If I Go Bankrupt, What Happens to My Wages?

Are you finding it hard to pay your debts and considering bankruptcy? You are not on your own. Each month, over 170,000 people visit our website seeking advice on how to handle debt.

In this guide, we’ll explain:

  •  What bankruptcy means
  •  How you become bankrupt
  •  If it’s the right choice for you
  •  How to apply for bankruptcy and what it costs
  • How bankruptcy affects your life and credit record

In 2021, Citizens Advice helped approximately 280,000 individuals in England and Wales with debt, emphasizing the escalating issue of personal debt.1

Our team knows how hard this situation can be because some of us have also experienced the burden of debt. With our experience, we’ll help you understand your options.

Does bankruptcy clear all debts?

It will prevent you from having to pay most debt – but not all types of debt.

You will no longer be asked to make payments towards debts arising from a credit card, personal loan and similar consumer debt.

But bankruptcy will not stop you from owing:

  1. Magistrate Court fines
  2. Child maintenance debt
  3. Social fund loans
  4. Student Finance debt
  5. Some other fines from the courts

You may have to pay some money from your wages to previous creditors – more on this below. 

Who is the Official Receiver?

An Official Receiver (OR) is someone who is an officer of the court and works for the Insolvency Service. 

They are made responsible for handling a bankruptcy order but sometimes your case will be dealt with by an insolvency practitioner.

Your OR will:

  • Assess how much you can afford to pay towards your debts or if you can afford to make any payments at all.
  • Inform all of your creditors that you have gone bankrupt.
  • Take control of some of your property and assets to help you pay off some of your debts.
  • Possibly distribute some of your assets amongst your creditors.
  • Inform the London Gazette of your bankruptcy.
  • Investigate your finances before and during your bankruptcy period.

Keep in mind that you have a legal duty to cooperate with your OR. This can include anything from filling in a questionnaire, to attending interviews and public examinations, or even going to a creditors’ meeting.

You must stick to any timescales that your OR gives you and you must give them any accurate information that they request.

If you have a change of financial circumstances, your OR must be informed and they may amend the terms of your bankruptcy.

If you do not stick to these terms or do not cooperate with your OR, there are consequences.

  • You will be ordered to attend a public examination.
  • If you do not attend a public examination, an arrest warrant will be issued.
  • A bankruptcy restrictions order will be placed on you.
  • Your bankruptcy may end and your creditors can once again chase their debts.

Bankruptcy Comparison

Before declaring yourself bankrupt, it’s worth considering other debt solutions. Here’s a quick table that will help you better understand the differences between them.

What happens after bankruptcy?

Once you are declared bankrupt, you no longer own your assets.

The good news is that your creditors can no longer request payments to clear your debt or start enforcement action against you.

The only times you can be contacted about debt is when you are being chased for a payment to clear debts not included when going bankrupt, such as Magistrate fines etc. 

What happens to my wages after being made bankrupt?

If you have more than £20 disposable income each month from your wages, you can be asked to make repayments towards your debts under an Income Payments Agreement (IPA).

The arrangement is put in place for three years or until you are discharged. You wont have to go to court for this to be arranged.

The exact monthly payment is worked out based on your disposable income.

Your disposable income is worked out by subtracting your living expenses from your income, but you wont have to pay it if you receive benefits with no employment.

If you refuse, you could receive an Income Payments Order (IPO) from the court.

Keep in mind that what you consider an ‘essential living expense’ may not be the same for everyone!

If, for example, you spend £150 every month on cigarettes or tobacco, your OR will almost definitely not view this as an essential living expense and this £150 may be added to your IPA payment.

If you have a private pension, it could be deemed an asset. More information can be found here

How does bankruptcy affect your job and future credit?

For most people, bankruptcy will not affect their job and they do not need to inform their employers. In limited situations, an individual could lose their job as a result.

This is most common if the person has a job in finance, including insolvency practitioners and bank workers.

But there are other jobs that can be affected, such as:

  • Regulated professions – e.g. a job in law or an accountant
  • Gambling professions – if you have a job in the gambling industry, such as a casino dealer, your license is revoked but can be reapplied for. 

