- Personal Finance
What Debts Cannot Be Discharged in Bankruptcy?
What Debts Cannot Be Discharged in Bankruptcy?
Not all debts can be discharged in bankruptcy. Certain debts -- like domestic obligations -- stick with you forever, regardless of your financial situation. The U.S. Bankruptcy Code defines 21 categories of debts that cannot be discharged in bankruptcy under any circumstances, which varies depending on the chapter under which you intend to file. The following are the seven debts that cannot be discharged in bankruptcy under both chapters.
Taxes & Tax Liens
Back-owed taxes, tax liens and other tax-related debts cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. This includes federal income taxes, state income taxes, estate taxes, inheritance taxes and yes, even property taxes. However, you may be able to reduce or eliminate tax-related debts by negotiating with the IRS or your state division of taxation -- some states now offer tax amnesty or forgiveness programs to qualifying debtors who can demonstrate financial hardship.
Loans that you secured for your education cannot be discharged in bankruptcy under most circumstances. For most debtors, this means student loans for college, but educational loans also encompasses loans for private high school or grade school educations, trade schools and other secondary educational institutions. The same rules apply whether you are a student who secured the loan for yourself, or a parent or relative who obtained the loan for your child or relative attending school -- if the loan is in your name, it is your responsibility.
However, in rare circumstances, you may be able to have your student loans discharged in bankruptcy, provided you can substantiate that not discharging those loans would impose an undue hardship on you and your family. Very few debtors meet the criteria to claim undue hardship, though, so unless your circumstances are very unique, don’t bet that you will be able to discharge your student loans in bankruptcy.
A civil judgment is an award that an individual secured against you in court, either for compensation, damages or enforcement of an existing order or judgment. Civil judgments cannot be discharged in bankruptcy under any circumstances, regardless of your financial status. Instead, any judgments against you will remain active until you are able to comply.
Fines & Sanctions for a DUI
Fines, penalties and other sanctions that arise from a DUI-related incident are not dischargeable in bankruptcy. This includes sanctions for drunk driving, driving while intoxicated and driving under the influence. Court orders from the DUI matter that result in debts -- for example, restitution costs, court costs and traffic school fees -- also cannot be discharged in bankruptcy.
Sanctions & Restitution for Breaking the Law
Besides DUI-related crimes, criminal sanctions that you receive as a result of committing a crime also cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. This also includes restitution you are ordered to make to the court or the victim. Like judgments, this obligations stick with you for the rest of your life, and the only way to resolve the debt is by paying it in full.
Debts Secured Through Fraud or Embezzlement
Any debt that you obtained through fraudulent means -- for example, by committing identity theft, lying on an application, or submitting forged documents -- cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. These debts are your responsibility, even if you would otherwise be able to discharge them. Further, if you willfully attempt to discharge debt that you knowingly secured through identity theft, fraud or embezzlement, the judge can dismiss your entire bankruptcy matter -- even if the remainder of your debt qualifies.
Child Support & Alimony
Domestic obligations, particularly child support and alimony, cannot be discharged in bankruptcy under any circumstances. Back-owed child support and alimony are debts that you owe to your child and your former spouse, respectively; those debts never disappear, even after your child reaches the age where you are no longer required to pay. The only way to resolve a child support or alimony debt is to pay it off in full. If you do not do so in your lifetime, your estate will pay the remainder of your back-owed support obligations to your former spouse before anything else -- including inheritances marked for your beneficiaries.
Further, bankruptcy does not terminate your future child support or alimony obligations. You must continue paying your support payments on time and in full each month during and after your bankruptcy proceedings. If you qualify for a reduction in support, the only way to obtain one is by petitioning the family court for a review of your financial status. The bankruptcy court cannot alter or reduce a support order for you.