Can I File for Bankruptcy If I Haven’t Filed Taxes?

You’ll need current returns if you file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, but not if you file a Chapter 7 case.

By , Attorney · University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law

Unless you aren't required to file taxes, you'll need to provide your most recent tax return in Chapter 7 and four years of tax returns if you file for Chapter 13. The Chapter 7 trustee appointed to your case will need the tax return to verify your income, and if you file for Chapter 13, the trustee will use the returns to determine if you owe tax.

In this article, you'll learn more about why you'll provide the following tax information when filing for bankruptcy:

  • the previous four years of tax filings in Chapter 13, and
  • the last return filed in Chapter 7.

If you're still learning about how bankruptcy works, check out our quick ten-question bankruptcy quiz. It can help you spot issues you might want to discuss with a bankruptcy lawyer.

When Must I Turn Over Tax Documents in Bankruptcy?

No later than seven days before the 341 meeting of creditors, the one hearing all filers must attend, you'll provide the bankruptcy trustee responsible for managing your case with your returns or your statement explaining you aren't required to file returns.

The 341 meeting takes place about a month after filing, so you'll have a little time to prepare your returns. But your bankruptcy lawyer will likely want you to have all your documentation in order before filing, when possible.

Can I File for Bankruptcy If I Haven't Filed Taxes?

The quick answer is yes, but with a condition. You can file for bankruptcy if you haven't filed taxes as long as you weren't required to file taxes. The bankruptcy trustee will likely ask you to complete a "declaration" or "affidavit" statement explaining why you didn't need to file returns and sign it under penalty of perjury.

If you were required to file taxes but didn't, you won't be able to file for Chapter 13.

Chapter 7 Tax Return Requirements

In Chapter 7 bankruptcy, 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, and expect to explain why you haven't filed.

There's no rule requiring you to have recent tax return filings in Chapter 7 because the Chapter 7 trustee isn't as actively involved in tax repayment, unlike in Chapter 13 where the trustee must ensure you repay recently-incurred taxes through your plan.

In Chapter 7, tax payment becomes an issue only if money is available to pay creditors, which is relatively rare. You'll handle the payment of your nondischargeable debts, like back taxes, on your own after your bankruptcy case ends.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Problems When You Haven't Filed Taxes

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:

  • Is the filer's income accurate?
  • Does the filer's business have expenses or losses?
  • Did the filer fail to list property the trustee could seize, like a potential tax refund?

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 recent tax return, be prepared for the trustee to ask why.

If you have a valid reason, like you didn't work the previous year, the trustee might ask you to prepare a short statement to that effect. However, if the trustee can't verify information without your return and believes you're hiding something, the trustee could ask the court to deny your discharge.

Tax Returns Must Be Current in Chapter 13 Bankruptcy—and You'll Need a Lot of Them

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.

Navigating Your Bankruptcy Case

Bankruptcy is essentially a qualification process. The laws provide instructions for completing a 50- to 60-page bankruptcy petition, and because the rules apply to every case, you can't skip a step. We want to help.

Below is the bankruptcy form for this topic and other resources we think you'll enjoy. For more easy-to-understand articles, go to TheBankruptcySite.

More Bankruptcy Information

Bankruptcy Forms and Document Checklist

United States Courts Bankruptcy Forms

Chapter 7 and 13 Bankruptcy Forms

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Document Checklist

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Will Filing For Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Remove A Tax Lien?

How to Keep Your Tax Refund After Filing for Bankruptcy

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 hiring a local bankruptcy lawyer.

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