Under Threat of a CRA Lien on Property? Act Fast – A Court Order Isn’t Required!

Since we are well into tax season, we have dedicated several posts over the last few weeks to covering various aspects of dealing with a tax debt. So far we’ve covered the various penalties and interest as well as wage garnishments and frozen bank accounts, and so we’d be remiss not to cover the third type of enforcement action utilized by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA): a CRA lien on property.

CRA uses property liens as an effective way to collect on an outstanding tax debt. When you owe CRA money, CRA will leverage all of its available options to collect, including placing a lien on your home.

Why is a CRA lien on property such a big deal? As soon as a property lien is in place, CRA becomes a secured creditor in a bankruptcy or consumer proposal, meaning you have less negotiating power. A property lien can cause your mortgage holders to question your level of risk and whether or not to renew your mortgage, interfering with your ability to refinance your home. Furthermore, if the tax debt is greater than your property equity, and you’re planning to sell in the near future, this will result in you not having any money left to cover the transaction fees (i.e. legal and real estate fees). This could make that long-dreamt of move an impossibility.

A CRA lien on property can be difficult to deal with.

Does this mean you’ve lost title to your home? No, title remains in your name. A lien is actually a registration on the title of the property which prevents you from selling or refinancing that property until the tax debt owing is paid in full.

How can CRA find out what you own? It’s simple. Land records are electronic and anyone, including CRA, can simply run a search to find out what properties are in your name.

The most important thing to do if you are under threat of a property lien, or if a lien is already in place, is to contact a professional for advice on how to deal with your tax debt before a lien is put in place. If you can deal with the tax debt before a lien is in place you have more options.

Having a tax debt hanging over your head can be stressful. As you can see, it isn’t something you can ignore as the repercussions can be quite severe.

If you’re concerned about a CRA lien on property, get in touch with the professionals at Spergel today – we can help you sort out your finances and deal with your tax debt.

Find out more by visiting or call 310-4321.


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Tax Debt Info: What Can CRA Garnish?

As with any creditor, if you owe a tax debt to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), there are various forms of enforcement action that may be imposed in an effort to collect. Two of the most popular are garnishing your wages or freezing your bank account. Both are very effective methods – methods that can really wreak havoc on your finances. So, how much can CRA garnish and what options are available to deal with these enforcement actions?

If CRA chooses to impose a wage garnishment, they can garnish your employment income or secondary income like your pension or subcontractor income. That could be a significant amount of money. As we have mentioned previously, CRA does not need a court order to issue a wage garnishment. They simply send a Notice of Garnishment to your employer or your clients and the money is then sent directly to pay off the debt.

If CRA chooses to freeze your bank account, a Requirement to Pay is sent to your bank(s) and the bank is required, by law, to immediately put a hold on your account. This means that you will not be able to access any funds in the account. This also means that any pre-authorized payments won’t come out either. Once the bank has forwarded the amount listed in the Requirement to Pay to CRA, your account(s) is unfrozen. However, if the tax debt is significant, this could take months or even years.

Both of these enforcement measures can have far-reaching consequences. Both can be very embarrassing – your employer/clients will learn of the tax debt, and if your account is frozen you can seriously damage your relationship with your bank. Your credit may also take a hit – if you are missing a significant portion of your monthly income, or have no access to it, those monthly financial obligations may inevitably get missed as well.

If you are being threatened with CRA enforcement action or are already being garnished, you should consider taking action immediately. You have a few options available to you. You can take the matter to court – a costly option with no guarantee of success. You can pay off the debt in its entirety – this will remove both a garnishment and a frozen bank account – but this only works if you have the funds available. The third option is filing a consumer proposal or bankruptcy with a Licensed Insolvency Trustee, both of which will stop the action, can reduce the amount owing, and can give you a fresh financial start.

If you are concerned about a tax debt and the forthcoming enforcement action, we can help. Get in touch with our Licensed Insolvency Trustees today to find out about the various solutions: or 310-4321.


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Complete Guide to CRA Penalties

Last week, in preparation for the approaching 2017 tax deadline, we discussed the importance of filing your taxes, even if you are nervous about a looming tax debt. This week our blog focuses exclusively on the various Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) penalties associated with a tax debt. If you have questions about CRA penalties, this blog should help you find some answers.

