We show by example how the means test works, when a person qualifies for a Chapter 7 case simply by income.
An Example is Worth a Thousand Words
You have to pass the means test to qualify for a Chapter 7 “straight bankruptcy. In a recent blog post we said that the easiest way to pass the means test is by your income. If your income is low enough you pass without having to look at your allowed expenses or special circumstances. Let’s see how this works by way of an example.
Our Example—The Facts
Jeremy and Allison need bankruptcy relief. Their bankruptcy lawyer has recommended that they file a Chapter 7 case based on their circumstances. They have decided to do so.
They are both employed and get paychecks twice a month, on the 1st and 15th of the month. Jeremy has a gross income of $2,750 per month and Allison $3,250 per month.
They have two children who live with them in their home in Indiana.
“Income” for the Means Test
For purposes of the means test you count virtually all sources of incoming money (other than from Social Security). But you count only money received during the 6 FULL CALENDAR months before filing the Chapter 7 case.
Allison and Jeremy want to file their case during July. So they look at the income they’d received during the period from January 1 through June 30, the 6 full calendar months before. That’s 6 times $3,250 for Allison, or $19,500, plus 6 times $2,750 for Jeremy, or $16,500, or a combined $36,000. Multiply that by 2 to get an annual income of $72,000.
The Median Income for Your Family Size in Your State
Allison and Jeremy would pass the means test the most easily if their income, as just calculated, would be no larger than the median income amount for their family size in their state.
The median income amount for a group of people is similar to their average income amount, but not quite. It’s the amount at which half of the people have a greater income and half have less.
So for Jeremy and Allison, the median income is the amount at which half of the families of four people in Indiana have more income and half have less. How do they find out that amount?
It’s provided online by the U.S. Trustee. Here is a table showing the most current information of this writing. (This table is updated every few months so check here for more current median income tables.)
Notice that the median income for Jeremy and Allison’s family size and state is $77,566. Their income as calculated above, at $72,000, is less than this median income amount.
As a result Allison and Jeremy pass the means test simply on the basis of their income. They and their lawyer don’t need to go through the process of figuring out and deducting all their allowed expenses to find out if they pass the means test. Their income is low enough. It’s presumed that they don’t have enough money left over to pay a meaningful amount back to their creditors.