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Schedules I & J Concerns

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  • Schedules I & J Concerns

    I am trying to finish everything up today in order to file petition Monday or Tuesday. I've been working on Schedules I & J and have some concerns. Hope the forum can offer some insight or feedback.

    1. My husband is currently unemployed, so I only report my income. On schedule I I did put that we anticipate him securing a new job within the next month or two. That will almost double our income when that happens which I expect our Trustee to question us about in our 341.

    2. When I complete the schedules to reflect our current situation, we are negative 782.36 in terms of monthly net income with me making very conservative assumptions about our expenses. When hubby finds new job, we might find ourselves with $2000 DMI. Should I be more realistic in terms of our expenses? That will make us go further negative on schedule J right now, but it will reflect better in a 341 meeting when Trustee asks about any changes in income. I am keeping the reaffirmed vehicles in our expenses on J in the -782.36 number, so it isn't a matter of adding those in.

    Does this make sense? I want to be as accurate as I can be in order to avoid any presumption of abuse or being pushed into a 13. We're broke!

  • #2
    (I moved this to the Pro Se forum area as you may receive more replies.)

    Originally posted by jbatt View Post
    1. My husband is currently unemployed, so I only report my income. On schedule I I did put that we anticipate him securing a new job within the next month or two. That will almost double our income when that happens which I expect our Trustee to question us about in our 341.
    An "anticipated" job is not a job. Anticipated income is likewise not income. The Trustee is only going to ask about whether your finances changed. If the new job started before the 341 Meeting and the Trustee asks about changes in jobs, then you answer that your spouse picked up a new job. Most Trustees don't care about obtaining a job after filing, except in the most extreme cases (whee the filing was timed to avoid the inquiry).

    Originally posted by jbatt View Post
    2. When I complete the schedules to reflect our current situation, we are negative 782.36 in terms of monthly net income with me making very conservative assumptions about our expenses. When hubby finds new job, we might find ourselves with $2000 DMI. Should I be more realistic in terms of our expenses? That will make us go further negative on schedule J right now, but it will reflect better in a 341 meeting when Trustee asks about any changes in income. I am keeping the reaffirmed vehicles in our expenses on J in the -782.36 number, so it isn't a matter of adding those in.
    Your expenses should not exceed the Trustee's Allowances which are found at https://www.justice.gov/ust/means-testing. These are the Means Testing numbers. Not everything will match perfectly, but don't claim $1,200/month in food for a family of two as that will be instantly flagged and questioned.


    Chapter 7 (No Asset/Non-Consumer) Filed (Pro Se) 7/08 (converted from Chapter 13 - 2/10)
    Status: (Auto) Discharged and Closed! 5/10
    Visit My BKForum Blog: justbroke's Blog


    I am not an attorney. Any advice provided is not legal advice.

    Comment


    • #3
      justbroke Thank you -- that was essentially what I was wondering. Will Trustee care about improved income after filing. If we show such a large negative number and we've included vehicle payments, is it likely Trustee will not approve reaffirmation agreements? I feel like my small credit union is going to be as insistent as they can be about reaffirming. I would also like to stay in their good graces as they will finance vehicles for us after BK and only raise our interest rate 2% above prime.

      Comment


      • #4
        The Trustee does not approve reaffirmation agreements. Only an attorney can affirm that a reaffirmation agreement is not an undue hardship on the debtor without court permission. A Pro Se individual must have a hearing on any reaffirmation agreement.

        You should never reaffirm any property. There are some cases where it is necessary such as Ford Motor Credit and most credit unions. If you're in a State that allows a ride-through, then the ride-through is the better option. Even if you do decide to reaffirm, the judge will likely not allow the reaffirmation as the judge will probably determine that it is a hardship. (Well, it is a hardship because you're showing a negative DMI!) This is somewhat the finer area of reaffirmation agreements since they are almost always not a good idea.

        Credit union (CU) vehicle loans are one of the only types where I say that reaffirmation is probably necessary (for a number of reasons). The reaffirmation agreement itself will likely be denied by the judge, but you get to keep paying on the vehicle as normal (you get the benefit of the ride-through despite the CUs insistence that they have a reaffirmation).
        Last edited by justbroke; 06-04-2017, 06:38 PM.
        Chapter 7 (No Asset/Non-Consumer) Filed (Pro Se) 7/08 (converted from Chapter 13 - 2/10)
        Status: (Auto) Discharged and Closed! 5/10
        Visit My BKForum Blog: justbroke's Blog


        I am not an attorney. Any advice provided is not legal advice.

