Man Arrested by U.S. Marshals For Outstanding Student Loan of $1,500

6227036996_77501c3a14_bA man was arrested recently in his Houston home by U.S. Marshalls for failure to completely pay the government for a small amount owed on a student loan.  Most student loans are backed by the U.S. government so when you don’t pay them you apparently now get to see the U.S. Marshalls at your door with guns drawn.  You don’t need to owe the U.S. government very much.  The man in question only owed $1500.

Paul Aker of Houston came outside slowly with his hands up and he was arrested by the marshals who had surrounded his home.  He said he did not have any idea why he was being arrested until he was in the car on his way to jail where the marshals revealed that he had an outstanding student loan debt.

Mr. Aker had actually paid off two student loans in the past and he believed he did not owe any more to the government.  The arresting agents asked him if he was in the habit of stealing from the U.S. government.

The U.S. Marshalls did release a statement explaining that it is their duty to serve federal process and to make arrests and they had apparently contacted Mr. Akers by phone to get him to appear in court and he refused.  It would have been a good idea for him to go to court before this unfortunate incident because he was forced to pay the government back for the cost of his arrest ($1258.60) in addition to the delinquent loan with interest.

They did “allow” him to pay off the debt in $200 monthly installments but I would ask what happens if he stops paying the monthly amount?  Do more armed agents show up at his door and arrest him again?  Most of my clients can’t afford such monthly installments and therefore they don’t continue to pay them.  Indeed in chapter 13 bankruptcies most debtors fall out of their chapter 13 plans for failure to pay.

I have written in the past about people being arrested and sent to debtor’s prison for unpaid debts but that is rare in America and it is not done at all in most states.  Debtor’s prisons were supposed to be completely outlawed in the 1800s.  The federal government appears to be the worst creditor of all to owe as their full military and police power can be turned against a person for some small student loan as we see here.  For many years similar heavy handed tactics have been reported to have been used by the IRS for unpaid back taxes.  With a private non-student debt you would not see anything like this.

Unfortunately there is not much bankruptcy can do for people with student loan debts.  Currently student loans cannot be discharged in bankruptcy (unless there is “extreme hardship”) though we attorneys are hoping that someday that law will be changed to allow people to escape these debts if they cannot pay them.  In America there is something like $1.2 trillion owed in student debts and no politician has yet done anything about it.

In the mean time I think it is a good idea to avoid these student loans wherever possible.  They last forever, they cannot be discharged in bankruptcy, and someday a tragedy could occur when an overzealous marshal pulls a trigger and possibly ends a person’s life for a few delinquent student loan dollars.

For those that already have the loans I would suggest you stay in continual contact with some representative of the government to work out whatever deal you can with them just like you would with the IRS.  If you do not you might have the misfortune of seeing armed federal agents surrounding your house who will place you under arrest and make you appear before a federal judge.  Let’s hope that someday the law will be changed and student loans will become dischargeable in bankruptcy even if the student debt has to be 10 or 20 years old before it is eligible for discharge.

Photo by a.mina from Flickr

 

I am a San Diego bankruptcy attorney.  For further questions please visit my websites at www.farquharlaw.com or www.freshstartsandiego.com.  Or call my office for a free consultation or for any other advice about bankruptcy or debt at (619) 702-5015. Call now for free credit report and analysis!

For a free e-book on “13 things to do to prepare for your bankruptcy filing” please e-mail me at farquharesq@yahoo.com.

 

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What do I do if I get a 1099-C from a creditor for “forgiveness of debt tax”?

Don’t worry if you get a 1099-c from a creditor.  Study up on the issue and then consult a tax counselor for more advice.  Most tax advisors know all about 1099-c and its tax consequences.

Any debt forgiveness can result in taxable income in the eyes of the IRS.  The IRS considers forgiven debt to be income to you that is taxable.  This is true even though it is “phantom income” that you will never see.

Forgiveness of debt income can be on a settled credit card but more often it is concerning a mortgaged home that was foreclosed on or short sold.  Sometimes it is called “cancellation of debt income” or COD.  This can result in tremendous taxes owed by you to the IRS.

The good news is that if you short sold your home or had it foreclosed on you will be allowed to exclude up to $2 million in debt forgiveness with the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007.  This law allows exclusion of this excluded debt from taxable income through 2012 unless Congress acts to extend it.  This act was passed during the home foreclosure crisis to give relief for homeowners who have had to abandon their homes.

The debt you incurred (and which was forgiven by the bank) must be to buy, build, or substantially improve your principal residence.  So business property, second homes, investment property, rental are all not covered by the Mortgage Forgiveness Act.

There are other ways to get out of this potential COD income though.  The most notable is bankruptcy.  If you file for bankruptcy then insolvency is presumed and you just file the IRS form 982.  Your accountant or tax preparer can help you with this.  This form has boxes you check and if you filed bankruptcy or were insolvent when the debt forgiveness or cancellation occurred then you check the box and file the form with your taxes.

So ask your accountant or tax advisor about form 982 if you received a 1099-c or if you are worried about the tax implications of a short sale or foreclosure on your home.  Remember that there is a law out there that helps you.  If you get one after 2012 and Congress lets the law expire then remember that there is bankruptcy or insolvency that will exclude the amounts of debt forgiven from your income and you therefore won’t owe any tax on it.

