Author Archives: bankruptcylaw

Using Bankruptcy to Reinstate a Suspended Driver’s License

Under certain circumstances, the filing of a bankruptcy case can help reinstate a suspended driver’s license.  Oregon law provides that a driver’s license can be suspended for a variety of reasons.  The types of suspensions relevant to this discussion include those for:

  • Failing to settle a judgment resulting from a motor vehicle accident while driving uninsured within sixty days after its entry (ORS 809.415(1)); and
  • Failing to pay traffic tickets (ORS 809.210).

Fortunately, Oregon law (ORS 809.470(1)(d)), bankruptcy law (11 U.S.C. §525), and applicable case law (Perez v. Campbell) all state that the discharge in bankruptcy of a judgment relating to an uninsured motor vehicle accident will allow the judgment debtor to reinstate his or her driver’s license.  However, it is important to keep the following facts in mind when attempting to reinstate your license following the discharge of a judgment:

  • You will still need to apply for reinstatement with DMV and pay the applicable fees;
  • You will still need to provide proof of insurance to DMV;
  • Judgments for personal injury related to drunk driving are not dischargeable in bankruptcy (11 U.S.C. §523(a)(9)); and
  • If the judgment is for personal injury or property damage and the conduct giving rise to the judgment was intentional, it is possible that the judgment may not be dischargeable if the judgment creditor objects to its discharge (11 U.S.C. §523(a)(6)).
  • In addition, Chapter 13 Bankruptcy can help reinstate a driver’s license for a suspension caused by failure to pay traffic tickets.  Items to keep in mind when attempting to reinstate a license for this purpose include:
  • Chapter 13 must be used for this purpose.  Traffic fines for “violations” are not dischargeable in Chapter 7 (11 U.S.C. §523(a)(7)) whereas they can be in Chapter 13 (11 U.S.C. §1328(a)).
  • The traffic ticket at issue must be for a “violation” as opposed to a “crime” (i.e., a felony or a misdemeanor).  For example, Driving While Suspended can be either a violation, a misdemeanor, or a felony, depending on why the license was originally suspended.  If the citation is for either misdemeanor or felony Driving While Suspended, Chapter 13 cannot be used to reinstate a driver’s license.  You will need to obtain a driving record printout from DMV for me to review to determine the type of offense involved.
  • As with the discharge of judgments discussed above, you will have to apply for reinstatement, pay all applicable fees, and provide proof of insurance.
  • DMV usually requires that the Court which initially requested the suspension to “clear” the suspension.  Sometimes, it can be difficult to convince state court judges unfamiliar with bankruptcy law to clear the suspension, and the process to obtain a reinstatement can therefore be a lengthy one.
  • Finally, it is important to remember that using bankruptcy to reinstate a suspended driver’s license can only be done in the circumstances discussed above.  Here are some examples of situations the bankruptcy cannot help with:
  • Suspensions based on failure to appear on a traffic ticket (ORS 809.220);
  • Suspensions based on being in a motor vehicle accident while driving uninsured (regardless of the fault for the accident) (ORS 809.417(2));
  • Suspensions based upon failing to file an accident report (ORS 809.417(1)(a)); and
  • Suspensions based on convictions for particular crimes (e.g., reckless driving, hit and run, and attempting to elude) (ORS 809.411).


This post is intended to be purely informational in nature, and cannot be considered legal advice.  If you have acheter viagra questions related to the use bankruptcy to reinstate a suspended driver’s license, please call our office at (503) 253-7777 (Oregon cases) or (360) 882-7777 (Washington cases) to schedule a free initial consultation.

Using Chapter 13 Bankruptcy to Stop Tax Foreclosure Sale

As discussed in one of my prior posts, Chapter 13 Bankruptcy can be an effective way to save a home from foreclosure if you are behind on the payments to the mortgage lender.  Foreclosures for back property taxes owing to a county tax collector can also be stopped using Chapter 13.  As part of the Chapter 13 Plan, the back property taxes are repaid to the county over time from the payments made by the Debtor to the Chapter 13 Trustee.

