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It is Finally Over ... or is it?

July 2nd, 2008 at 10:46 am

The debt settlement chapter of my life is finally over. I have managed to bring all my debts current and settled a massive amount of credit card debt. Now my credit will start to rebound and maybe after a year or two, I will be considered credit worthy again. I've seen this with my clients so I know that it does rebound; much better than filing a bankruptcy that stays on your credit for 10 years and would have ruined my career. I settled the following debts:

BOA - Settled at 38%
Chase - Settled at 45%
Citi - Settled at 38%
Discover - Settled at 50%
Sears - Paid down $1350 and am making 0% interest on the remaining $6,100 in credit card debt.

My total savings was $78918.93. It's not over yet; I will get 1099's from each credit card company and I have to count that as income; so I had a very good year and I wish I had made that much at my job.

Fortunately the IRS has an insolvent provision (publication 908, form 982; cancellation of debt) so you take your financial position at each point of debt settlement (the day you paid) and if your liabilities exceed your assets, you are insolvent. According to my calculations; I'm insolvent to the tune of the first $45,000, that means I have to pay tax on $33,918.93 at possibly 28%, which would be approximately $9,500. I generally get $5,000 back in a tax refund so I will need about $4,500 when I file taxes next April. I am definately going to need a tax professional to help me deal with this; the last thing I want is a tax audit.

My saving grace will be if I can sell the house and make about $15,000; that will solve the tax problem and the rest of the funds would go toward the $26,000 401k loan I have remaining; I had to take out a 401k loan to settle this mess. I'm fortunate that that is all I owe, I was able to save money, sell possessions and had some money given to me by my DH. If I do not sell the house, I could make installments to the IRS until next filing,in 2010, when I would get enough back to pay them in full. I've talked to them at length and they have a 5 year, 8% interest installment plan (I don't need another payment, but if I can't save enough between now and then, I will have to do it; I don't want a tax lien on my house or a freeze on my bank account).

So I should feel a great relief right now, but I have a tendency to worry about unfinished business. I guess I consider this unfinished until the IRS is done with me. I have considered consulting with a tax professional in the next few months just to be sure I'm understanding everything properly. I have filed my own taxes for several years, but I've never had this situation before and the tax instructions and definitions of assets and liabilities are vague.

So technically, I went from $135,000 in credit card debt to $26,000 in the form of a 401k loan, $6,100 I still owe Sears and $9,500 in tax implications; a total debt still owed of $41,600. So in the last six months I have reduced my debt by $93,400. That is truly amazing when you look at it in dollars and cents. My goal is to pay off that debt by the end of next year. I have several plans on how I will do that, including selling the current house I live in; this housing market has to turn around soon.

Don't get me wrong here; I'm very grateful and thankful that I've been able to clean up and reorganize this situation I'm in. I feel truly blessed and feel there was some devine intervention here.

Settlement & Afraid to Talk About It

February 7th, 2008 at 10:49 am

My largest debt is with Bank of America, it is at $59,900 right now with the interest and late fees. I had a dream on Tuesday night that they were suing me for the balance. I woke up at 2:00 am and couldn't go back to sleep.

For those who been following me, you know I have that "Privacy Corp" ID machine that let's my calls go to the machine and I don't hear it ring. I thought I had all the collectors so far, programmed in. So my mother is traveling and I was concerned about her and the phone rang and I assumed it was her, well it was BOA. I had not planned to talk to them again until March because I'm not yet 90 days.

So I told them my situation, which has not changed and told them I'm looking to settle my debt. The nice gentleman I spoke with offered me a settlement of $21,000, I asked for $18,000, so he told me he would go see his manager and call me back. He called me back with bad news, they wanted $27,000, which I don't have available to me right now and it would throw off my settlement plan making me short to settle all my debts. So he hooked me up with the Manager, she thought I was threatenig her with a bankruptcy which I told her I was not, but .... that didn't go well. She then told me that if I did not settle, she was sending me to arbitration, that means legal and they make the decision to sue me or not to sue and she told me they would sue me and garnish my wages and put a lien against my house. So then she and I compromised and we finally settled at $23,000. A little more than I have right now, but she let me spread it over 4 months so my tax refund will be here and I'll have enough. That is a 38% settlement and I'll take it with the threat of being sued over me. My account was large and it is usually the large ones that get sued.

I didn't realize how much this has been bothering me, I knew it was upsetting and I thought I was dealing with it okay, but after I hung up I literally cried for an hour and then I broke down a few more times during the day. I was mentally wiped out and couldn't do much the rest of the day. I am still in shock that they settled with me and I'm so relieved that it has finally started and I was able to take care of my biggest account.

The bad news is I have $74,500 still in credit card debt to settle with four more creditors. I owe Discover $25,000 and they are they are about 70 days deliquent now and will probably be willing to talk to me in another month.
I checked out my 401k plan and I can now borrow more money than they told me I could, because I've lost so much money lately, I decided to put in a loan request so I can start planning how to finish this up.

There is a God and I may survive this (knock on wood).

