Following the enactment of the Bankruptcy Abuse and Consumer Protection Act of 2005, debtors must pass a means test to qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Basically, to qualify you must have little to no disposable income. The means test compares your average monthly income for the six-month period preceding your bankruptcy filing against the median income of a comparable household in your state of residence. Generally, this is not an issue since those filing for Chapter 7 likely have an income that’s significantly below the median.
Even if your income is above the median, there may still be some options. If, due to your income, you do not initially pass the means test, you then complete the means test form in its entirety. Rather than qualifying based on your income, this step entails a balancing process where your overall expenses are weighed against your income. Not all expenses are allowable under this test. But if after deducting the allowable expense from your income you are left with little to no income, you will probably be eligible to file for Chapter 7. This second step of balancing expenses against income is particularly complex, and it is strongly advised that it be conducted with the assistance of an experienced bankruptcy attorney.
Regarding Chapter 13 bankruptcy eligibility, it’s important to remember that you cannot file in the name of a business (not even for a sole proprietorship). For this reason, businesses are generally steered towards Chapter 11. However, even if you are a business owner you can still qualify for Chapter 13 as an individual and still run your business. Business-related debts can be included under Chapter 13 if they are debts for which you are personally liable.
To be eligible for Chapter 13, you must demonstrate to the bankruptcy court that you have enough income (after subtracting certain allowed expense and any required payments on secured debts like an auto loan or mortgage) to meet your repayment obligations. If your secured debts exceed $1,184,200, you are not eligible for Chapter 13.