You will no longer own your limited company business after bankruptcy, but you can have a sole trader business in the future. It may be difficult to get funding for any other future business. 

Bankruptcy remains on your credit file for 6 years.

During this time, it will be very difficult to take out any form of credit. It will also likely be difficult to take out credit after this 6-year period, as creditors may ask whether you have been bankrupt in the past.

Can I get insurance after bankruptcy?

If you are bankrupt, you will probably find that your insurance policies are cancelled and you are without cover.

You may find that your insurance is cancelled immediately, but in my experience, it is more common for companies to give you around two weeks to pay the instalments for the rest of the year.

If you do not pay any more instalments, your policy will end.

If you renew your insurance during your bankruptcy, your insurer will know about your status as it will appear on your credit file.

You may find that you now have to pay a higher premium.

This is because insurers know that you are more likely to miss a monthly payment because you have previously been bankrupt.

What happens to your bank account when you go bankrupt?

Your bank accounts will be frozen whilst you go through the bankruptcy application process. Many banks will then close your account. 

Do not open a new one until after you have been made bankrupt. The OR will have it frozen or closed if you do. 

Once your bankruptcy is confirmed, you may have trouble finding a new account. 

But banks now offer basic accounts with limited features that you can use to be paid wages and make in-store purchases only. 

What happens to my pension if I go bankrupt?

In my experience, most people’s pensions will not be affected by bankruptcy.

This is because any savings that are held in a pension fund are not considered an asset for bankruptcy. In almost all circumstances, your OR can’t take away those savings to pay off some of your debts.

You might find that your OR lowers your monthly pension contributions to the minimum amount until your bankruptcy ends.

If you have other savings or investments these will be taken away by your OR, even if you had earmarked them for your retirement.

Keep in mind that the rules are different once you hit retirement age.

If you are able to withdraw your lump sum when you apply for bankruptcy, your application is likely to be refused if it will cover all of your debts.

If your main source of income is your state pension or pension credits, it is very unlikely that your OR can order you to pay anything after your application has been processed.

But if you also have a private pension, you will probably have to use it to pay your debts after your bankruptcy.

The rules on pensions and bankruptcy can be complicated, so don’t hesitate to ask for professional help!

These debt charities and organisations all offer free pension and bankruptcy advice.

Can I keep my car if I go bankrupt?

After bankruptcy, there is little chance of being able to keep your car. You can only keep it if the Official Receiver believes that it is essential to your living. This includes:

  1. Needing it as part of your disability
  2. Needing it for work
  3. Needing it to get to work or school

However, if there is public transport and affordable taxi alternatives, it is unlikely that it will be deemed essential. 

Remember to cancel your insurance and road tax if you have to give it up. 

If you are still paying for a vehicle on a monthly hire purchase agreement, the company will take it back as per the contract. You are not likely to get any of the money back you paid previously.

Will I lose my house if I am bankrupt?

You may or may not lose your home after bankruptcy. The Official Receiver can try to sell it to repay creditors, but it may not be sold immediately if:

  1. Family members and dependents live in the house with you. You can be given an additional year to sort other living arrangements. 
  2. Family members or someone else can buy out your share.

The Official Receiver has 3 years to sell your home from the date of the bankruptcy order. If it is not sold within that timeframe, it can no longer be sold and you will keep it.

Get advice if three years have passed and you believe you own the property again.

You cannot give it away or sell it for less than its value beforehand. This would be a bankruptcy offence.

Will I get kicked out of my rental property?

You are not likely to be kicked out of a rental property.

The exceptions to this are when your rental contract denies anyone who is bankrupt from living there, or if legal proceedings are already in motion to have you removed due to rent arrears.

If you rent and are in this situation, you should contact Citizens Advice for help!

When are you discharged from bankruptcy?

You are typically discharged 12 months after bankruptcy.

However, this can be extended with a Bankruptcy Restriction Order (BRO), which is a legal order extending the timeframe you are placed under bankruptcy restrictions.

This will last several years.

References

  1. Citizens Advice – Persona Debt Statistics

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