        Comment


        • #5
          Looking for clarification here. Because I've been told your expenses "are what they are" and we should report them accurately. My understanding is that for the purposes of the means test, you must use the trustee's allowances -- but for filling out schedule J, you use your actual expenses. I think this is an important distinction.

          Comment


          • #6
            The clarification is this.

            If any individual expense on Schedule J exceeds the U.S. Trustee's (UST) allowances (which are derived from the IRS Collection Standards), then the UST will be looking closely at your numbers. This is a specific area where people get into trouble (using highly inflated numbers). It's a tightrope.

            You "should" always use your actual numbers but...you also need to review the UST's allowances. The UST uses these allowances on their internal spreadsheets to see where you exceed that which is allowed under the IRS Collection Standards. If you exceed them, this could create a situation where your DMI is not correctly reflecting your actual DMI. This over-inflation of expense is what leads many people to have an objection to discharge from the UST.

            You can also get in trouble on the Means Test by claiming various expenses which require (really good) documentation. For example, line 10 of B122A-2 (Means Test for Chapter 7) it reads "If you claim that the U.S. Trustee Program’s division of the IRS Local Standard for housing is incorrect and affects the calculation of your monthly expenses, fill in any additional amount you claim" is a trick question. I do not know of any case that has successfully disputed the mortgage/non-mortgage expense (or rent/non-rent expense) allocation. Other traps are line 20, 22, and 23. These are what we call "flagged" portions of the means test which will draw scrutiny. Likewise, values on Schedule J which exceed the "Means Testing" standards will also draw scrutiny.

            A debtor that is over the median income will draw a lot of scrutiny when they have significant negative DMI caused by expenses that exceed the allowances.
            Chapter 7 (No Asset/Non-Consumer) Filed (Pro Se) 7/08 (converted from Chapter 13 - 2/10)
            Status: (Auto) Discharged and Closed! 5/10
            Visit My BKForum Blog: justbroke's Blog


            I am not an attorney. Any advice provided is not legal advice.

            Comment


            • #7
              Thanks, jb. So in a situation like ours -- where I have been keeping detailed spreadsheets and yes, someone could go back and verify through bank statements etc that these are our actual expenses, not a penny more, not a penny less -- you're saying they could object. And then what? If you pass the means test (whether above or below median income), and you are legitamitely showing a lot of negative DMI ... they object to the discharge, and...? Force you into a 13 with DMI you don't have? Or do they expect you to lie about your actual expenses so it looks better on paper?

              Comment


              • #8
                The inquiry, if there is any inquiry, is about whether your expenses exceed the standards. Various courts opined that "belt tightening" is almost a requirement. Your actual expenses are not the basis on which the court looks as a baseline to determine whether the expenses are justifiable. The baseline is the IRS Financial Collection Standards as both a start and almost an end to any inquiry as to what justifies the amount of an expense. For special cases, individual expense standards can be exceeded typically with documentation which suggest no other means (e.g. documented medical conditions that cause inflated expense).

                The United States Trustee (UST) can always object to an over-the-median debtor who have exceeded any of the standards. Back in 2005 the bankruptcy code was modified specifically to direct more debtors into Chapter 13. This created the Means Test as a way to -- try not to laugh -- determine if someone was deserving of a Chapter 7 discharge. It is also used as the starting point as to what the DMI would be in a Chapter 13. A lot of caselaw has be garnered over the first 5 years that the BAPCPA was enacted in October 2005.

                You should never lie. You should put actual. If they exceed the standards then you must provide an explanation and supporting documentation. Whether or not the documentation supports the expense is a matter of the law, the caselaw, and whether the UST is trying to make new caselaw.
                Chapter 7 (No Asset/Non-Consumer) Filed (Pro Se) 7/08 (converted from Chapter 13 - 2/10)
                Status: (Auto) Discharged and Closed! 5/10
                Visit My BKForum Blog: justbroke's Blog


                I am not an attorney. Any advice provided is not legal advice.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Thanks again, jb. I've been looking at all of this *quite* honestly and I will continue to be honest about our expenses because "they are what they are". Do they need to change? Clearly. And we've been working on it. But those actual numbers, in my mind, show how we got into this mess.

