As a small business owner, it’s common to face financial difficulties that may lead to considering bankruptcy. In particular, Chapter 13 bankruptcy can be an option for those who want to reorganize their debts and keep their business running. But how exactly does it work, and what are the implications for small business owners? Let’s dive in and explore this topic in detail.
Chapter 13 bankruptcy, also known as a wage earner’s plan, is a form of debt reorganization that allows individuals with a regular income to develop a plan to repay all or part of their debts. Under this chapter, debtors propose a repayment plan to make installments to creditors over three to five years.
To be eligible for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, a debtor must have a regular source of income and meet certain debt limitations. As of 2023, your unsecured debts must be less than $2,750,000 when filing.
For small business owners, Chapter 13 bankruptcy can provide several benefits, such as:
Chapter 13 bankruptcy protections only apply to the individual filing, not the individual’s small business. You should evaluate Chapter 11 if you are seeking to obtain legal protection from creditors regarding a business.
The process for filing Chapter 13 bankruptcy involves several steps:
The debtor must file a petition with the bankruptcy court in their jurisdiction, along with schedules detailing their financial affairs. This includes information about income, assets, liabilities, and more.
Debtors must submit a proposed repayment plan outlining how they will repay their debts over three to five years. The plan allocates payments to priority debts, like taxes, and secured debts, like mortgages, before addressing unsecured debts.
A bankruptcy judge will review the proposed repayment plan during a confirmation hearing. Creditors may object to the plan, and the judge will determine whether it is fair and feasible.
Once the repayment plan is confirmed or payments are otherwise vested, the trustee will distribute these payments to creditors according to the plan’s terms.
Upon completion of the repayment plan, the debtor will receive a discharge of their remaining unsecured debts. This means they are no longer legally obligated to pay these debts, and creditors cannot attempt to collect them. You must comply with all bankruptcy requirements, including completing the post filing Financial Education Course, to be eligible to receive a discharge.
There are other types of bankruptcy that small business owners might consider, such as Chapter 7 and Chapter 11. Here’s how they differ from Chapter 13:
Chapter 7 bankruptcy involves liquidating the debtor’s non-exempt assets to pay off debts. It is typically used by individuals or businesses with little to no chance of repaying their debts. While it can provide a fresh start, it may also result in the closure of the business and the loss of assets.
Chapter 11 bankruptcy is designed for businesses and allows them to reorganize and renegotiate debts while continuing to operate. This type of bankruptcy is more complex and costly than Chapter 13 but can be suitable for larger businesses with substantial debts.
Small businesses may benefit from the newly enacted Subchapter V business reorganization. It is a simplified and less expensive form of Chapter 11. You should discuss this option with a business bankruptcy attorney to see your options.
Filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy can affect small business operations in several ways:
The debtor must adhere to a strict budget during the repayment plan period, which can limit their ability to invest in their business or take on new debts. Additionally, they may need to consult the bankruptcy trustee before making significant financial decisions.
Chapter 13 bankruptcy remains on the debtor’s credit report for seven years, making obtaining new loans or lines of credit more challenging. This can limit the business’s growth potential and may require the owner to seek alternative funding sources.
Chapter 13 bankruptcy can be a viable option for small business owners struggling with debt and wanting to keep their businesses running. By understanding the process, eligibility requirements, and potential impacts on business operations, owners can decide whether Chapter 13 is the right choice for them.
No, a small business may not file for Chapter 13 as it is only available for individual filers with regular income with total debts not exceeding $2,750,000. A small business seeking to reorganize its debts may file for Chapter 11 or Chapter 11 Subchapter 5. A small business seeking to wind down operations may look into filing Chapter 7 to liquidate its assets.
A Chapter 13 bankruptcy repayment plan typically lasts for three to five years, depending on the debtor’s income and debt amount.
In most cases, small business owners can keep their assets during a Chapter 13 bankruptcy by incorporating them into the repayment plan.
Yes, small business owners can continue to operate during Chapter 13 bankruptcy as long as they comply with the terms of their repayment plan and any additional requirements set by the bankruptcy court.
Chapter 13 bankruptcy remains on your credit report for seven years, which can make it more challenging to obtain new loans or lines of credit.
Robert Stiberman is a bankruptcy attorney with extensive experience in Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases. He has represented numerous clients in bankruptcy cases and is well-versed in the requirements of the Chapter 13 trustees. With his knowledge and experience, Robert Stiberman can provide his clients with the guidance and representation they need to navigate bankruptcy successfully.
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