If you missed last week’s post, it focused on filing your taxes even if you anticipate a tax debt, and the ways in which you can deal with it. For more on that, check it out here.

CRA interest

If you file your taxes and end up owing tax debt for 2016, the CRA will charge compound daily interest the day after the deadline (May 1st). The CRA rate of interest can change every three months – you can check out current interest rates here:

Furthermore, if you have a debt owing from previous years, the CRA will continue to charge daily interest on those amounts as well. Any payments you make will be applied to those balances first.

Late-filing penalty

If you owe a tax debt for 2016 but do not file on time, you will be charged a late-filing penalty. The current penalty is 5% of your 2016 balance. In addition to this, you will be charged 1% of your balance for each month you are behind filing, for a maximum of one year.

If you were late in previous years, the late-filing penalty increases to 10% of your 2016 balance. You will also be charged 2% of your 2016 balance for each month you are behind filing, for a maximum of 20 months.

Repeated failure to report income penalty

If you file but fail to report an amount of income of $500 or more on your 2016 return and you also failed to report said amount on your return for 2013, 2014, or 2015, you may find yourself saddled with a repeated failure to report income penalty.

The penalty is as follows:

  • 10% of the amount you failed to report on your 2016 return, and
  • 50% of the difference between the understated tax related to the amount you failed to report and the amount of tax withheld related to the amount you failed to report.

Gross negligence penalties

If you, knowingly or under circumstances amounting to gross negligence, make a false statement or omission on a tax return, you may also have to pay a gross negligence penalty. The penalty is equal to the greater of $100 and 50% of the understated tax and/or the overstated credits related to the false statement or omission.

A tax problem can have a significant impact on your financial stability. When you owe taxes, enforcement action from CRA will follow, and a wage garnishment or frozen bank account can make meeting your monthly financial obligations difficult, if not impossible. It is crucial to settle a tax debt as soon as possible.

At Spergel, we can help you develop a plan to deal with a tax debt before those CRA penalties are levied.

Get in touch today by visiting or call 310-4321.


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The 2017 Tax Deadline is Approaching – What You Need to Know if You Anticipate a Tax Debt

We have reached April now and that means the 2017 tax deadline for individuals is fast approaching. For many Canadians, this simply means a few hours spent in front of your computer or with your accountant. However, for others – those with a looming tax debt – the reality may be far more fear-inducing.

  • If you are concerned that once you file your tax return, you will have a tax debt hanging over your head, do not let that stop you from filing. While a tax debt may seem overwhelming, failing to file is not a solution. Penalties for not filing are steep, and if you wait to file, you’ll still find that interest and penalties are applied retroactively so that tax debt will have inevitably ballooned in size. If you fail to file your tax return, CRA will eventually notionally assess you which could result in an inaccurate tax debt. If you owe a tax debt this year and do not file your return on time, the penalty is 5% of the total amount of the debt plus 1% per month for up to 12 months.
  • If you were charged a late-filing penalty on your return for 2013, 2014, or 2015, your penalty for 2016 may be 10% of your 2016 balance owing, plus 2% of your 2016 balance owing for each full month your return is late for up to 20 months.
  • If the CRA finds that you were grossly negligent in your filing, you may face even greater penalties, sometimes up to 50% of the tax debt.
  • As mentioned, interest is applied retroactively so do not forget to add that on top.

It is important to understand that the CRA is aggressive and if taxes are owed, you can usually bank on them coming to collect.

However, it is important to note that, while not filing your taxes is illegal and can be considered tax evasion, owing a tax debt is not a legal problem; it is a financial problem and the solution often comes down to your ability to pay.

If you anticipate a tax debt, it is important to come up with a financial plan right away – long before the CRA starts taking enforcement action such as garnishing wages, freezing bank accounts or placing a lien against your home.

If you do not have equity in assets or the cash-flow to pay the CRA, a consumer proposal or bankruptcy are both great options for dealing with a tax debt. Both will protect you against CRA enforcement action. Both will also allow you to make a single monthly payment, stop interest and often reduce the overall size of your debt.