                  The local attorney we met with did not seem concerned -- even though the negative DMI is pretty high. Food is BY FAR our largest expense (averaging $1700 for a family of five) but he said he would put some of that in the housekeeping supplies category, which I just don't have. (What does that tell you? Sounds like we like to eat a lot and we never clean the house. Hahaha)

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Chrysalis View Post
                    TFood is BY FAR our largest expense (averaging $1700 for a family of five) but he said he would put some of that in the housekeeping supplies category, which I just don't have. (What does that tell you? Sounds like we like to eat a lot and we never clean the house. Hahaha)
                    If you're paying $1,700 for a family of five for food, the IRS would not allow that. The current IRS Financial Collection Standards are used in IRS collection activity and the Trustee has adopted these. According to the IRS, a family of five should only spend $995 a month in food. However, the IRS also gives, in the same "category" known as Food, Clothing and Other Items, a total of $1,975/month for the category which includes food, clothing (apparel & services), housekeeping supplies, personal care products & services, and some miscellaneous. The IRS is very strict on these except where there are (long) documented medical needs.

                    When your attorney says that they will put some of this in the housekeeping supply category s/he is specifically making sure that you don't exceed the standards in any single category. For example, if you spend $25/month on housekeeping supplies, they'll just bump that up to the standard to make it $66. You just got $41 more dollars a month for food. Same thing for the clothing category and the miscellaneous category. This is how you balance your budget.

                    Sources: https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small...nd-other-items

                    Chapter 7 (No Asset/Non-Consumer) Filed (Pro Se) 7/08 (converted from Chapter 13 - 2/10)
                    Status: (Auto) Discharged and Closed! 5/10
                    Visit My BKForum Blog: justbroke's Blog


                    I am not an attorney. Any advice provided is not legal advice.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      jb, it says in the disclaimer at the top that these numbers are used for calculating repayment of delinquent taxes, and has a link to the US Trustee's site for bankruptcy calculations. So are you saying these numbers are now exactly the same?

                      I'm not being argumentative. You've just got me thinking. If they won't "allow" us to use our actual expenses, then that leaves no choice but to lie. I don't like that. I can provide documentation all day long, but as for an explanation for some of it -- umm, "we're stupid?" ... "we've been too stressed and busy to really communicate for the past 16 years?" ... "we got too big for our britches?" ... "we didn't see back surgery and medical problems coming?"

                      The VAST majority of our debt comes from just, simply, overspending for way too long -- because it was available to us. In my mind, I have thought, anyone can look at the numbers and think, "wow, these people are going to have to do some major belt-tightening post-bk". But if they expect to see belt-tightened numbers on Schedule J instead of what we have actually been spending, that is a different story altogether.

                      Also, it is my understanding that we are supposed to put "other" expenses on there which there are no standards for -- such as pet care, gifts, tobacco, college expenses, and kids' sports. If the trustee is going to object and not allow these things... I guess I'm saying, where does that leave people?

                      The one attorney's website where I found a lot of helpful info about this awhile back -- she even included a category for family vacations. There certainly have been no family vacations here in the past year, and so, it's not anywhere in my spreadsheets. But if my husband's family (all over the country) gets sick or dies and we have to make a trip -- that is a necessary expense, no two ways about it. I won't include that anywhere... I'm just saying, it's one of those situation-specific things, and I thought that was the purpose of Schedule J -- for them to see your specific situation. Otherwise, if everyone were just going to use the standard numbers "allowed" -- what would be the point in filling out a Schedule J? Everyone's numbers would be the same. My family of five would look just like any other family of five.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        And again, not being difficult -- but when I go to the link they provided for the trustee's office -- I see numbers for means testing. So the question remains: If you pass the means test, whether it is because your income is below median or because you do not have enough (or any) DMI after using their standards... Will they really throw your case out if they look at Schedule J and see how much you've been overspending? I can picture someone shaking their head, and, as the local attorney did, scratching their heads in confusion about how we got to this ugly point... But I hadn't thought that they may just be like, "nope, you've spent too much money on expenses, so this case isn't going to fly". Isn't that a large part of what brings people to bk in the first place?

