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Personal Insolvency FAQ

To assist you with understanding the Personal Insolvency process, we have put together a list of FAQ’s to help you determine which options are available to you and your clients to deal with unmanageable debts.

What is bankruptcy?

Bankruptcy is a legal process that provides protection to people who are unable to repay their debts or reach a suitable arrangement with their creditors.

Why choose bankruptcy?

Bankruptcy provides protection for both debtors (bankrupts) and creditors. The bankrupt is protected from being pursued by most creditors (secured creditors are entitled to continue taking action) and they are released from most debts.

Bankruptcy protects the interests of creditors by having an independent person (a Registered Trustee) appointed to investigate the bankrupt’s financial affairs. If sufficient funds are recovered a dividend will be paid to creditors of the estate.

How does a person become bankrupt?

If someone is unable to pay their debts or come to a suitable arrangement with their creditors, they can choose to make themselves bankrupt. Generally, they must have debts of at least $5,000 and a connection with Australia. The most common causes of bankruptcy occur when:
• An individual is unable to pay all debts
• Personal guarantees provided for company debts are called up
• An individual receives letters of demand, writs and/or bankruptcy notices from creditors, debt collectors or solicitors

Creditors can apply to Court to make someone bankrupt if:
• They can satisfy the Court that the person has debts of at least $5,000 and that a bankruptcy notice has expired.
• They haven’t received a payment of debt
• There are dishonoured cheques or payments
• Trading terms extended or not met by the individual (debtor)
• The debtor disposing or transferring property prior to bankruptcy

What does a Registered Trustee do?

The Trustee will conduct investigations into the bankrupt’s affairs, recover any property into the estate, report any offences that may have been committed by the bankrupt to AFSA and report to creditors on their findings.

The recoveries that a Trustee can make include:
• Realising any divisible property
• Recovering contributions from a bankrupt if their income is over a certain threshold
• Recovering any voidable transactions

If sufficient funds are recovered by a Trustee, they will pay a dividend to creditors.

What assets can a Registered Trustee realise?

At the date of bankruptcy, any divisible assets of the bankrupt are controlled by their Trustee.  Divisible assets can include money, vehicles, property, shares, jewellery and other similar assets. There are thresholds and prescribed limits to the value of assets in which a bankrupt is able to realise. AFSA regularly update these thresholds on their indexed amounts section of the website. https://www.afsa.gov.au/insolvency/how-we-can-help/indexed-amounts-0

What assets are exempt from being realised by a Trustee?

Some assets are not divisible and are exempt from realisation by the Trustee.  This can include:

  • Necessary clothing and household items
  • Life insurance or endowment policies
  • Certain damages and compensation payments
  • Sentimental property
  • Funds held in a regulated superannuation fund
  • Assets above the prescribed limit and threshold (see AFSA indexed amounts)

What happens to a Bankrupt’s income when they are Bankrupt?

If a bankrupt earns over a certain threshold, they are required to pay a contribution from their income to their Trustee. The Trustee will conduct an assessment of the bankrupt’s liability to pay contributions and will arrange for this liability to be paid by the bankrupt.

Which debts are not realised by Bankruptcy?

Certain debts are not released by bankruptcy. This can include:
• Court imposed fines or penalties
• Some portions of students loans (HECS / HELP debts)
• Child support debts
• Maintenance debts
• Debts incurred by fraud

How long does Bankruptcy last?

A Bankrupt is normally discharged three years and 1 day after the date that they file their Statement of Affairs. If a bankrupt does not lodge their Statement of Affairs, they will be bankrupt indefinitely.

A Trustee can extend the bankruptcy period to either 5 or 8 years from the date of filing of the bankrupt’s Statement of Affairs if a bankrupt does not satisfy certain conditions.

What is an annulment of Bankruptcy?

An annulment is the cancellation of a bankruptcy.  There are 3 ways a bankruptcy can be annulled:

  • The Trustee’s fees and expenses and creditors debts (including interest) are paid in full
  • Creditors accept a bankrupt’s proposal to annul their bankruptcy (this is referred to as a Section 73 proposal)
  • By an order of the Court

If a bankrupt is interested in annulling their bankruptcy, they should contact their solicitor and their Trustee.