To discuss whether either is an option for you or if you have questions regarding existing or anticipated tax debt, speak with a Licensed Insolvency Trustee. It does not cost you anything to do so and they can review the different options available to you to come up with a practical solution.

Be prepared for April 30th. Don’t fear that tax debt. 

Get in touch with Spergel today by visiting or call 310-4321.


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Does Filing for Bankruptcy in Ontario Mean I’ll Lose My Car?

A common misconception that we come across is that a vehicle will be seized in a bankruptcy. This is often a major consideration as most people require a car for daily travel. To answer this question, the Licensed Insolvency Trustee will need some more information from you.

When filing for bankruptcy in Ontario, what can happen with your car depends on a number of factors, primarily: whether you own your vehicle or are financing or leasing it, and the value of the vehicle.

If you own your vehicle, under the Ontario Executions Act, you are permitted to keep one motor vehicle provided it is worth less than $6,600. If your vehicle is worth more than $6,600, you will be required to pay to the bankruptcy estate the difference in order to keep it (often through regular monthly payments). If you own a second vehicle, the value of that vehicle must be paid to the bankruptcy estate in order for you to keep the vehicle.

If your car is leased or financed, the loan amount is subtracted from the value of the car to determine the net value. If there is equity in the vehicle, you will be required to make payments to the bankruptcy estate for this net value. As long as you are up to date with your car payments and plan on continuing to make them, you are able to keep your vehicle. You also have the option to surrender the vehicle back to the secured lender prior to filing for bankruptcy. In such a case, if there is an unsecured shortfall after the vehicle is sold by the secured lender, that amount can be included in your bankruptcy.

If you are looking for more information particular to your situation, the best person to advise you in this situation is a Licensed Insolvency Trustee. Since there more is involved in the decision to file a bankruptcy, it is prudent to discuss your financial affairs in its entirety with a Trustee.

At Spergel, we are committed to helping you resolve your debt problems. Why not book a consultation to review your finances and see what options are available before making any final decisions?

Find out more by visiting today or call 310-4321.


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You Can Combat a Notice of Garnishment: Here’s How!

When your wages are being garnished, whether by a creditor, the Canada Revenue Agency or the Family Responsibility Office, combating the garnishment may seem impossible. Fortunately, that isn’t the case – there are several options. This week we’ll work through them to help you regain control of your income.

A wage garnishment is a legal process whereby a creditor requires a third party (your employer or clients) to turn over to the creditor a portion of your wages or income. There are several types of wage garnishments.

  • If a creditor sues you and is successful in obtaining a judgement against you, they can have the court issue a Notice of Garnishment which forces your employer to garnish a portion of your wages and remit the money to the court to be dispersed to your creditor.
  • When the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) garnishes your wages due to amounts owing, they do not need a court order to do so – they will simply send a letter to your employer and then your employer has to start garnishing you. In the case of CRA, your employment income can be garnished, as well as other income, such as pensions.
  • The Family Responsibility Office can garnish your wages for unpaid child support. Family Responsibility wage garnishments are the most difficult to combat because you will have to have a family lawyer go to court and get the court to agree to reduce or remove the garnishment.

Combatting the first two types of wage garnishments – ones imposed by creditors through the court and those imposed by CRA – can be dealt with in various ways.

Of course, one option is to head to court. This option is expensive and time consuming. You may have to pay a paralegal or lawyer to represent you, not to mention administrative fees. Additionally, there is no guarantee that you will be successful.

The easiest option, by far, is to pay the debt. First, evaluate if you can actually pay the debt. Of course, in a perfect world, if you could have paid off the debt in full you wouldn’t be in this situation.

If the debt is just too big and you can’t realistically pay it, you will need to look at the various options available to help you out of this situation.  A Licensed Insolvency Trustee can offer two types of debt solutions that can stop a garnishment, consumer proposals and bankruptcy.

Each option is different and the right solution depends on your income, household composition, assets and other factors. Keep in mind that a consumer proposal or bankruptcy won’t stop a Family Responsibility Office garnishment – but both will halt wage garnishments issued through the courts by creditors and by the CRA. In fact, as soon as your creditors, the court and/or CRA receives notice that you have filed a consumer proposal or a bankruptcy, they must stop the wage garnishment immediately!

