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Am I still responsible for paying debt or taxes if I receive a 1099-C?


Am I still responsible for paying debt or taxes if I receive a 1099-C?

Receiving a 1099-C form for cancellation of debt may seem like your creditor has forgiven your obligation to pay. However, the tax and legal implications are more complicated. You may still owe taxes on the cancelled debt amount. And in some cases, creditors can reinstate the debt obligation if you do not meet certain conditions.

This guide will examine the key questions around 1099-C forms, debt collection, and taxes. It will help you understand your rights and responsibilities if a creditor reports cancelled debt to the IRS.

What is a 1099-C Form?

A 1099-C form, also known as “Cancellation of Debt”, is issued by a creditor when they have discharged or forgiven a debt obligation of $600 or more. They must file this form with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for tax reporting purposes.

You, the debtor, will also receive a copy of the 1099-C form from the creditor. This serves as notice that they have written off your debt account and reported the amount to the IRS as potential taxable income.

Example 1099-C form

Common reasons a creditor may issue a 1099-C for cancelled debt include:

  • Settling for less than you owe
  • Bankruptcy filing and discharge
  • Expiration of statute of limitations
  • Foreclosure or repossession

The arrival of a 1099-C does not automatically mean you are off the hook for the debt. Creditors can still try collecting in many cases. The form simply reports activity to the IRS.

Do I Owe Taxes on Cancelled Debt?

In most cases, yes – cancelled debt reported on a 1099-C is counted as taxable income by the IRS. Certain exceptions apply, including:

  • Debt discharged through bankruptcy
  • Debt forgiven on your primary residence
  • Debt cancelled when you were insolvent

Unless you qualify for an exclusion, you must report the amount of cancelled debt on your tax return as ordinary income. This increases your tax liability. Failure to report can lead to an audit, penalties, and other enforcement action.

You can receive a 1099-C in the year the debt was cancelled, or in a later tax year if the creditor was unable to locate you beforehand. Either way, the IRS expects you to report cancelled debt as income on your taxes.

What if I Can’t Afford the Tax Bill?

If cancelled debt reported on a 1099-C creates a large tax liability you cannot afford, you may have options including:

Consult a tax professional as soon as you receive a 1099-C to assess your available options. You still need to file your tax return on time.

Can Creditors Rescind the 1099-C?

Yes, in some cases the creditor can effectively rescind or nullify the 1099-C they issued. This happens if:

  • They sent it by mistake or accidentally
  • You take certain actions that void the cancellation

For individual creditors, they can require the 1099-C be disregarded if you make certain acknowledgements about the debt. For example, agreeing in writing that you are still obligated to make payments would nullify the 1099-C.

The creditor must send you written notice by January 31 of the year following the 1099-C if they intend to rescind it. This gives you time to amend your tax return.

Do I Still Owe the Debt After 1099-C?

Receiving a 1099-C does not prevent creditors from attempting to collect on the cancelled debt in every scenario. If the debt is still within the statute of limitations, they may resume collection activity down the road.

Many creditors include reinstatement clauses in their 1099-C acknowledgement forms they send to debtors. This essentially nullifies the cancellation if you take actions like:

  • Agreeing you are legally obligated to pay
  • Making a good faith partial payment
  • Entering a payment plan
  • Securing the debt with collateral

However, consumer rights advocates argue this violates the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which prohibits unfair practices. Disputing a reinstated 1099-C debt is possible in some cases.

What About Zombie Debt Collectors?

“Zombie debt” collectors attempt to collect very old debt that is often past the statute of limitations and already written off. They frequently target debts where a 1099-C was issued in order to get unsuspecting consumers to make a payment or reset the statute of limitations.

You have rights – don’t let zombie collectors fool you into making payments on cancelled debts. Verify the statute has not expired and seek legal help responding to illegal collection practices.

Strategies for Dealing with 1099-C Debt

If you receive a 1099-C for cancelled debt, here are smart financial strategies to protect yourself:

  1. Consult a tax professional about your reporting requirements and any exclusion opportunities.
  2. Ask the creditor for details on whether they still deem the debt enforceable.
  3. Review the statute of limitations on collection for the type of debt.
  4. Avoid making payments or written acknowledgements of the debt.
  5. Keep records of your income and expenses to support insolvency if excluded.
  6. Seek legal assistance responding to creditor collection activity after a 1099-C.

Document all communications, dated notices, financial circumstances, and tax reporting details. This creates a paper trail in case you need to dispute issues related to the 1099-C down the road.

Getting Legal Help with 1099-C Debt

If you need assistance understanding the implications of cancelled debt or dealing with collection attempts after receiving a 1099-C form, here are some additional resources:

Understanding the implications of a 1099-C form is key to protecting your financial and legal rights. Carefully review any notices and obligations related to cancelled debt to avoid pitfalls.

Delancey Street is here for you

Our team is available always to help you. Regardless of whether you need advice, or just want to run a scenario by us. We take pride in the fact our team loves working with our clients - and truly cares about their financial and mental wellbeing.

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