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Tax debt and bankruptcy

Mississippi residents who find themselves with debts they cannot afford to pay have the option of voluntary bankruptcy. A voluntary filing means that a debtor chooses to file for bankruptcy without being petitioned to do so by a creditor. While bankruptcy can wipe out many types of debt, some debts are excluded. For example, taxes owed are often not allowed to be dismissed in bankruptcy. It all depends on what type of taxes, what type of bankruptcy and whether or not the taxes in question meet some very specific criteria.

For individuals and couples, there are generally two types of bankruptcy. Chapter 7 dismisses allowable debt and liquidates some assets to pay creditors. On the other hand, Chapter 13 requires making payments to creditors for a period of time under an affordable payment plan. When the payment plan is completed, remaining debt is dismissed.

Medical debt is a growing problem among younger people

Injuries and illnesses too often impose financial hardship on people in Mississippi. In addition to the physical pain, medical bills quickly absorb savings and force people to use their credit cards. The Commonwealth Fund reported that about one-third of consumers used credit cards for medical bills in 2014. For 44 percent of these people, that act produced a negative result on their credit scores. Younger people in the Millennial generation have begun to feel the pinch as well. A survey of Millennials in 2016 found that 74 percent of respondents had unpaid medical bills.

Between 2008 and 2018, the percentage of medical debts among young people that went to collections rose sharply from 10 percent to 30 percent. Possessing health insurance does not insulate people from medical bills. A study sponsored by the Kaiser Family Foundation revealed that 20 percent of people with insurance still struggled to pay for health care.

5 common reasons people file for bankruptcy

Financial calamity is sometimes unavoidable. Unfortunately, something may happen in your life that leaves you struggling to make ends meet. If you are racking up debt and are considering filing for bankruptcy, you are not alone. Millions of people declare bankruptcy in America every year. 

But why is bankruptcy such a prevalent issue? What brings so many people to the brink? Here are some common reasons that Americans file for consumer bankruptcy.

How to make a financial recovery from bankruptcy

People in Mississippi who are considering bankruptcy might wonder if they will be able to recover financially. One study by Lending Tree found that three years after a bankruptcy, people applying for a mortgage without a bankruptcy on average only paid about 19 bps less than those with a bankruptcy. Two years after a bankruptcy, around 65 percent of people had brought their credit score up to 640 or more.

Once a bankruptcy is discharged, the first step is to apply for a secured credit card. To get this type of card, a person puts down a deposit, and the initial credit limit is usually around the same as the deposit amount. The next step is to use the card conservatively, putting no more than 20 percent of the total credit limit on it at a time and paying it off each month. Once it has been established that the person will not max out the card and will pay it off responsibly, it might be possible to apply for a regular type of credit card.

Debtors challenged by upfront costs of filing for bankruptcy

Bankruptcy has the potential to give people in Mississippi a fresh start if they are struggling with financial challenges. The need to pay for court fees and legal advice, however, can keep people from pursuing this legal remedy that might wipe out their burdensome debts. The challenge of paying for the process sometimes prompts people to choose Chapter 13 bankruptcy when filing under Chapter 7 could have produced greater benefits.

When debtors have no cash on hand to pay an attorney, they might agree to pay for legal representation as part of a Chapter 13 payment plan. This form of bankruptcy requires a debtor to create a plan for paying down debts over the course of a few years. By bundling legal fees into the agreement, attorneys gain a method for collecting payment. The drawback for debtors, however, involves their frequent inability to complete a payment plan. Failing to finish payments voids their bankruptcy protection and allows debts to return.

Bankruptcy and credit myths

People in Mississippi who are struggling with debt might hesitate to file for bankruptcy because of certain myths they believe about bankruptcy. There are a number of misconceptions about filing for bankruptcy and what happens to a person's credit afterward.

The main impact of a bankruptcy on a credit score is the bankruptcy itself. In other words, the score is unlikely to be mitigated by positive information on the credit report. The amount of debt discharged may affect the severity of the drop in credit score. Furthermore, debts that cannot be discharged, such as student loans, will remain on the report. However, it is important to remember that a bankruptcy eventually falls off the credit report. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy remains on the credit report for 10 years. All other information, including a Chapter 13 bankruptcy and things like liens and judgments discharged in bankruptcy, are removed from the report after seven years.

Americans are piling up credit debt

Mississippi readers with credit card debt are not alone. According to a report by WalletHub, in 2017, Americans added the most credit card debt since 2007. Further, the Federal Reserve estimates that the total amount of U.S. credit card balances currently exceeds $1 trillion.

WalletHub reports that Americans added $92.2 billion in credit card debt in 2017. Of that, $67.6 billion was added in the final quarter, which represents the highest one-quarter jump in three decades. The latest numbers are part of a trend. Between 2015 and 2016, U.S. credit card debt increased by $44 billion.

Embarrassment about bankruptcy is common but unnecessary

You have made the difficult decision to file for bankruptcy, but you may still have some misgivings. If so, you are not alone. Countless people in Mississippi and elsewhere who are going through a personal bankruptcy are dealing with negative feelings about their situation, including embarrassment and shame. You may be reassured to learn you do not have to feel this way.

There was a great deal of negative social and professional stigma surrounding bankruptcy in the past that, for the most part, no longer exists today. However, many people still attach a negative connotation to what they see as a last resort. You might feel a number of unpleasant feelings during your bankruptcy process, including the following:

  • Embarrassment over your friends, family members or co-workers finding out you had to file for bankruptcy
  • Loss of confidence and self-worth when you cannot meet your financial obligations
  • Guilt over not repaying your debts and taking what some think of as the “easy way out”
  • Worry that you may not be able to rebuild your credit or take out a loan in the future

Federal Reserve chair discusses student loan debt

Some people in Mississippi may be struggling to pay off their student loans, but these obligations are generally not dischargeable in a bankruptcy. The total amount of student loan debt in the United States has reached $1.4 trillion carried by 40 million people. In the 1970s, Congress began reducing the ability of borrowers to discharge student loan debt. It is only allowable in cases of "undue hardship". What this is has never been defined, but courts have traditionally set very stringent guidelines.

On March 1, Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell spoke before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs and said he could not explain why student loans were not dischargeable. However, he said that it was not a change he could make in his position although Congress could address it.

3 options if you are struggling to pay your mortgage

Sometimes in life, financial hardship comes upon you unexpectedly. Even if you have always been diligent about paying your bills and debts, a sudden change in circumstances, such as a job loss or a major medical expense, can cause your finances to take a sharp downward turn.

The main monthly expense for many families is their home mortgage payment. Predictably, when finances take a turn for the worse, the mortgage payment is often the first bill to suffer the effects of lost wages or diminished income. If you are having trouble meeting your monthly mortgage payment, do not despair. There are options for you to restore your financial stability and remedy the situation. Here are three options to take into consideration as you examine how to proceed.

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