If you’re concerned about a Notice of Garnishment, speaking with a trustee about your financial options is the first step to take to get the situation sorted out. At Spergel, we have the experience and knowledge to help you regain control of your wages.

Find out more by visiting today or call 310-4321.


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407 ETR Settles Class Action Lawsuit – Claim Deadline Approaches

The private operators of Ontario’s Highway 407 Express Toll Route (ETR) have agreed to pay $7,965,800 to settle a class action lawsuit with individuals who filed for bankruptcy or a consumer proposal and had their license plate renewals denied due to non-payment.

At Spergel, many of our clients who have filed a consumer proposal or a bankruptcy have had their license plates denied, even though they filed for the protection of a bankruptcy or a successful consumer proposal. Under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (“BIA”) all monies owed at the date of the filing (“pre-insolvency debts”) of the consumer proposal or bankruptcy are compromised or discharged through the insolvency process, thus giving an individual a fresh start. There are only limited prescribed debts that survive bankruptcy, called “non-dischargeable debts”, and the 407 tolls are not one of them.

These individuals whose plates were denied might rely on their car to get to work, but would have been prevented from renewing their license plates. To allow a creditor to use a mechanism such as plate denial to enforce their debts outside the BIA frustrates the rehabilitative and “fresh start” principle of the insolvency system in Canada.

In April 2012, three representative plaintiffs brought the class action lawsuit to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Toronto on behalf of all drivers who incurred tolls and/or additional charges to the 407 ETR, and had their license plate denied after they had filed a consumer proposal or a bankruptcy proceeding. The action alleged that the toll highway consortium made improper use of provincial legislation to keep bankrupt or insolvent drivers from renewing their license plates.

In a separate matter, the Supreme Court of Canada issued a decision in November 2013, stating that the 407 ETR cannot deny license renewals to drivers who have been discharged from bankruptcy to enforce the payment of outstanding tolls and fines. The ruling was welcome news to drivers undergoing bankruptcy, as they no longer had to worry about their vehicle permit being denied renewal. However, this settlement compensates all those drivers who had their plates denied while this case was being argued.

Under the settlement, the 407 ETR agreed to a fund of nearly $8 million, without admitting liability.

Every eligible driver will receive a base payment of $200.00. They can also make a claim for additional compensation based on how long they were denied their plates and how much they paid 407 ETR or the Registrar of Motor Vehicles towards the pre-insolvency debt.
Eligible drivers should have received notice by mail, including a claim form. This must be submitted no later than March 27, 2017.If any of Spergel’s clients are having troubles getting their license plates renewed because of pre-insolvency 407 ETR tolls and fines – or haven’t received a claim form when they think they should have – please contact us immediately. Our experienced licensed insolvency trustees will help get you back in the driver’s seat.

If you, or someone you know, is dealing with debt problems, contact us anytime at the toll free number 310-4321, email us at or visit our nearest location for a free initial consultation with one of our trusted professionals. We will go through your individual needs and outline your options to help you take your first steps to getting a fresh start. You can also fill out our online assessment form and a Spergel representative will contact you directly.

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What is the Difference Between a Consumer Proposal and Bankruptcy?

For Canadians struggling to meet their financial obligations, a consumer proposal and bankruptcy are the two most popular debt management options available, and for good reason. Both can help you resolve your debt problems and stop collection action. However, there are also significant differences between the two – differences which are important to examine if you’re considering which one suits you best.

This week we are covering the difference between a consumer proposal and a bankruptcy.

In a consumer proposal, a Licensed Insolvency Trustee makes a formal proposal to your unsecured creditors based on various factors such as your total debt, who your creditors are, current income and the value of any realizable assets. If the majority of your creditors accept the proposal, it is legally binding on all creditors and you make a monthly payment which is collected by your Trustee and then paid to your creditors, generally on an annual basis. Once accepted, you do not have an ongoing obligation to report your income to the Trustee.  In addition, you are free to deal with your assets as they do not vest in the Trustee. The maximum term for a consumer proposal is 5 years, but you are able to pay it in full at any time once it has been accepted. Once you have completed the proposal payments, the consumer proposal is removed from your credit report after 3 years.

