You are considering filing bankruptcy in California and understand that you can qualify by passing the Chapter 7 means test. You can qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in California in two different ways, so the purpose of this article is to share how to pass the means test for Chapter 7.
- Your current household income is lower than the median income for your family in California. Estimate qualification using California bankruptcy means test calculator below. Please note some incomes that are excluded from the means test.
- Your current household income is higher than the median income, but you have expenses that may be deductible. You can estimate with the California above median bankruptcy means test calculator.
The California bankruptcy means test calculators below will help you estimate qualification for either scenario using data updated for 2022 - 2023. You may only have to take one calculator if your income level is lower than the California Chapter 7 bankruptcy income level.
Chapter 7 Means Test Explanation
According to the United States Trustees office, the means test is a standardized bankruptcy form that you complete to file for bankruptcy. You can think of it as an income test. The bankruptcy forms calculate your average monthly income. It then annualizes that figure to calculate your average annual income.
Here are some important things to note about the bankruptcy means test:
- The means test in California applies to your entire household income even if your spouse is not filing with you. This may be different if you are legally separated.
- The household income is used for the bankruptcy means test in California. As such, it compares your average household income to other household incomes in California. The figures used for the means test come from the Census Bureau data.
- Here’s the specific language used for the average monthly income used for the California bankruptcy means test.
- Fill in the average monthly income that you received from all sources, derived during the 6 full months before you file this bankruptcy case. 11 U.S.C. § 101(10A). For example, if you are filing on September 15, the 6-month period would be March 1 through August 31. If the amount of your monthly income varied during the 6 months, add the income for all 6 months and divide the total by 6. Fill in the result. Do not include any income amount more than once. For example, if both spouses own the same rental property, put the income from that property in one column only. If you have nothing to report for any line, write $0 in the space.
- If your income is variable, you may consider using this average income calculator. This calculator was built to estimate your average monthly income for the California means test.
Let's now cover the bankruptcy means test calculation in California for bankruptcy cases filed in 2022.
California Bankruptcy Means Test Calculator
There are three US bankruptcy forms to estimate qualification. The first California bankruptcy means test calculator below is based on the Chapter 7 Statement of Your Monthly Income form. You can use the bankruptcy means test calculator below that mirrors that bankruptcy form to help estimate qualification.
California Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Income Limit
Below are the household income levels for California for bankruptcy cases filed on or after November 1, 2022. The figures change every 6 months or so. If your household size is greater than 9, you would add $9,900 for each additional family member.
|# of People||Annual Income|
What Is Considered Income?
Not all income is included in the bankruptcy means test. For example, some disability and social security income are not included in the bankruptcy mean test
. Other incomes that are not included in the California means test are payments of victims of war crimes and payments related to a national emergency (such as COVID-19).
So, let's go through the types of income included in the California bankruptcy means test. The language includes any amount paid by any entity other than the debtor, on a regular basis for household expenses of the debtor. It's a broad definition, so let's cover a few of the types of income included
- Salaried income
- Spousal income (in a joint case or if not legally separated)
- Hourly and overtime income
- 1099 Income (Uber, Lyft)
- Net Rental Income
- California government income
- Child support and Alimony
- Dividend, Interest, and Royalties
- Pension and Retirement Income
- Net business income
- Annuity payments
- Unemployment compensation
- Worker's Compensation Benefits
Let's now consider how household size is calculated.
What Is Considered In Household Size?
Another common question is how household size is determined. While your roommate may not be included in your household size, often your children that you report as dependents on your taxes would be included.
If you have children away for college or are engaged, but not yet married, there may be rules in different California bankruptcy jurisdictions on who can be counted.
California Above Median Bankruptcy Means Test Calculator
You may have taken the calculator above and your income is above the household income level for California. If so, you may still qualify based on the next two means test forms: 1. Statement of Exemption from Presumption of Abuse Under §707(b)(2) and 2. Chapter 7 Means Test Calculation. The second portion of the means test allows you to deduct allowable monthly expenses from your current monthly income (CMI) to calculate your disposable income. The expenses used are a combination of national and California expenses.
As a note, disposable income is the income available after expenses that may be used to repay your debts. If your disposable income is below a specific amount, you may still qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
The California above-median bankruptcy means test calculator below uses both forms to help you determine allowable expenses to estimate Chapter 7 qualification.
Allowable deductible expenses
Here are the certain expenses that you may deduct actual expenses on the second part of the bankruptcy means test.
- Mandatory employment deductions, such as union dues, retirement plans, and uniforms
- Health and disability insurance premiums
- Income taxes
- Child Care expense
- Term life insurance premiums
- Secured debt payments for your car and home
- Alimony and child support payments
- Charitable contributions (limited to a percentage of your income)
You may also deduct other expenses for special circumstances. The below expenses are limited and based on the number of individuals in your household. You can refer to the current national standards for the maximum amounts allowed for the below expenses.
- Housekeeping supplies
- Personal care services and products
- Housing and utility expenses
- Transportation expenses
- Out of pocket healthcare expenses
What Happens If You Fail the Bankruptcy Means Test?
If you fail the bankruptcy means test, you still have options.
For example, you can consider a Chapter 13 bankruptcy in California. You may also consider bankruptcy alternatives such as debt settlement, debt management or debt payoff planning.
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
A Chapter 13 bankruptcy in California is known as a wage earner’s plan. In many cases, you will pay back a portion of your unsecured debts in a payment plan. You are often able to keep your assets, and there’s no qualification as long as you are under the debt limits. It’s also on your credit report for 7 years instead of 10 years. It can take 36 or 60 months. If you are in a 100% Chapter 13, your payment plan may be shorter.
Some people choose a Chapter 13 bankruptcy over a Chapter 7 bankruptcy if the individual has more equity than the allowable California bankruptcy exemption
Debt settlement is when a company or you negotiate to lower your debt balance to less than what you originally owe. That way a portion of what you were supposed to pay back will be forgiven. For example, if you owe in debt $50,000, debt settlement is able to negotiate the amount down to $25,000. The debt settlement program is often a payment plan that could be between 12 - 60 months.
Debt settlement can be less expensive than Chapter 13 bankruptcy, but be cautious about which debt settlement company you choose. Some debt settlement companies charge in excess of 25% of your enrolled debt, which is very expensive over the life of the program. You check Consumer Finance Protection Bureau's up-to-date information on debt settlement programs or you can reach out to us for more information.
Many debt settlement firms are also national firms, so you do not necessarily need to find one local in California.
Debt management (also known as credit counseling) is when a company negotiates to lower the interest rate of your debt. For example, if you owe a blended interest rate of 22%, a debt management company may be able to negotiate the interest rate to 9%. Many debt management companies are non-profits and will work with credit cards, but may not work with unsecured personal loans. The debt management program is often a payment plan that could be between 36 and 60 months. Many debt management firms are also national firms, so you do not necessarily need to find one local in California.
Understanding the bankruptcy means test and income limit in California for Chapter 7 bankruptcy qualification can feel like a daunting task. Many people prefer the Chapter 7 bankruptcy because the cost to file in California
is often less expensive than any other debt relief option.
Let's summarize the basics of how Chapter 7 bankruptcy means test and income limit works in California.
1. The first part is based on how your household income compares to the California income limit. There are certain incomes that are included and excluded.
2. If your household makes more than the income limit, you may still qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in California based on your expenses and deductions.
3. If you fail the bankruptcy means test, you may still have options such as Chapter 13 bankruptcy, debt settlement, and debt management.
Hopefully, this article has been helpful. If you want to estimate your Chapter 7 qualification, feel free to use the California bankruptcy means test calculator below.