To summarize the tax foreclosure process under Oregon law (ORS 312.010 – 312.270), properties with unpaid property taxes for three years are subject to foreclosure.  Each year, the county tax collector is required to prepare a list of all properties subject to foreclosure.  The list is then mailed to the affected property owners, and must also be published in a general circulation newspaper within the county.  If the taxes are not cured within ninety days after the date when the most recent taxes became due, the county then may file an application for foreclosure in Circuit Court.  Any person with an interest in the property may then file an objection to the application within thirty days.  If no objection is timely filed, a default judgment is entered.  Once the Circuit Court Clerk delivers a certified copy of the judgment to the county tax collector, the property is deemed sold to the county for the amount of the back property taxes owing.  Even though ownership of the property transfers to the county at that point, the property owner generally has the right to continue to occupy the property, and has two years from the date of the judgment to “redeem” the property by paying the back taxes, interest, and fees.

An opinion recently issued by Judge Dunn of the Oregon Bankruptcy Court, however, emphasizes the time deadlines by which a property owner must file a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy case to save the property.  In In re Pineda, the Pinedas failed to pay their property taxes for 2007 through 2010.  Washington County followed the procedures set forth above, and a foreclosure judgment was entered on October 24, 2011.  In an attempt to save the property, the Pinedas filed a Chapter 13 case on September 20, 2013, shortly before the expiration of the redemption period.  Washington County objected to the Pinedas’ use of Chapter 13 to save the property as untimely, relying upon Section 1322(c)(1)of the Bankruptcy Code.  That statute allows for the cure of a default with respect to a lien on a debtor’s principal residence “until such residence is sold at a foreclosure sale that is conducted in accordance with applicable nonbankruptcy law”.

Apparently, the Pinedas felt that they had the right to cure the delinquency owing to the county as the redemption period had not expired as of the time of the filing of the Chapter 13 filing.  Judge Dunn, however, ruled to the contrary, holding that the “foreclosure sale” occurred on October 24, 2011 under state law when the foreclosure judgment was entered.  The Bankruptcy Code therefore precluded the Pinedas from using Chapter 13 to prevent the loss of the property, and Judge Dunn accordingly denied confirmation of the Pinedas proposed Chapter 13 Plan.

This case illustrates the importance of taking timely action when facing debt problems.  Had the Pinedas filed a Chapter 13 case prior to the entry of the default judgment, they could have used Chapter 13 to save the property from the tax foreclosure.

This post is intended to be purely informational in nature, and cannot be considered legal advice.  If you have questions related to stopping a tax foreclosure by using Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, please call our office at (503) 253-7777 (Oregon cases) or (360) 882-7777 (Washington cases) to schedule a free initial consultation

Solving Tax Problems Using Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

As discussed in one of our previous blog posts, Chapter 13 Bankruptcy can be a very powerful tool to solve a fairly wide variety of financial problems.  One of the more common uses of Chapter 13 is to solve tax problems – some taxes can be discharged in bankruptcy, and those that cannot can be paid as part of a Chapter 13 case without interference from the taxing authorities.  Under federal law, tax collection efforts must stop once the taxpayer files a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy as the “automatic stay” prevents the continuation of such collection efforts.

In Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, the taxpayer makes monthly payments to the Chapter 13 Trustee over a maximum five-year time period.  The amount of the payment depends primarily on the type of debts involved, the taxpayer’s current income and expenses, and the taxpayer’s assets.

State and federal taxes are generally separated into two different categories – “priority” and “non-priority”.  Priority taxes are generally those taxes which are not dischargeable; non-priority taxes are generally those taxes which are dischargeable.  In any event, priority debts must be paid in full as part of the Chapter 13 case from the payments made to the Trustee by the taxpayer.  If there is money left over in the case after priority taxes are paid, non-priority taxes may receive some percentage of what is owed (pro rata with other general unsecured creditors).