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Chrysalis View Post
                          jb, it says in the disclaimer at the top that these numbers are used for calculating repayment of delinquent taxes, and has a link to the US Trustee's site for bankruptcy calculations. So are you saying these numbers are now exactly the same?
                          The bankruptcy code adopted these numbers directly from the IRS Financial Collection Standards (FCS). The UST's Means Test numbers are identical to the IRS' FCS (the UST is a little more specific and breaks out certain IRS numbers better/differently, but they're the same numbers).

                          Originally posted by Chrysalis View Post
                          I'm not being argumentative. You've just got me thinking. If they won't "allow" us to use our actual expenses, then that leaves no choice but to lie. I don't like that. I can provide documentation all day long, but as for an explanation for some of it -- umm, "we're stupid?" ... "we've been too stressed and busy to really communicate for the past 16 years?" ... "we got too big for our britches?" ... "we didn't see back surgery and medical problems coming?"
                          You can use and should list your actual expenses. If those expenses exceed the FCS then you must provide a really good reason with really good documentation or perform the so-called belt-tightening and reduce the expense. (Remember that Schedule J is "forward" looking.). Even where you provide such additional documentation does not mean the UST will accept those numbers. In some cases the debtor withdraws (or reduces) the numbers to be within the standards (FCS) or they go to a hearing before the judge. Caselaw is pretty thorough on this.

                          Originally posted by Chrysalis View Post
                          But if they expect to see belt-tightened numbers on Schedule J instead of what we have actually been spending, that is a different story altogether.
                          Exactly. But only where you are exceeding the collection standards.
                          Originally posted by Chrysalis View Post
                          Also, it is my understanding that we are supposed to put "other" expenses on there which there are no standards for -- such as pet care, gifts, tobacco, college expenses, and kids' sports. If the trustee is going to object and not allow these things... I guess I'm saying, where does that leave people?
                          College (education) expense is scpecifically called out as a separate line item because it varies (there are so many differences between States that the FCS could never declare a number). Even then, education expense is limited (unless required by your job). The caselaw strongly suggests that a debtor that is insolvent shouldn't be attending college with loans or sending their children to private school (many cases hinge on education specifically). The rest, pet care, gifts, are included in the miscellaneous portion of Food, Clothing and Other Expenses. They are just not broken out because there is so miscellany the IRS chose to deal in major categories. Some courts have found excessive smoking to be bad for the creditors (no joke) and that some courts will approve cessation programs but not someone smoking 3 packs a day in NYC (at $18 a pack).

                          For example, your attorney is beefing up your houskeeping number to be at the standard so you can pay for other things.

                          Originally posted by Chrysalis View Post
                          The one attorney's website where I found a lot of helpful info about this awhile back -- she even included a category for family vacations. There certainly have been no family vacations here in the past year, and so, it's not anywhere in my spreadsheets. But if my husband's family (all over the country) gets sick or dies and we have to make a trip -- that is a necessary expense, no two ways about it. I won't include that anywhere... I'm just saying, it's one of those situation-specific things, and I thought that was the purpose of Schedule J -- for them to see your specific situation. Otherwise, if everyone were just going to use the standard numbers "allowed" -- what would be the point in filling out a Schedule J? Everyone's numbers would be the same. My family of five would look just like any other family of five.
                          Every person's numbers are not the same. Schedule J usually comes out lower than the Means Test because they are actual numbers. (They are usually within 5% so it's not a big swing.). Schedule J rationalizes the Means Test, or at least attempts to do so. The Means Test is arbitrary without looking at the detail and Schedule J is the gory detail.

                          Every attorney will use a "budget" sheet and asks various things about how the family functions. You pay the attorney to then take those numbers and try to work. You will not get a line item for "vacation" but there is a line item on Schedule J titled "recreation." Again you must work within the FCS. Caselaw has shown time and time again that the court will not substitute you need for a vacation over that of your unpaid creditors. It's all about being reasonable. When I was in my Chapter 13 back in 2008-2010 we had a lot of fun with the $250/month allocation for recreation. We took very few "real" vacations (none I can even remember). We bought annual (seasonal resident) passes to Disney World and that was really worth it.

                          Bankruptcy is not about "anticipating" expense. It is about the expense you have at the time of filing (with a slight look to the future). While you can't budget an unexpected trip for a funeral into your Schedule J, you can make sure you're using all the money from the FCS for every category so that you have a cushion. In a Chapter 13 you absolutely positively must save.

