District of Columbia Bankruptcy Exemptions

Updated May 24, 2016

The District of Columbia has its own set of exemptions that you may use when filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Exemptions determine what property (such as a home, car, instrument, retirement account, etc.) you may keep in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and how much you must pay to certain creditors in Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

In the District of Columbia, you may use either the exemptions set forth by the District of Columbia (listed below), or the federal bankruptcy exemptions (you can find these in Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions). You cannot mix and match from each list. If you choose to use the District of Columbia exemptions, you may also use any applicable amounts in the  federal nonbankruptcy exemptions.

Unless noted otherwise, if a couple is married and filing jointly in the District of Columbia, each spouse may claim the full amount of each exemption. This is informally called “doubling.”

To learn more about bankruptcy exemptions, including how they work, which state exemption system you should use, and special rules for the homestead exemption, see  Bankruptcy Exemptions – What Can I Keep When I File for Bankruptcy?  

District of Columbia Bankruptcy Exemptions

All law references are to the District of Columbia Code.  


15-501 - Any property that the debtor or debtor's dependants uses as their residence; can include co-op. Property held as tenancy by entirety may be exempt against debts owed by only one spouse.

Personal Property

15-501 - Motor vehicle to $2,575; household furnishings, goods, clothing, appliances, books, pets, or musical instruments up to $425 per item and $8,625 total; health aids; family pictures; family library to $400; provisions for 3 months; wrongful death payment; payments for the loss of the debtor or a person depended on including pain and suffering payments.

29-298 - Coop association holdings up to $500.

31-2408.01 - Uninsured motorist benefits.

42-1904.09 - Residential condominium deposit.

43-111 - Cemetery and burial funds.

47-4510 - Higher education tuition savings account.


15-503 - Nonwage earnings, including pensions, up to $200 per month for head of family; or $60 per month otherwise for up to two months.

16-572 - Minimum of 75% of earned but unpaid wages or pension payments. Judge may authorize more for low-income debtors.


11 U.S.C. § 522 -  Tax exempt retirement accounts (including 401(k)s, 403(b)s, profit-sharing and money purchase plans, SEP and SIMPLE IRAs, and defined benefit plans).  

11 U.S.C.   §  522(b)(3)(C)(n) - IRAS and Roth IRAs to $1,283,025.

11-1570 - Judges.

15-501 - ERISA-qualified retirement plans, including IRAs. Stock bonus, pension, or profit-sharing plans.

38-2001.17 & 38-2021.17 - Public school teachers.

Public Benefits

4-215.01 - Public assistance.

4-507 - Crime victims compensation.

15-501 - Social Security benefit; veteran's benefits.

32-1517 - Workers' compensation.

51-118 - Unemployment compensation.

Tools of Trade

1-1206 - Notary public seals and documents.

15-501 - Implements, professional books, or tools of the trade up to $1,625; library, office furniture, and implements of a professional person or artist, up to $300.

15-503 - Mechanic's tools up to $200.

Alimony and Child Support

15-501 - Alimony or child support.


15-501 - Life insurance payments; Unmatured life insurance (but not credit life insurance).

15-503 - Other insurance proceeds up to $200 per month for a maximum of 2 months if they are for the head of family; up to $60 per month for all others.

31-4716 - Life insurance proceeds. Disability benefits.

31-4717 - Group life insurance policy or proceeds.

31-4719 - Life insurance proceeds that are exempt from being used to pay creditors as per a clause in their contract.

31-5315 - Fraternal benefit society benefits.


15-501(a)(3) - Any property up to $850, plus an additional $8,075 if you don't use the homestead exemption.


Add any applicable Federal Nonbankruptcy Exemptions.

Confirming Exemptions

This list includes the majority of bankruptcy exemptions available in the District of Columbia. However, it may not include all exemptions, and sometimes there are exceptions to specific exemptions. In addition, the District of Columbia may have changed the amounts since this list was last updated. Consider checking with your local bankruptcy court.  

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