Frank H. Coxwell, PC

A paper written by David Bernstein, an economist at the U.S. Treasury, argues that credit card debt can play a part in families losing their homes and that this debt is deepening the mortgage crisis.  He posted this paper as a private citizen, but utilized information from the Survey of Consumer Finance.  Credit card debt, mortgage foreclosures, and access to bankruptcy are linked.

He studied families whose mortgage payments take more than 40% of their income.  Within this group, it is 21 times more likely that they will default on their mortgage payments than people who utilize less than 40% of their income to pay for their mortgage.  But, if these families eliminated their credit card debt, about 1.5 million households could bring their mortgage payments down below that 40% range and increase their chances significantly in keeping their homes.

He also noted that in order to save their homes, more homeowners should consider bankruptcy.  Even if you can’t redo your mortgage, if they were to write off enough of their other debt, they would be able to make their payments.  Bankruptcy offers many more options than people realize and often is significant in helping families to receive a modification to their mortgage.

Yes. You can file bankruptcy in the US if you do not have a Social Security Number (SSN).

  1. There is no requirement that you be a US citizen to file for bankruptcy in the US.
  2. There is no requirement that someone be a US resident to file for bankruptcy in the US.
  3. There is no requirement that someone be in the US legally to file for bankruptcy in the US.
  4. There is no requirement that someone live in the US to file for bankruptcy in the US.
  5. There is no requirement that someone have a SSN to file for bankruptcy in the US.

11 USC 109 states that a person “that resides or has a domicile, place of business, or property in the United States, or a municipality, may be a debtor under this title.”  Debtor meaning a petitioner, bankruptcy filer, person who wants to file bankruptcy.

If you do not have a SSN, you may need to sign a statement to that effect or you could request an ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number) from the IRS . These are provided by the IRS to those who cannot obtain a SSN.  Although you may file a bankruptcy without a SSN, you must provide acceptable proof of identity at your bankruptcy 341 meeting. Continue reading

There are 4 ways you can get a copy of your tax return information or transcripts.  If you are filing bankruptcy, you will need a copy of the last 2 (two) years filed tax returns regardless of whether you owe(d) taxes or receive(d) a refund.  Example – if you were filing bankruptcy in March 2015 and had not filed taxes yet for 2014 (not due until April 2015), you would need a copy of 2012 & 2013 tax returns.  If you were filing bankruptcy in May 2015, you would need a copy of 2013 & 2014 tax returns (unless you had filed an extension for 2014).  Unless you are exempt from filing (click here to see who is exempt), you must have filed all the tax returns that are due prior to filing for bankruptcy.

If you have lost your copy, there 4 ways to gain another copy of your tax return or transcript for whichever years you are in need of:

  1. Online – go to www.irs.gov and click on “Order a Tax Return or Account Transcript”.
  2. Call 1-800-908-9946 and follow the voice instructions.
  3. Mail – IRS Form 4506-T or Form 4506-T-EZ “Request for Transcript of Tax Return”.  The forms are available online (see #1 above) or by calling 1-800-829-3676.  The transcripts will be mailed to your home address, at no charge.  You must allow 5-10 days delivery time.
  4. Go to IRS office – There is an IRS Tax Department office located at 100 W Capitol Street, Jackson, MS. You may have to wait in line, etc, but if you are in a rush and do not have online access, it is possible to go to the IRS office and obtain a copy on the spot.  There may be other office locations that can assist you.  Look online or call the nearest IRS office and see if they provide this service. Not all locations provide the same services.

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As part of the Federal Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions (FACT) Act, every Mississippi Resident is eligible to receive one free Personal Credit Report every 12 months from each of the nationwide credit reporting companies. To learn more, please visit the FACT Act Central Site located at:  annualcreditreport.com.  Any other web site offering you free credit reports is a scam.  There are no free credit reports available other than on this site.

To order your free credit reports chose one of the following methods, Internet, Mail or Telephone:
1.    Go to the internet site at annualcreditreport.com and order or print online.
2.    Print out the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to:
Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.
3.    Call 1-877-322-8228 and order by phone.