What is a Part X Personal Insolvency Agreement?

Part X is part of the Bankruptcy Act that provides a framework for a debtor to formally deal with their creditors by making a proposal in satisfaction of their debts.

Part X is often considered by debtors who do not meet the eligibility requirements of a Part IX (because their assets and liabilities are considered too great).

What are the benefits to Debtors using Part X of the Act?

Benefits to debtors of creditors accepting the proposal commonly include:

  • A debtor can avoid going into bankruptcy
  • Debts owed to creditors can be dealt with in an orderly manner
  • Creditors are prevented from taking further steps to recover debts owed whilst the proposal is being considered
  • Restrictions brought about by bankruptcy (for example, in relation to certain professions and income) can be avoided

The impact on a debtor’s credit rating is less severe than if the debtor was to be made bankrupt.

What are the benefits to creditors accepting a Debtor’s Proposal?

Benefits to creditors of accepting the proposal commonly include:

  • Creditors may receive a greater return compared to the return expected were the debtor to be made bankrupt
  • Creditors may receive a dividend sooner than if the debtor were to be made bankrupt
  • The costs of administering the controlling Trustee period and Personal Insolvency Agreement may be lower than the costs of administering a bankruptcy

If agreed upon with creditors, the debtor will execute a Personal Insolvency Agreement.

What can be offered in a Personal Insolvency Agreement?

Almost anything can be offered, it just needs to make sense and be believable. Things that are commonly proposed include:

  • A lump sum of money
  • Funds over time
  • Proceeds from the sale of certain assets
  • Any combination of the above

What is the Controlling Trustee Period in a Personal Insolvency Agreement?

In order to formally propose a Personal Insolvency Agreement, a debtor must enter a controlling Trustee period. The effect of this is that a controlling Trustee (often a Registered Trustee) will take control over their property and conduct investigations with a view on reporting to creditors on the debtor’s asset and liability position and commenting on the debtor’s proposal.

What affect does a Personal Insolvency Agreement have on creditors?

Once accepted, unsecured creditors are bound by the agreement, regardless of whether they are in favour of the proposal. Unsecured creditors exchange their right to pursue the debtor for payment for an entitlement to receive a dividend from the funds or property made available under the proposal.

Secured creditors are not bound by a Personal Insolvency Agreement and maintain their rights to recover and sell property that is subject to their security

What assets are exempt from being realised by a Trustee?

Some assets are not divisible and are exempt from realisation by the Trustee.  This can include:

  • Necessary clothing and household items
  • Life insurance or endowment policies
  • Certain damages and compensation payments
  • Sentimental property
  • Funds held in a regulated superannuation fund
  • Assets above the prescribed limit and threshold (see AFSA indexed amounts)

What happens at the end of a Personal Insolvency Agreement?

Usually, the Personal Insolvency Agreement will come to an end once the debtor’s obligations have been satisfied.

If the debtor does not comply with the terms of the agreement, the Trustee will usually issue a default notice requiring that the non-compliance be rectified.

If the debtor still does not comply, the Trustee and/or creditors may terminate the agreement. This can happen in the following ways:

  • Automatic termination under the terms of the agreement
  • Creditors resolving that the agreement be terminated by way of a special resolution at a meeting of creditors
  • The Trustee terminating the agreement with the agreement of creditors

The agreement may also be terminated by order of the Court under a number of circumstances, but generally where the terms of the agreement are unreasonable or are not calculated to benefit creditors generally.

What causes Part IX Debt Agreements?

A Part IX Debt Agreement occurs in lieu of bankruptcy, when the individual is unable to pay all debts. The individual receives letters of demand, writs and/or bankruptcy notices from creditors, debt collectors or solicitors.

What is a Part IX Debt Agreement?

A Part IX Debt Agreement is when an individual who is insolvent enters into a formal agreement with creditors. The Agreement is administered by an independent person and is a flexible arrangement negotiated between the individual and creditors.

A Part IX Debt Agreement is different from a Part X Arrangement in that eligibility is limited based on debtor’s assets, liabilities, income and prior acts of bankruptcy. This agreement is aimed at lower level debts often associated with consumer liabilities.

When does a Section 73 Agreement end?

