Most tax debt isn't wiped out or "discharged" in bankruptcy. Unless the tax debt meets requirements, it will be "nondischargeable debt"—you'll have to pay it. Learn how this rule affects why you'll provide:
You might also want to learn other helpful things you should know about bankruptcy. And check out our quick ten-question bankruptcy quiz—it can spot potential bankruptcy issues fast.
Unlike Chapter 7, the Chapter 13 trustee has to get involved in a filer's tax problems. In most instances, the three- to five-year Chapter 13 repayment plan must pay taxes owed for the three most recent tax years.
To be sure that you're paying all that you're required to pay—and that the IRS is getting its due—the trustee must inspect filings for the four most recent tax years. So be prepared to turn them over. Otherwise, the court will dismiss your case.
Most people prefer to file for Chapter 7 because all qualified debts get discharged after four to six months. Because Chapter 7 doesn't involve a repayment plan, you'll handle the payment of your nondischargeable debts, like back taxes, on your own after your bankruptcy case ends.
Because the Chapter 7 trustee isn't as actively involved in tax repayment—it becomes an issue only if money is available to pay creditors, which is fairly rare—the trustee doesn't need as much information. So there's no rule requiring you to have recent tax return filings in Chapter 7.
All you must do is turn over the last return filed. If your 2004 tax return is your most recent return, then that's what you'll provide—even if it's now 2025. But if you're not current, don't assume you'll get off the hook in every situation.
One of the trustee's responsibilities is verifying the financial information in your bankruptcy filing. The trustee will be looking for answers to these types of questions:
The trustee will compare the paycheck stubs, bank statements, and tax returns you turn over to the disclosures in your paperwork—and sometimes, tax returns are the best source of information. So even though current filings aren't required, if you didn't file a current tax return, be prepared for the trustee to ask why.
If you have a valid reason like you didn't work during the prior year, the trustee might ask you to prepare a short statement to that effect. However, if information can't be verified without your return and the trustee believes you're hiding something, the trustee could ask the court to deny your discharge.
Bankruptcy is an unusual area of law because it's essentially a qualification process. The laws provide instructions for completing a 50- to 60-page bankruptcy petition, and because all rules apply in every case, you can't skip a step.
The forms and resources below will help you find more information. Also, you can use this list of Chapter 7 and 13 bankruptcy forms to see where this topic falls. And this handy bankruptcy document checklist will help you gather the things you'll need to complete the petition.
More Bankruptcy Information
You'll find fillable, downloadable bankruptcy forms on the U.S. Courts bankruptcy form webpage.
We want to help you find the answers you need. Go to TheBankruptcySite for more easy-to-understand bankruptcy articles, or consider buying a self-help book like The New Bankruptcy by Attorney Cara O'Neill.
We wholeheartedly encourage research and learning, but online articles can't address all bankruptcy issues or the facts of your case. The best way to protect your assets in bankruptcy is by consulting with a local bankruptcy lawyer.