I am a San Diego bankruptcy attorney.  For further questions please visit my websites at www.farquharlaw.com or www.freshstartsandiego.com.  Or call my office for a free consultation or for any other advice about bankruptcy or debt at (619) 702-5015.  Call now for free credit report and analysis!   For a free e-book on “13 things to do to prepare for your bankruptcy filing” please e-mail me at farquharesq@yahoo.com.

“Occupy Chicago” wants to forgive student loans. Your student loan bailout should be through bankruptcy!

The “Occupy Wall Street” movement has created many spinoff movements all over the country like the one here in San Diego.  After hearing criticism for their lack of coherent demands, the “Occupy Chicago” chapter came out with a list of demands on Monday.  Among other things, like taxing the wealthy and attacking Wall Street, they want student loans forgiven.  I argued in a blog that I posted Sunday on the Occupy San Diego movement that student loans should be dischargeable in bankruptcy.

In the face of the bailouts that Wall Street firms and banks received more and more people are asking “where is our bailout”?  Regular people have a tremendous amount of debt which they cannot afford and they believe that justice demands that they need some consideration from government.  It is true that almost 50% of people pay no income taxes but should we bailout the 99% with massive wealth transfers?

I say no.   Most people in this country will not go for that.  I have argued for years on my blog that a bailout plan already exists for the 99% of us that are neither rich nor giant corporations.  It’s called bankruptcy and bankruptcy allows you to legally walk away from your debts and have them discharged so you no longer owe them.  You can then get a fresh start debt free and keep what money you earn from employment.  Everyone can avail themselves of bankruptcy.  You don’t have to be a privileged person or corporation to get it.  In fact if you make too much money you will be means tested out of a chapter 7.

So bankruptcy is available for regular people but there is a problem.  Student loans cannot be included in bankruptcy.  Student loans currently are not dischargeable in bankruptcy.   They do therefore indeed last forever or until you allege “undue hardship” which is very hard to prove.  If these student loans were to be included in the lists of debts that people could discharge in bankruptcy then regular people would not be saddled with them forever.  They could escape them and move on in life with their student loans forgiven.

This could be done so much more easily and fairly in the context of bankruptcy than through some government blanket forgiveness.  Bankruptcy has been around for hundreds of years and the systems are in place to handle forgiveness of debt through the filing of bankruptcy.  There are trustees and judges to oversee each individual to make sure that the people asking for forgiveness really can’t afford to pay these debts back because the have neither the income or assets to do so.

In bankruptcy there are even proscribed exemptions that allow each person to keep a certain amount of property.  For most of the 99% this would amount to people keeping all of their property because most people don’t have more than these allowed exemption amounts.

This solution will also be so much more palatable to the American public.  It allows the forgiveness of the student loan debt but within the confines of the bankruptcy system.  Each individual would have to file for bankruptcy to get his student loan debt forgiveness.  He would then be examined by a Trustee and he would face a judge if fraud or other problems came up.   His income and expenses would be looked at to determine that he could not pay his debts with his current income and thus he is formally bankrupt. Those who could afford to pay the loans would then have to do so in some form but many many student loan debtors would be able to escape these loans if they were dischargeable in bankruptcy.  Bankruptcy is no blanket gift.

And it would be fair.  Many people with student loans cannot afford to pay these loans and they have very little hope of paying them back.  They are under employed or more likely unemployed and they cannot afford their living expenses let alone these student loans that have not even landed them a job.  It is simply not fair that a person who used their credit cards to excess can discharge those debts but the person trying to get an education and a job can never escape them even if they have no money and no job.

But many people will say that if we make student loans dischargeable in bankruptcy then student loans will be harder to get.   Maybe that is a good thing and people won’t borrow money for degrees that won’t lead to a job.  But I also believe that as credit cards are still obtainable by most people today and they are dischargeable in bankruptcy.  Bankruptcy has not stopped that industry and dischargeable student loans will not stop lenders from lending money for these loans either.

It also should not matter whether the loans are government or private.  If  they are private then the loans should be treated like credit cards and if government loans are owed then forgiveness of these loans is only fair in light of the bailouts given by the government to the financial industry.  Whether government or private though the effect is the same on people.  They can’t afford to pay them back in many cases.  (Remember also that IRS tax debt is dischargeable after only 3 years and the IRS still continues to operate).

And for further fairness you could make student loans dischargeable after a period of time say 10 or even 20 years.  If the student has not paid them back by that time then they are certainly having a problem and they probably can’t pay them back.  It is only fair to allow people to escape them in time.

I am a bankruptcy attorney practicing bankruptcy law in San Diego, CA.   For further information please visit my website at www.farquharlaw.com or www.freshsatartsandiego.com.   Or call my office for a free consultation at (619) 702-5015.  If you or someone you know are considering bankruptcy then get my Free e-book “13 THINGS YOU SHOULD DO TO PREPARE FOR YOUR BANKRUPCTY FILING” by e-mailing me at farquharesq@yahoo.com.