A debt no longer exists after it is discharged in bankruptcy. The court enters an order prohibiting the debtor's creditors from later attempting to collect any discharged debt from the debtor.
Debtors may be able to discharge some or all of their older income tax obligations in bankruptcy. Dischargeability of these taxes turns on the question whether or not they are "priority" claims. Tax obligations that are non-priority are dischargeable.
Social Security benefits, company pensions, and 401(k) plans are all shielded by law and are, therefore, not lost to creditors in bankruptcy. Whether that same protection extends to an individual retirement account (IRA) is not clear. The bankruptcy law, which was drafted in the 1970's before IRAs became such an important vehicle for retirement savings, is ambiguous. This has led to contradictory rulings in federal courts around the country.
A trustee in bankruptcy may avoid certain statutory liens, fraudulent transfers, as well as preferences. The Bankruptcy Code provides that certain transfers made by a debtor within close proximity of bankruptcy are preferential to the recipient and violate the Bankruptcy Code's policy of equal treatment of creditors. The elements of a so-called "preference" or "preferential transfer" are easy for a trustee in bankruptcy to prove. The defenses available to the creditor are limited and the cost to litigate can be high.
What is Chapter 7 bankruptcy?