1099-C Cancellation of Debt

There is a common belief that a 1099-C means that the debt in question has been cancelled and that no further collection may be made by the creditor.  However, this is not the law.  A 1099-C filed by a creditor with the IRS, standing alone, does not mean that the debt has been cancelled.

Pursuant to the Internal Revenue Code, creditors are required to file 1099-C even though an actual discharge of indebtedness has not yet occurred or is even contemplated.  Rather, there may be an event “deemed” to constitute a discharge of the debt solely for purposes of determining the reporting requirement to the IRS.  The courts have held that a “Form 1099-C” is not an admission by the creditor that it has discharged the debt or can no longer pursue collection.

Pursuant the IRS regulations, there are 8 identifiable events which require the creditor to file a 1099-C: (1) a discharge of indebtedness in bankruptcy (2) a cancellation or extinguishment of an indebtedness in a receivership, foreclosure or similar proceeding (3) a cancellation or extinguishment of debt upon the expiration of the statute of limitation (4) a cancellation or extinguishment pursuant to an election of remedies (5) a cancellation or extinguishment of debt where debt unenforceable pursuant to probate or similar proceeding; (6) a discharge of indebtedness pursuant to agreement between the creditor and debtor for less than full consideration; (7) a discharge of indebtedness pursuant to a decision by the creditor to discontinue collection activity and  (8) the expiration of the nonpayment testing period.

So what does this mean?  This means that unless you have received something from the creditor stating that the debt is forgiven in addition to the 1099-C, they still have a right to collect on it unless one of the above exceptions applies.  Collection on debt where a 1099-C has been issued is happening to many people in California who have junior deeds of trusts against their homes.  They received a 1099-C from the lender and then years later someone who bought the debt starts foreclosing on the property.

So what should you do?  If you have received a 1099-C from a lender, especially a lender with a lien against your home, you should call the lender and see if they have actually “forgiven” the debt.  If they have, you need something in writing that says exactly that i.e. the creditor is not going to pursue any further collection on the debt.  In addition, if the lien is against your home, the lender must reconvey the deed of trust.  If the lender will not issue you a letter saying that the debt has been forgiven, you need to seek legal counsel immediately.  A 1099-C without further evidence stating the debt was forgiven is a ticking time bomb. 

1099-C issues are complicated and generally misunderstood.  If you have questions, seek counsel.  I see people for a FREE 30 minute consultation in my offices located in Walnut Creek and Brentwood.