Pass the Means Test in Bankruptcy

For individuals filing Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 they have to take a Means Test. What is it? You have to list all the gross income in the family and compare it to certain standards. 

What Chapter Do I File Based on My Income?

If your gross family income is above a certain amount they want you to file a Chapter 13 instead of Chapter 7.

Most people’s income is simple. They can file Chapter 7. 

One has to list the gross income of everyone in the immediate family and list the number in the immediate family. The total is compared to amounts on a table. If the total is below the threshold: that’s it.

For some, the Means Test may prevent you from filing Chapter 7 or it presents a challenge.

Points to consider

  • The Means Test does not include Social Security benefits
  • To determine the number in the household include children and children away at college; relatives living with you like grandchildren, siblings, nieces, and nephews; significant other living with you including their children. Also, anyone who lives with you who are dependent on you.
  • While you must list the income of others living with you can deduct their expenses.
  • In addition to deductions built-in, there is a slew of other deductions you can take advantage of. Experienced lawyers know what to look for to defeat the Means Test or reduce its effect.
# In Household Monthly Income 6 Month Total Annual Income 
1 4,831 28991 57,983
2 6383 38301 76,602
3 7631 45790 91,581
4 8935 53613 107,226
Add for each additional person 750 4,500 9,000

Census Bureau Median Family Income By Family Size

Other Points to consider

  • Overtime wages and bonuses must be included. But, sometimes they can be disregarded.
  • Separated married couples can file together but there will be two (2) Means Tests.
  • Dependents do not necessarily have to be listed as dependents on your Income Tax.


The Means Test can often be defeated to allow one to file Chapter 7. Or, the Means Test can be analyzed to pay a Chapter 13 dividend of less than 100%. We have had clients who had to file Chapter 13 pay a dividend as low as 10% to unsecured creditors.

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