                          A person who refuses to or can't budget will never make it in a Chapter 13.

                          Originally posted by Chrysalis View Post
                          And again, not being difficult -- but when I go to the link they provided for the trustee's office -- I see numbers for means testing. So the question remains: If you pass the means test, whether it is because your income is below median or because you do not have enough (or any) DMI after using their standards... Will they really throw your case out if they look at Schedule J and see how much you've been overspending? I can picture someone shaking their head, and, as the local attorney did, scratching their heads in confusion about how we got to this ugly point... But I hadn't thought that they may just be like, "nope, you've spent too much money on expenses, so this case isn't going to fly". Isn't that a large part of what brings people to bk in the first place?
                          The UST uses the FCS (Means Testing number) to review your Schedule J (and your actual Means Test). They actually have a spreadsheet that is pretty good at allowing them to determine where you exceed the standards.

                          Cases are not thrown out as they afford the debtor the opportunity to convert.

                          Most things in this are cut and dry. You are either over or under the median income. You either exceed or don't exceed the standards. You either pass or don't pass the means test. You either have or don't have good (typically medical) reasons to exceed specific categories (they don't allow every category to be exceed, only certain categories). You either qualify for a Chapter 7 or you qualify for a Chapter 13 (or Chapter 11).

                          As one of my favorite Florida judges opined "the Means Test is only the first step of a two-tiered inquiry." The second tier is a review of the actual income (Schedule I) and expense (Schedule J). (The Lanning decision clarified that Schedule J is current with a look towards the future.)

                          Last edited by justbroke; 06-05-2017, 10:41 AM.
                          Chapter 7 (No Asset/Non-Consumer) Filed (Pro Se) 7/08 (converted from Chapter 13 - 2/10)
                          Status: (Auto) Discharged and Closed! 5/10
                          Visit My BKForum Blog: justbroke's Blog


                          I am not an attorney. Any advice provided is not legal advice.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            This may be in no way helpful (and, I can't answer many of your questions), but I too spend a lot on food and we exceeded the allowance. I buy a lot of fresh food, we rarely go out to eat, and one of my daughters has celiac disease and the gluten free stuff is expensive (plus she eats like a horse- stays skinny too, for now). I have most of my receipts available through my primary grocery store's store rewards program. In going through it, I could eliminate some things as non-food to be put in the "clothing, laundry", "home maintenance/upkeep/repair" and "personal care" categories. It also made me realize I needed to budget better and shop smarter. [Side note: my other daughter just did a presentation on food waste and that was another eye-opener for me. Time to shop even smarter ;) ]
                            Interestingly, I just looked at the standards and it says $845 for a family of four for 2017. I filed in 2016 and assume that amount was the same or less. I put $850 in the food and housekeeping category (maybe stupidly) and was not questioned. I'm sure $5 wasn't worth the time but I was prepared to tell them I was feeding a kid who needs a specialized diet.
                            I recall agonizing over all this too but came to the realization that you need to be as accurate as possible, but also recognize that these forms don't allow you to give a 100% accurate picture since they aren't itemized to the micro-category and who keeps every receipt? Is vegetable gardening "food" or "entertainment"? Is flower gardening "home upkeep" or "entertainment" - or an unnecessary luxury? Where does dog food go? And, while we're at it, putting my rescued dog down as an asset felt weird... Are Christmas and birthday gifts "entertainment"? What about the various little things I'm sure I forgot I bought and had no receipts for? The first time I ran through my expenses, I had me spending more than I brought in, which wasn't possible since I had no credit cards or loans. It took some reworking but I feel like what I ended up with was as accurate as I could be. You have to learn to obsess just enough to be reasonably accurate but not so much that you're making yourself crazy.
                            Another side note: I really felt the amounts for food allowance were low for a family who tries to eat fairly healthy. Hot dogs and white bread and are cheaper than chicken breasts and whole grains.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              kberly, thanks for chiming in -- of course it's helpful! Every contribution we have here is helpful. It offers one more person's experience and knowledge. Also valuable for other folks who are filing pro se to know that you have done it, and done it successfully.

                              And jbatt, sorry if you feel I've taken over your thread with my questions -- not my intention, but I imagine this conversation is helpful to you and others out there, as well. Good discussion going on here, I think.

                              I have things to respond to, but man I'm going to have to get familiar with the quote function like jb does!

                              Comment

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