In September 2013, I was at a 341 Meeting of Creditors, and the trustee directed my client to provide her with a copy of his 2013 taxes (when he files them in a few months) so that she can take the bankruptcy estate’s portion and use those refunds to pay off a portion of his creditors.
Since he filed in the end of September, she was demanding 9/12 of his tax refund he receives next April. If he filed in August, it would’ve been 8/12, June 6/12, etc. And if you file in January, February, March or April before you receive your refund, you’ll lose the whole thing.
(In a Chapter 13, it gets a little more complicated than that. In a Chapter 13 you only get to keep $1,000 (sometimes $2,000 of your refund) each year for 3 years).
In a Chapter 7, the trustee will seize your refund, but usually only it there is at least $2,000 available to pay out to creditors. This $2,000 is not a hard and fast rule, but it usually holds true.
If you file in January through March, you lose the whole refund that you receive in April. Unless……. you wait to file, receive your refund, spend it on exempt items, and then go bankrupt.