Taxpayers often have limited control over the timing of bankruptcy filings and the resolution of their tax disputes with the Internal Revenue Service. The timing of these events are generally dictated by the schedules of others, including the creditors of the debtors, IRS employees, and the courts. As added complexity, a taxpayer's older and open tax years may be in very different procedural postures at the time of a bankruptcy filing. Some years may be under IRS examination, while others may not yet be opened for examination, in IRS Appeals, have refund claims pending, or be in litigation.
The bankruptcy code is designed to provide debtors with a fresh start, including protection from creditors and for the resolution of claims. This over-arching principle also applies to disputes with the IRS by providing considerable protections against IRS collection efforts, including an alternative forum to the Tax Court for pre-payment litigation of tax disputes. There are also many potential pitfalls as well, and taxpayers facing potential bankruptcy proceedings should plan ahead.
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