Kentucky Bankruptcy Law

Counsel with Care

Can I keep my tax refund?

Timing is very important when considering bankruptcy and during the tax season one aspect of timing is when to file in regard to when one will be receiving their tax refund. This is one of those fact driven determinations where no one answer can be given in a general post like this, so be sure to consult with an attorney about your particular situation. What is surprising to many, though, is that even though they have not yet received their refund check, it is an asset of a bankruptcy estate. This is because they have already earned the money prior to filing a Chapter 7. So, if one files a Chapter 7 today and then receives their refund next week, the trustee can take that money to distribute to creditors.

Here is where making a decision on filing gets a little more complicated. Each person has certain exemptions they can use to hold onto property and assets through a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If you have sufficient left over exemptions to cover your tax refund, then it does not matter if you file before or after receiving it. However, if you do not have spare exemptions, but you still really need to file a Chapter 7 soon, then it would be best to try and get that refund before filing.

Now, it becomes important to use that refund money carefully to keep from getting on the wrong side of the trustee or the bankruptcy code. The guiding idea is to use it for necessities for your family and NOT to pull one over on creditors. You cannot use it to buy luxury items (there is a specific dollar amount limit in the code) and you cannot use it to pay one creditor over others.

You can use it to buy necessities. For example, stock up on food stuffs and if your clothes are getting threadbare, get a few items of clothing but be REASONABLE about it. If you have children, get them some school clothes if they actually need them. Do not get fancy clothes – just basic items. In doing this, you are basically converting non-exempt cash into exempt personal property. You could also use the refund to pay for the bankruptcy. AGAIN: Consult with an attorney regarding your particular situation and plan and do not blindly apply these general principles to your particular situation because there are limits to personal property or household items exemptions.

March 20, 2013 - Posted by | Bankruptcy, Plan, Planning, Pre-filing planning, Property (exempt | , , , , , , ,


  1. If you want to see a reader’s feedback 🙂 , I rate this article for 4/5. Detailed info, but I just have to go to that damn yahoo to find the missed pieces. Thanks, anyway!

    Comment by How to Get Six Pack Fast | April 15, 2009 | Reply

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    Comment by Eliot | February 16, 2010 | Reply

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