Proof of income is an important part of the bankruptcy filing process. You must show the bankruptcy court exactly how much money you have made in the six months before filing. Your income is "means tested", which determines whether you have the ability to pay your creditors, based on your household size and income.
The means test amounts are set by the court, and are periodically updated. This is explained in greater detail elsewhere in this blog. The important issue for now is how do you show and calculate your income? If you have a regular employer who issues pay stubs, this should be quite simple. Gather up your last six months of pay stubs for your bankruptcy attorney (you may need to speak to your payroll department if you do not keep them). Your bankruptcy attorney should be able to quickly determine what you have earned.
However, calculating your means test income is a bit trickier if you are self-employed or engaged in non-traditional work. The most common recent example is ride sharing, such as Uber or Lyft. If you work as a ride sharing driver, you will probably not receive a traditional pay stub. Both of these companies provide summaries online, which you will need to forward to your bankruptcy attorney. However, these summaries do not include proof of taxes paid, which is done directly by the driver. They also do not disclose your expenses, such as gas and auto maintenance. You will need to separately provide your bankruptcy attorney with proof of taxes paid, or other expenses.
Other types of self-employment raise similar, sometimes even trickier, issues. If you are a self-employed contractor for instance, you may need to provide your attorney with 12 months of income and expense statements. Not only must you show your gross deposits, you must also show corresponding expenses for things such as materials. If you are involved in sales, your income may be irregular and dependent on commissions. You will need to provide this information. You will want to speak to an experienced bankruptcy attorney if you are self-employed, as this can be a complicated area of the law which you will need guided through.
If you are not employed, there are other types of "income" you must be prepared to show the bankruptcy court. Unemployment compensation is income for bankruptcy purposes, and therefore must be disclosed. The state unemployment website allows you to access a summary of all benefits paid. If you receive Social Security or pension income, you will want to find your yearly benefits letter as proof of income. If you receive a regular contribution towards your expenses from a spouse or loved one, you must be prepared to calculate exactly how much for your attorney. Regardless of what type of income you receive, it must be disclosed to the bankruptcy court.
One final point, you must also disclose the income of your spouse, if you are not separated. This is even true if they are not filing. So, everything from above will apply the same for your spouse. The means test is for household income, which will include spousal income (once again, assuming you are not legally separated).
Your bankruptcy attorney will discuss these issue in greater detail, but if you are considering whether or not to file, it would not hurt to gather up this information. It will be the first step towards determining your eligibility to file. Contact us if you would like to schedule a free, one-hour consultation to review your income and debts.