Be very careful that you DO NOT agree to arbitration if you order the reports online.

Do not contact the three nationwide consumer reporting companies individually for your free annual reports. They provide free annual credit reports only through the above web site, the above telephone number, or by mail.

Note- if you have been turned down for credit in the past 60 days, then you are entitled to get a free report directly from each of the three nationwide credit bureaus each time you are denied credit.  In addition, you may also order a report  from them at anytime and if you pay their credit report fee, usually around thirty dollars. Continue reading

The E-Government Act of 2002, contains laws governing privacy of information in court files in order to protect personal, sensitive, and private data from being available to the public.  Federal courts had to immediately update their rules and practices to be compliant with this Act.  These rules state that personal identifying information is prohibited and local rules also contain cautions and restrictions on the disclosure of other information deemed sensitive.

Specifically listed as examples of personal identifying information were:

  • Social Security Numbers;
  • Financial Account numbers;
  • and Birth Dates.

The following categories of information were deemed sensitive:

  • Personal identifying numbers, such as driver license numbers;
  • Medical records, treatments, and diagnoses;
  • Employment histories;
  • Personal financial information;
  • Proprietary or trade secret information.

The redacted documentrestrictions placed on personal identifying information are also applicable to sensitive information.  Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 5.2 and Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure 9037 also contain sections on redacting personal data before filing it in court papers.

An individual’s Social Security Number and other private information is of no use and not a concern of the general public.  Interfering with the private affairs of a individual by disclosing this sensitive and personal information intrudes upon their right to privacy and creates a risk of identity theft. Continue reading

FTC logo      If you are getting debt collection calls you are not alone. About one in seven people in Mississippi is being hounded by a debt collector. Buying debt and debt collection is a billion dollar business and becoming a larger, more complex industry. The original creditor sells their debt to a debt collector, and often they sell the same debt multiple times meaning that multiple debt collection companies are attempting to collect the same debt! Debt collectors often attempt to collect from the wrong person, overstate or inflate the amount owed by adding collection fees, and even attempt to collect debts that are not real (may have been paid in the past or was never a debt to begin with).
Along with these abuses, details of the original debt are lost or outdated. Creditors selling debt are basically selling lists that have contact information and amounts owed – and little more than that in way of details.  Collectors then may have a mixture of valid debts, debts that have been since settled, or debts that are past the statute of limitations and can no longer be collected. It’s not clear exactly how many consumers are wrongly harassed for accounts that are not their debt. Debts purchased by the large debt-buying firms have no documents, contracts or other proof of the debt. Your debt will be sold to a debt collector for pennies on the dollar. It’s not just the original credit that sells debt.  Debt collection companies then may sell the lists they have purchased to other debt collectors, who may then sell it to another, then another, and another. It’s not uncommon for people to all of a sudden be receiving debt collection calls and letters about something that happened years ago but now, the debt has shown up on a list that has been sold to another company, and here we go again. Continue reading

stop calls      First realize that you do not have to talk with the debt collectors when they call. They are not calling because they care about your situation or want to discuss your financial problems in order to help you find a solution. They want a payment, or a promise to pay, and unless you are able to give one of these things to them, there is no reason to talk. If you had the money, you would have already paid them, and if you had the money coming in, you would have already made arrangements (a promise) to pay.  They know this so they call, and call, and call, and call – thinking that the more they harass you, belittle you, etc – the more likely you are to figure out a way to pay them – they don’t care about you being able to figure out an overall solution, just that you meet their immediate demand regardless of the cost to you.  Who gets fed? Usually it’s the loudest chirping bird.  Debt collectors don’t care if all you have is the money to pay your house note – they want to be paid and the house note not getting the money is your problem. You don’t have to talk to people like this.
Keep in mind that a debt collector is required to mail you what’s called a “validation” notice within five days of first contacting you. This notice must include and lay out the amount they claim owe, the name of the creditor that they claim you owe, and what to do if you think you don’t owe this money. You then have 30 days to dispute this debt and it’s claims. You also have the right to notify them that you do not want them to call or contact you anymore. It is best that you do this in writing and send it by certified mail so you have proof of your notification to them to stop contacting you, should they continue to call.  Click here to read more about stopping debt collectors from calling.

