What happens to my 2017 tax refund if I file bankruptcy in 2018?

You lose it unless you receive it and spend it first.  

In other words, if you are contemplating bankruptcy, you should probably figure out how much of a refund you’ll be getting before you pull the trigger on any bankruptcy filing.  That doesn’t mean that you should drag your feet on getting the bankruptcy prepared.  You should still call today, meet with a bankruptcy attorney (like me), fill out the paperwork, take the online class, and be ready to file.  But, you won’t file until after you’ve received and spent that refund.

And yes, you can definitely use that refund to pay your attorney’s fees for the bankruptcy.

Here is a rehash of my post on this same issue last year (and the year before):

What happens to my 2016 tax refund when I file bankruptcy?

You lose it unless you’ve already spent it.

Simply put:  If you file bankruptcy before you receive and spend your tax refund, you will lose the entire thing to the bankruptcy trustee.  

It’s that time of year again where I have to answer the phone and tell people that I don’t want their money until February or later because of tax refund season.  It makes a lean December/January in our household, but it’s the only way to protect my clients.

(I am cutting and pasting from earlier posts, so please forgive the repeat information).

So let’s say you get your refund February 1, 2016.   What do you do?

Better said, what don’t you do:

1.  Don’t go buy a new toy like a dirt bike or a tv.

2.  Don’t pay off any friends or family.  This is a preferential transfer, to an insider no less, and it results in Mom and Dad being sued by the trustee.

So what do you do:

1.  Spend it on exempt items under Utah Law.  This basically means food, clothing, washer, dryer, fridge, freezer, stove.

(Did you see a computer on the list?  No.   Don’t ask me if that’s okay.  It’s not).

2.  And use the rest to pay me.  :)

So let’s say you spend the tax refund on food storage March 1st and keep all of your receipts.  When can you file?  March 2nd.

Here is a relevant portion of the

Utah Exemptions Act, Utah Code Title 78B Chapter 5, Section 505

An individual is entitlted to an exemption in …

(viii) (A) one:

(I) clothes washer and dryer;

(II) refrigerator;

(III) freezer;

(IV) stove;

(V) microwave oven; and

(VI) sewing machine;

(B) all carpets in use;

(C) provisions sufficient for 12 months actually provided for individual or family use;

(D) all wearing apparel of every individual and dependent, not including jewelry or furs; and

(E) all beds and bedding for every individual or dependent;

There are other items you can spend the money on, and this is by no means comprehensive, but this should give you a good idea on how to spend it.  If you have questions on what to use it for, ask your attorney;  that’s what he’s there for.

Here are some helpful prior posts: