If you file for bankruptcy and then rebuild your credit, you will ultimately have better credit in the long term versus continuing down the path of unpaid bills and getting deeper into debt.  Mortgage lenders and credit card companies are much more willing to approve someone for a loan or a credit card if you have taken positive steps toward improving your situation in a proactive manner.

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