Eggs in a basketBankruptcy exemptions are offered at the State and Federal level.  The bankruptcy exemptions determine whether or not your property is protected (exempt) and if not exempt, how much you might have to pay to creditors in order to keep it.   For example, if your household goods are valued at a total of $8,000 and the applicable exemption is $10,000, you would be able to keep (protect) all household goods.  But, if the value of your household goods are $15,000 and the exemption is only $10,000, you would need to possibly pay unsecured creditors the difference of $5,000, surrender a portion of your household goods, or take other steps that are available.

This is all an important part of bankruptcy pre-planning.  Taking a look at all your assets, establishing proper values according to how the bankruptcy courts value property, and then comparing to exemptions to determine if anything is at risk and if so, what are the options at that point. Mississippi offers great exemptions to it’s residents.

So, how do you know what bankruptcy exemptions you can use? In Mississippi, you must be a resident of this State to use Mississippi bankruptcy exemptions.  If you are not a resident, you have the option of using Federal exemptions (just moved to Mississippi, filing bankruptcy in Mississippi – your prior state won’t allow you to use their exemptions, so Federal exemptions are your only choice).  Each State determines the rules under what is allowed – whether you can use their exemptions, other States, or Federal, and if so, under what circumstances.  In Mississippi, you cannot choose to use Federal exemptions over Mississippi exemptions if you are a Mississippi resident.  You must then utilize Mississippi exemptions.

Today I had the privilege of somewhat playing that game in the 3rd grade class of Mrs. Elizabeth Rogers at Northside Elementary in Pearl, MS! I was invited to come and speak to them about being a lawyer (how to become one, what do they do, etc) and also field any questions they had on the law in general.  They have been studying the Bill of Rights and the Constitution in school. They had great questions! Kids that age of course will also ask the funniest things! I was asked if lawyers have lawyers, if lawyers can go to jail too or can you get yourself out of trouble, how much money do you make, do lawyers make the laws, and it was just a great time.  They wanted to know all about going to court, the judge, going to jail…How old do you have to be to be and/or do certain things…Several car accident questions…They were little sponges just wanting to soak in all the details.

The show “Are you smarter than a 5th grader?” is set up differently than what we did today (my wife and I love that show), but it was fun to be under the gun to answer any question that popped into their mind.   I am very appreciative of the opportunity and look forward to doing 3rd grade class_hand up 0910153rd grade class2 091015this again! 3rd grade class_FC hand 091015 Northside Elementary Pearl MS

Beware of swapping your domestic obligations with your former spouse.  Substituting debts or replacing property that was originally the former spouse’s obligation or asset can bring about unforeseen consequences.

Example:  The former wife was awarded the marital home, and the former husband was required to pay the mortgage until satisfied.  His business began to falter and he could not continue paying the mortgage.  In order to assist him, the former wife agreed to let him use the home as collateral for a new loan, which both parties signed.  In the former husband’s bankruptcy case, his obligation to the former wife was discharged (wiped out) because the new loan constituted a new debt that was not covered by or arising out of the parties’ marital dissolution agreement or divorce decree.  So the former wife’s choices are now to remain responsible for the debts of which the home is collateral or to discuss filing her own bankruptcy.

Please consult with a bankruptswapping moneycy attorney to discuss options to do to deal with debts that are overtaking you for whatever reason. And especially – never, never, never put your home up for collateral to deal with other debts without consulting with a bankruptcy attorney first.  It may seem backwards but there is nobody better to consult with on how to deal with debt (and to try to avoid bankruptcy) than a bankruptcy attorney.  Seeking advice early is the key. In the above example, a lot of heart ache, a home, and possibly even a business could have been spared if this advice had been followed.