Just Received a 1099-C? Don't Freak Out!

By Gerri Detweiler

Over the past week we’ve been flooded with panicked questions from taxpayers who are freaking out after have receiving 1099-C or 1099-A forms for debts that were forgiven, never paid back or wiped out in bankruptcy. The main theme of these questions is “Do I have to pay taxes on the amount on the 1099-C (or 1099-A)?”—usually followed by “HELP!!?”

My first piece of advice: Take a deep breath! You may not have to pay taxes on the amount of the income listed on the 1099-C or 1099-A.

At the same time, doing nothing is not an option. If you got a 1099-C or 1099-A, so did the IRS. That means you must explain to the IRS why that amount should not be included in your income. If you don’t, the IRS will assume that money counts toward your income and you may either get a smaller tax refund than you expected or, worse: A bill from the IRS.

How can you avoid including that amount in your taxable income? By showing that you qualify for an exclusion or exception. I described these in my previous article, How to Avoid Taxes on Cancelled Debt, and more details are also available on the IRS website. You may be able to simply fill out Form 982, claim an exclusion or exception, and be done with it. Sometimes it’s more complicated than that, though, and you need to work with a tax professional.

[Related Article: 1099-A In the Mail? How to Avoid Taxes on Cancelled Debt]

Here are a couple of examples of questions we received recently about 1099-Cs:

1099-C for Debt Wiped Out in Bankruptcy

I included my automobile with my bankruptcy in 2010, it was a Chapter 7. However I received a 1099 for the car that I included in the bankruptcy. What do I do now? Must I pay the taxes on this large amount even though it was included in my bankruptcy? Please help.

Debt that was discharged in bankruptcy can be excluded from your taxable income. Take a look at Form 982. At the top of the form you’ll see box 1 a. Discharge of indebtedness in a title 11 case. (Don’t be confused by the reference to “Title 11¿—that’s just the part of U.S. Code that covers bankruptcy).  You can check that box. Then on Line 2, you’ll put the amount that was discharged in your bankruptcy for that debt and any others that were reported on a 1099-C. That amount will be excluded from your income. It should be simple enough.

[Related Article: 1099-C In the Mail? How to Avoid Taxes on Cancelled Debt]

Student Loans Cancellation

My student loans were discharged. I am on Social Security. Do I have to file the 1099-C I received for $62,000? My student loans were discharged due to total disability and I don’t file taxes because Social Security is non-taxable….HELP!!!!