Aside from stopping collection efforts by the taxing authorities, Chapter 13 has the advantage of stopping further interest and penalties on the tax debt once the case is filed.  That being said, I would like to offer some cautions and warnings about using Chapter 13 to address tax problems:

  • The taxpayer must have sufficient income to be able to cover regular monthly living expenses, and make a payment to the Chapter 13 Trustee, depending on how large the tax debt is.  Without sufficient income, the Bankruptcy Court will not confirm a Chapter 13 case.
  • Anyone filing for Chapter 13 Bankruptcy must normally turn over tax refunds to the Chapter 13 Trustee for at least the first three years of the Plan, and is prohibited by Court order from incurring any new credit during the case without the approval of the Trustee.
  • Depending on the situation, if income increases at some point during the case, it is likely that monthly payments to the Chapter 13 Trustee will increase.
  • It is vitally important that the taxpayer not incur any further tax debt once the Chapter 13 case is filed.  If traditionally employed, it is essential that the taxpayer adjust payroll withholdings to ensure that no taxes are owed at the end of the year.  If self-employed, the taxpayer must be sure to set aside sufficient money each quarter to pay estimated taxes so that no additional money is owing when it is time to file the tax return.  If a significant amount of taxes is in fact owed at the end of the year, the taxpayer is subject to having the case dismissed, which returns the taxpayer to the moment immediately prior to the filing of the Chapter 13 case.
  • If the case is dismissed for any reason, the interest and penalties which were stayed will be retroactively added to the taxpayer’s debt.  This will obviously make a bad situation worse, so it is essential that the taxpayer complete the case to minimize tax liability.

While Chapter 13 does offer some powerful advantages, it also comes with some drawbacks.  Each taxpayer must make an individual assessment to determine whether or not a Chapter 13 filing makes sense, both from an economic, and personal, standpoint.


This post is intended to be purely informational in nature, and cannot be considered legal advice.  If you have questions related to the use of Chapter 13 to solve tax problems, please call our office at (503) 253-7777 (Oregon cases) or (360) 882-7777 (Washington cases) to schedule a free initial consultation

Be Careful With Short Sales and Loan Modifications

In an effort to avoid a foreclosure on a home, many homeowners look to short sales and loan modifications.  While it is true that short sales and loan modifications can help prevent foreclosures, they can produce nasty surprises come tax time, among other things.

For an example, let’s take a situation where the homeowner has a property worth $200,000, with a loan balance against it of $250,000.  The homeowner is nine months behind on the mortgage payments, and the lender has started foreclosure proceedings.  In an effort to avoid the foreclosure, the homeowner lists the home for sale for $200,000, hoping that the bank will accept those funds and release the lien so that the buyer can obtain clear title to the property.  Luckily, the homeowner finds a prospective buyer, and the bank agrees to accept the $200,000 and release the lien.  The foreclosure is avoided.  So everything is great, right?

Not necessarily.  Depending on the agreement with the lender allowing the short sale, the homeowner may still be on the hook for the remaining $50,000.  The homeowner is then subject to being sued by that lender to collect that money.

Alternatively, the lender may agree to forgive the remaining $50,000 owed, but will submit a Form 1099-C to the Internal Revenue Service reflecting the forgiveness of that debt.  The homeowner may then end up being required to declare $50,000 of the forgiven debt as “income” on that year’s tax return, with the result likely being a rather significant tax bill.   (This issue also arises with debt settlement, as discussed in one of our earlier blog posts.)

The same issue arises with loan modifications.  Using the example above, let’s assume that the lender agrees to restructure the loan by reducing the principal balance to $200,000, and reducing the monthly payments to something more affordable.  Again, this homeowner may be faced with the prospect of having to declare the $50,000 of forgiven debt as income.

Before listing a home for a short sale or agreeing to a loan modification, it is important to consult with a qualified certified public accountant to determine whether or not these actions will result in a huge tax bill.  There are some exceptions to the general rule that forgiven debt is treated as taxable income, most notably the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007, which was recently extended to the end of 2013.  Click here for some important information on the Act.

If it appears that a short sale or loan modification will result in a large tax bill, allowing the home to foreclose and then filing for bankruptcy can be an attractive option.  Most importantly, the discharge of debt in bankruptcy does not result in taxable income to the person whose debt has been discharged.  In addition, if the home is foreclosed on, the homeowner will be eligible to purchase another home under an FHA program after three years have passed, so long as good credit is maintained after the foreclosure, and other requirements are met.

This post is intended to be purely informational in nature, and cannot be considered legal advice.  If you have questions related to short sales, loan modifications, and how they relate to bankruptcy, please call our office at (503) 253-7777 (Oregon cases) or (360) 882-7777 (Washington cases) to schedule a free initial consultation