Debts That Cannot Be Discharged in Bankruptcy

Find out which debts will be wiped out--and which you'll still owe--after you complete your bankruptcy case.

Updated: March 27, 2019

Filing for bankruptcy can get you out from under debt and give you a fresh start. In both Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, many types of debt will be discharged (wiped out) at the end of your case. This isn't true of all debts, however.

If you have nondischargeable debt and you file for Chapter 7, you’ll still owe these debts after your discharge. If you file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you’ll repay most nondischargeable debts in full through your repayment plan.

Debts Discharged in Bankruptcy

You’ll be able to discharge these debts in both Chapter 7 or Chapter 13:

  • credit card debt
  • medical bills
  • lawsuit judgments against you (but associated liens might not be wiped out)
  • most debts arising from car accidents
  • obligations under leases and contracts
  • personal loans
  • promissory notes, and
  • any other debt that doesn't fit into one of the nondischargeable categories explained below.

These additional types of debts are discharged in Chapter 13 bankruptcy, but not in Chapter 7 bankruptcy:

  • marital debts arising out of a divorce or settlement agreement (other than debts for support)
  • debt incurred to pay a nondischargeable tax debt
  • court fees
  • condo, coop, and HOA fees
  • debts for loans from a retirement plan, and
  • debts that couldn't be discharged in a previous bankruptcy.

Debts Not Discharged in Bankruptcy

There are three categories of debts that won't be discharged in your bankruptcy case:

  • some debts are never discharged
  • some aren’t discharged unless you can successfully argue that they should be, and
  • some are not discharged only if a creditor successfully argues that they should not be.

Debts That Are Never Discharged

You’ll continue to owe these debts after your Chapter 7 bankruptcy case is over, and you’ll pay these debts in full in your Chapter 13 plan:

  • child support and alimony
  • fines, penalties, and restitution you owe for breaking the law
  • certain tax debts, and
  • debts arising out of someone's death or injury as a result of your intoxicated driving.

If you file under Chapter 7, you’ll also continue to owe condo, coop, and HOA fees; debts for loans from a retirement plan; and debts you couldn't discharge under a previous bankruptcy.

Debts That Aren’t Discharged Unless You Meet Legal Exception

You must ask the court to discharge certain debts. For instance, you must convince the court that you won’t be able to repay student loan debt.

Other debts won’t be discharged unless you meet legal requirements. For instance, discharging income taxes won’t happen unless a particular amount of time has elapsed and other requirements are met.

Debts Discharged Unless a Creditor Successfully Objects

Some debts get wiped out unless a creditor convinces the court that you should remain obligated to repay the debt. These debts include:

  • debts arising from actual fraud
  • debts for luxuries of more than $725 purchased within 90 days of filing or cash advances of more than $1,000 taken within 70 days of filing (figures are current for cases filed between April 1, 2019, and March 31, 2022)
  • debts arising from willful and malicious acts
  • debts arising from embezzlement, larceny, or breach of fiduciary duty, and
  • debts or creditors you don't list on your bankruptcy papers.

Learn about the adversarial proceeding in bankruptcy.

Getting Legal Help

If a significant portion of your debt load consists of debts that might not be discharged, you’ll want to talk to an experienced bankruptcy lawyer. A lawyer can review your situation and let you know the likely outcome.

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