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Bankruptcy Without a Filing Fee

Like all court filings, bankruptcy cases require filing fees, which are to be paid on the part of debtors. The filing fees for bankruptcy cases are standardized and vary only by the chapter of bankruptcy protection filed:

  • Chapter 7 filing fee is set at $299.
  • The fee to file a Chapter 11 for a corporation is $1,039.
  • The filing fee for filing a Chapter 13 case is $274.
  • For Chapter 12 family farmers, the filing fee is $239.

Filing Fee Waivers

If a debtor cannot afford to pay the filing fee, either in full at the time the bankruptcy case is filed or in multiple installments, then the debtor or his or her counsel may request a filing fee waiver. There are very specific eligibility requirements for debtors seeking to qualify for filing fee waiver protections under the federal government's existing fee waiver program. There is a particular court form required for making such a request. That form is Official Court Form B3B. The form must be filed with the clerk of court for the local jurisdiction's bankruptcy court.

It is up to the bankruptcy judge presiding over the case to decide whether he or she will grant the debtor's request for a filing fee waiver. Under applicable bankruptcy laws, a bankruptcy judge is permitted to waive a debtor's filing fee only if that debtor's income is less than 150 percent of official poverty guidelines for the debtor's respective family size, and the debtor cannot pay the filing fee even if permitted to do so in installments.

Next Steps

When a bankruptcy debtor requests a filing fee waiver, the bankruptcy court must immediately determine if the debtor's waiver request will be granted. Once the Court makes that determination, the decision is conveyed to the United States Trustee or bankruptcy administrator (depending on jurisdiction), particular panel or standing trustee assigned to the case, debtor, and debtor's counsel.

If the bankruptcy court denies a debtor's request for a fee waiver, bankruptcy laws mandate that the debtor receive notification of that decision within a reasonable time period. Such period is usually defined as 10 days. If a debtor's request for fee waiver is denied, he or she is still permitted to pay the filing fee in full at the time of filing or in installments over time. Failure to pay the filing fee in full or on time if making installments may result in the immediate dismissal of the debtor's bankruptcy case by the bankruptcy court. Likewise, if the court learns during a case that a debtor could have afforded a filing fee that was waived, it will vacate the waiver, require the debtor to pay the filing fee, and dismiss the bankruptcy case if the fee is not paid.

Regardless of a debtor's ability to pay the bankruptcy filing fee, being knowledgeable about the fee basis and the options available to those in debt can be invaluable.