Saving Money for Debt Settlement

January 22nd, 2008 at 07:29 pm

I had some good news today, I was reviewing my tax information and have found that I'm getting back $5,000 in my income tax refund; I'm still waiting for some tax forms for mortgage interest and etc., but I looked them up on line to rough out my taxes. So now I can look at possible funds available to settle debt:

$22,000 Family Loan
5,000 Income Tax Refund
2,000 Loan Repayment
3,300 Hardship W/D
7,000 Sale of Used Car
5,000 Projected Savings
& Misc. Items Sold
$44,300

Finally, my Ace in the Hole is my loan against my retirement, if I have to settle in June I will have $18,000 available bringing the total to $62,300.
Assuming the debt creaps up to $150,000 and I can settle all his at 40% ($60,000), I would have enough for now, then later I'll need money for the IRS. I'm still not getting a clear answer from the''m on 1099C reporting. I've had two different answers so far and it basically comes down to the IRS and what they think.

When reading the guidelines it says that if a creditor forgives a debt, they must report it that year. However, the IRS says that if they do not write it off that year they don't have to file the 1099. Further, she told me that if I get the 1099C two years from now, that would be the point of settlement and I look at my insolvent position at that time. Otherwise, after I get everything resolved, then I get a 1099C and I'm no longer insolvent, I would pay tax because the credit card company didn't write it off yet. I believe that if I get a settlement in writing and I write a check, that is the point of settlement (the effective date the transaction occurred). I would fight this with tax lawyer. I don't think any of what she said made sense. So further would not give me a direct answer on "fair market value" on a home at time of settlement, says town has a value, I have a value and an appraiser has a value and the IRS would look at any documentation I had and decide. So the whole town was just assessed by a professional company and they came into my home, I would consider that an accurate figure? Oh she didn't know, only an audit would tell for sure.

I asked her if I could report 1099C cancelled debt withou a 1099C? Definately not, you have to wait for the issuing creditor. Even that doesn't sound right, I have read that if you do not get a 1099C you are still obligated to report it as income. So no real answers just more confusion.

I had an interesting call from Bank of America yesterday, I know I said I wasn't going to talk to them, but after they threatened to send me to collection, I figured I'd see what that meant. Well she just went over my scenario then she said she would let everyone know nothing had changed and I was still working to get together some money. Within an hour of her call, they called three more times last night. I didn't answer the phone because I had programmed it not to ring and it was on my caller ID and they left no message. This is not going to be good. Numerous calls a day from all these creditors jamming up my phone.

So good news, not so good news and confusion. Tomorrow is another day!

Talking to Creditors

January 18th, 2008 at 10:55 am

Last night I received a call from Bank of America. They called to advise me that my account was now being transferred to collection (I thought I was in collections, they are calling almost daily). They further advised if I could give them $$$$ they would not send it to collections.

So I'm thinking to myself, this person is doing their job so I'm going to be real here. I tell the guy that if I had the money I would have paid my payment, I explain my financial situation and my lack of income. I further explain that I can't sell my home and pay them because my house is worth what I owe, a company that big and one that deals with mortgages, has to know about the housing crisis (they are buying Countrywide; what is up with that?).

I advise him I'm totally insolvent, owing more than I'm worth, I further inform him that I will be getting assistance from family and etc. to "settle" my debts with them. I advise him that I have consulted with a bankruptcy attorney and that is an option, but because of my strong convictions to pay what I can, I will settle with them at a later date.

The gentleman I spoke with was very nice and told me he was sorry to hear about my situation and wished me the best. He said he was following policy transferring my account to internal collections and he also said that later on I may be able to settle.

I then had a conversation with him about the IRS rules about cancelled debt. I told him that the lawyer had encouraged me to file bankruptcy because of the tax liability associated with cancelled debt and that with the state of our economy, I would think that the major credit card companies would lobby to eliminate that tax because it discourages people trying to settle their debt and this must be affecting the credit card companies and the number of filings people are doing (Bank of America was one of the biggest advocates for changing the bankruptcy laws and they lobbied for the change). He eluded that there may be other tax benefits to the credit card companies when a person files bankruptcy? Hmmmm, never thought about that.

With all the talk from the politicians about reducing tax and etc., you would think with all the foreclosures and credit issues people are suffering today, the cancelled debt tax would be eliminated, a good place to start instead of cutting tax for the rich.

To those readers who do not know about this tax, if you have debt that is forgiven, you will receive a 1099C and you have to claim this forgiven debt as income. Otherwise, if I have a credit card for $20,000 and I settle for $5,000, I will have a 1099C for $15,000, which I am to count as income on my income tax forms that year. However, if I am insolvent, meaning I owe more than I'm worth, I can file IRS form 982 and not be taxed on the 1099C to the amount of my net worth. Otherwise, if I owe $100,000 and I only have $50,000 in assets, I do not have to claim the first $50,000 in 1099C income. The flip side of this is if you file Bankrutpcy, you are exempt from the tax (doesn't that encourage bankrutpcy for many people?)

Well the wheels are rolling now and it will still be several months before I can settle. The credit card companies raised my rates from 2.99% to 29.99% and they are charging over limit fees of $39.00 per month and late charges of $39.99 per month, really trying to help me out here. Most credit cards will not settle until you are at least 120 to 180 days delinquent. I need the time to save money and pull things together, but there is a part of me that just wants this all over now. I can't imagine how much I will owe when I get to settlement, probably at least $150,000 - it scares me just writing it.