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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Engaged in business for the purposes of the Statement of Financial Affairs/other forms

In every bankruptcy petition the debtor must complete a "Statement of Financial Affairs". Part of which is directed to those debtors who have been "engaged in a business". If so, then questions 19 - 25 must be answered. The requirement to furnish this info is if you have are currently or have been in the past 6 years a director, officer, partner, sole proprietor, self employed, are or were a managing executive or have had an ownership interest of more than 5% of the voting or equity securities of a corporation.

In my experience many clients often don't consider what they may have been doing as being engage in a business to a level sufficient for the requirement to report to kick in. For example...an adult with a paper route, someone selling handmade jewelry on ebay or craft shows, someone with a rental property collecting rents, etc., etc. All of these examples are considered businesses in the eyes of the bankruptcy court. In both Chapter 7 & Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases the interest in the business (if active) should be scheduled as a property interest (valuation for these purposes is another topic). The income or expense relative to the business should be noted on schedules I & J (the income and expense schedules). Plus the information regarding the business entered into the Statement of Financial Affairs (whether an on-going/active business or not). For the statement of financial affairs the interest should be identified as to the structure of the business...be it a corporation, LLC, partnership or sole proprietor. The tax id will be required (or the last 4 digits of the debtor's social security number). I plug in what the extent of the ownership interest is and who the other owners might be, if any. Plus a general description of what the business activity was....real estate development, remodeling, paper route, jewelry sales...what have you. Lastly, the starting and finishing dates if it is a business no longer operating and/or a start date for an on-going enterprise. There are also questions as to whether there have been any recent financial statements, who has keep the books, who is in possession of the business records, etc. Most of the time this is all fairly simple but it is important info to disclose and the trustee will make inquiries about the business at the creditor's meeting for sure. Basically they want to know if there are any assets there or have been transfers of assets to business creditors or other involved persons in order to determine if there is something there that the bankruptcy estate would be entitled to administer for the benefit of creditors.

Also, the local rules where I practice in Minnesota state that in chapter 13 cases any debtor with a business which generates $200 or more revenues is required to submit a "Business income and expense" form. This form indicates what the revenues were for the past 12 calendar months, what the expected monthly income will be going forward and what the anticipated expenses will be on a monthly basis. The expenses need to be broken down with particularity in terms of how much per month for what category of expense. I generally don't do a breakdown for this in chapter 7 although the trustee or U.S. Trustee could certainly request this information if desired.

So, at a minimum...if someone is generating at least $200 a month doing whatever it is they do and it isn't for wages (comissioned people are often running a business..anyone who is 1099'd is running a business) the we fill out these forms...and most often even if it is less. Best practice is to disclose all the information rather than to leave it out which could raise issues of bad faith due to the failure to disclose.

If you've got questions regarding personal or small business bankruptcy matters we'd be glad to help.

David D. Kingsbury, Atty.
Kingsbury Law Office
(952) 432-4388

http://www.kingsburylawoffice.com/

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