In a bankruptcy, the Licensed Insolvency Trustee determines the length of your bankruptcy and your monthly payment based on your household income and whether or not you have previously filed a bankruptcy. If you are a first-time bankrupt, you can be automatically discharged after 9 or 21 months; in the case of a second-time bankrupt, this term becomes 24 or 36 months; in a third or higher bankruptcy, the Trustee has to apply for a court date for your discharge following the expiry of 24 or 36 months.

The term of your bankruptcy will depend on whether or not you have “surplus income”, which is calculated using income standards for household sizes set out by the Superintendent of Bankruptcy. You are required to report your income to the Trustee for the bankruptcy period and the Trustee will average your net income after a certain period as described above.   If you have surplus income, you will be required to make a payment to the bankruptcy estate, generally 50% of the surplus income.

In addition, your assets vest in the Trustee in a bankruptcy.  There are provincial exemptions for certain assets such as a motor vehicle and personal effects.  In addition, where an asset is secured, the Trustee will calculate whether any equity exists in the asset.  If you have any realizable assets, you will have to make arrangements to pay the estate for the realizable value or release the asset to the Trustee.

Unlike a proposal, a bankruptcy does not have to be accepted by your creditors. Once a bankruptcy is filed, you are bankrupt until you receive your discharge. Furthermore, once filed, the Trustee manages your estate over the course of your bankruptcy. You will have ongoing responsibilities to the Trustee such as making agreed upon monthly payments, participating in two credit counselling sessions, and reporting your income until you are discharged. Once you are discharged, the bankruptcy will be removed from your credit report after 6 years from the date of discharge.

In both cases, if a creditor has taken collection action against you (even the Canada Revenue Agency) or has imposed an enforcement measure such as a wage garnishment or frozen your bank account, this is stopped once a bankruptcy or consumer proposal is filed.

As you can see, there are some important differences between a consumer proposal and bankruptcy. Both are an effective means by which to resolve your debt that has taken over your life.

To learn more about these options and to determine which option works for your, contact a Licensed Insolvency Trustee at Spergel. We can help you find a solution that meets your needs. Find out more by visiting today or call 310-4321.


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Myth Busting: Will a Consumer Proposal in Ontario Ruin Your Credit?

For many Canadians with debt problems, a consumer proposal represents a viable financial solution. In our experience, many people do not quite understand the impacts of a consumer proposal in Ontario, so this week we aim to clear up the misconception that a consumer proposal will ruin your credit.

To better understand why this perception exists, it is important to first understand the ratings on your credit report. Any lender you apply to for credit will look at your credit report.

Your credit report lists any and all credit activity. These activities are broken down into line items. Each creditor line item will have a letter assigned to it – either “I” or “R”. “I” stands for “installment credit” which represents loans and “R” stands for “revolving credit” such as credit cards. These letters are then followed by a number – 1 through 9.  1 means that you are up to date, a 2-5 signifies the number of months you are behind. When you are 2-5 months behind, paying the account up to date will return your rating to a 1. However, these late payments will remain on the report as history for a number of years.

If your credit is in worse shape, you may see a 7, 8 or 9. A 7 means credit counselling, an 8 signifies repossession and a 9 is a bad debt write off. A 7 remains on your credit for 3 years from when the debt is paid in full, whereas an 8 or 9 remains on your credit for 6 years from the date of last activity – even if you settle or repay the debt.

For example, if a creditor has sent your account to collections, in addition to the bad rating for that particular credit item, you may also have a collection item registered from the third party collection agency. These remain on your credit for 6 years from when they are settled or paid in full. Also, if your credit cards are at their limit, this will drastically reduce your credit score.

If you are habitually late at making payments, have defaulted on debts and/or have credit cards at or above their limits, your credit score has negatively been affected.

A consumer proposal in Ontario is registered on your credit report and removed 3 years from the date that it is paid in full. A consumer proposal is open and can be paid in full at any time. The maximum term for a consumer proposal is 5 years. However, since it can be paid at any time, the 3 year period on your credit report can begin much earlier.

Rebuilding your credit is critical after filing a consumer proposal and we highly recommend looking at credit products such as a secured credit card or secured GIC after your proposal to begin the rebuilding process. After a proposal, how you manage your new credit is also key – it is crucial that you do not make late payments and also manage credit card balances conservatively. Do not max them out, and as a rule never keep more than 50% of your limit as a balance.

If you are drowning in debt and are struggling to make even minimum payments, it might be time to consider what options are available to remedy the situation. A consumer proposal in Ontario may be one such option. For more information, please visit Spergel today at or call 310-4321.


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How to Settle a Tax Debt with the CRA

Of all the different types of personal debt that Canadians deal with, owing taxes to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) seems to cause the greatest concern. While the government is, for the most part, treated as another creditor in consumer debt solutions, such as a consumer proposal or personal bankruptcy, CRA does have additional collection powers, granted to it under our tax laws.

As licensed insolvency trustees, one of the first things we advise a debtor is not to fall behind in filing your tax returns.  Whether you can pay131 what you owe or not, you should file your return before the deadline to avoid additional filing penalties.

What Can CRA Do?

Often, CRA will collect tax money owed by garnishing your pay cheque or by putting a freeze on your bank account. While other creditors can also garnish your wages, CRA unlike others, does not require a court order to do so.

If you are self-employed, CRA has to the option to send a notice to the company or companies that contract your services, and garnish your contract payments at source.

Credit Counselling Tips

CRA has the statutory right to register a lien on your house. They will also continue to charge penalties and interest until the debt is paid back in full. It is important to note that once CRA registers a lien on your home, this lien cannot be discharged by filing a consumer proposal or bankruptcy. If you find yourself in a position where you think that CRA may register a lien on your property, it is a good idea to seek out a Licensed Insolvency Trustee such as Spergel to get advice.

Can I Negotiate My Tax Debt with the Government?

Generally, it is not advisable to negotiate directly with CRA to try to reduce your debt size. Agents at CRA do not have the authority to accept a reduced amount. There is a Taxpayer Relief program that allows for the reduction of penalties and interest in some cases, including natural disasters, deaths, health problems, financial hardships and mistakes made by the CRA.

However, applying for Tax Relief is a formal process that usually requires professional help to complete properly.

Try to Renegotiate Your Repayment Terms

With tax debt, if you try to renegotiate your repayment terms directly with CRA by proving how much can afford to pay on a monthly basis. You will likely receive a questionnaire asking you to account for your monthly expenses.

Repay Tax Debt

Your debt will have to be paid in full, and whether or not you get relief from penalties and interest is up to CRA.

Seek Legal Protection from Tax Debt Collection

If you cannot pay your tax debt, then you would be wise to seek out the counsel of a Licensed Insolvency Trustee, such as Spergel, to protect your wages and assets through filing either a consumer proposal or personal bankruptcy.

A consumer proposal may allow you to settle your debt for less that the full amount owed. In a consumer proposal, all creditors, including the government, are presented the same proposal offer – usually a better recovery than they would receive through the bankruptcy process.

With a consumer proposal, your creditors have 45 days to vote on the proposal offer presented. If need be, your Licensed Insolvency Trustee can present counter offers to your creditors on your behalf to have the proposal accepted. If creditors representing more than half the value your debt accept the proposal, they all are bound by it, including CRA.

If CRA is your single largest creditor and has the controlling vote in such a negotiation, you may have to meet with them to work out the proposal terms. They will require that all your outstanding tax returns are filed, that you have sufficient income to make your payments and that you make installments on your current taxes, so you do not fall further behind in the next year.

Filing for Bankruptcy to Cope with Tax Debt

If you are unable to negotiate a tax debt settlement or consumer proposal, filing for bankruptcy is the last option to eliminate your tax debt. Income tax and HST/GST debts are covered in a bankruptcy and eliminated upon discharge.

If you owe CRA more than $200,000 for personal income tax debt and that amount represents 75% or more of your unsecured debts, then you are not eligible for an automatic discharge from bankruptcy. You will have to attend a discharge hearing in court during which your discharge may be made conditional on certain duties.

Dealing with tax debt is a complicated matter and requires the expertise of an experienced Licensed Insolvency Trustee to best advise you on your options.

Contact us today, at Spergel, for a free consultation, so we can review your particular circumstances and set you on the road to true tax relief.

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