Usually the Section 73 proposal comes to an end when all parties have completed their obligations and responsibilities under the proposal.

However, a Section 73 proposal can also be terminated by the following ways:
• If the terms of the section proposal are not complied with, the Trustee and / or creditors terminate the agreement
• By an order of the court, usually on the basis that the composition cannot be proceeded with without injustice or undue delay to the creditors, the approval of creditors was obtained by a misrepresentation by the former bankrupt, or if it is desirable that the composition be set aside on the basis of non-compliance

The Section 73 proposal will usually contain terms which set out what steps the Trustee can take to enforce compliance in the event of a default.

Termination of a Section 73 proposal due to non-performance is an act of bankruptcy, and could be relied upon by creditors or the Trustee to bankrupt the person again.

How is the Section 73 Proposal administered?

A Registered Trustee must administer the agreement. Usually it is the case that the former bankruptcy Trustee will collect the funds and / or property and make a distribution to unsecured creditors.

What happens when the Section 73 Proposal is accepted?

If accepted, the bankruptcy is annulled from the day of the meeting of creditors. Unsecured creditors are bound by the agreement, regardless of whether they are in favour of the proposal.

Unsecured creditors receive a dividend from the funds or property made available under the proposal. Secured creditors maintain their rights to recover and sell security owned by the bankrupt.

How does the Section 73 Proposal become accepted?

At the meeting, the Trustee will invite creditors to move a motion that the bankrupt’s proposal be accepted or rejected.

For the bankrupt’s proposal to be accepted, a motion must be supported by:
• Creditors who hold 75% of the dollar value of participating debts
• A majority of creditors

If either requirement is not satisfied, the motion will be defeated and the proposal will not be accepted. If this is the case then the bankruptcy will continue as before.

What are the consequences & pitfalls of a Personal Insolvency Agreement?

Whilst executing a Personal Insolvency Agreement may bring significant benefit to a debtor in allowing them to deal with their creditors in an orderly manner, there are a number of pitfalls that you should be aware of:

  • Executing a Section 188 Authority is an ‘act of bankruptcy’. If a proposal for a Personal Insolvency Agreement is not accepted by creditors, a creditor may rely on this act to bankrupt the debtor.
  • Whilst the controlling Trustee period is in place, a debtor cannot act as a director of a corporation, or until the terms of the Personal Insolvency Agreement have been fulfilled (at which time the Trustee will issue a certificate of completion).
  • Executing a Section 188 Authority affects a debtor’s credit rating – although the effect of this is much less detrimental than if bankruptcy were to occur.

If a debtor’s proposal for a Personal Insolvency Agreement is not accepted by creditors, a debtor cannot present another proposal under Part X of the Act for a further 6 months, without leave of the Court.

What is the process of reporting to creditors under a Section 73 Proposal?

Once the necessary investigations have been satisfied, the Trustee will prepare and issue a report to creditors setting out the details of the proposal and call a meeting for creditors to convene and consider the proposal, and whether the proposal is to be accepted.

The Trustee can ask for a surety to cover the costs of preparing the report to creditors and calling and holding the meeting. If there is no regard to these costs, or the outstanding costs and remuneration of the Trustee can refuse to issue the report or call a meeting.

The Trustee may also refuse to issue a report if the proposal is not bona fide.

How do you begin the process of a Section 73 Proposal?

The first step is for the bankrupt to approach their Trustee and advise their intention to put forward a proposal to deal with their debts. The Trustee can evaluate the proposal and provide feedback. The Trustee needs to be in a position to assess whether the proposal would be more beneficial than if the bankruptcy were to continue, so further investigations may be required.

The formal process of a Section 73 Proposal begins when a bankrupt provides the Trustee with a written proposal. A Section 73 proposal cannot be submitted jointly by 2 or more bankrupts.

What are the types of Section 73 Proposals?

A Section 73 proposal can be differentiated into two distinct categories:

1. A composition and;
2. A scheme of arrangement.

It is more common for a bankrupt to propose a composition. A composition is an agreement to pay funds into the administration to be available to pay creditors and the costs of the administration. It is possible to pay funds over a period of time; however many Trustees will recommend that payment be made upon acceptance to provide greater certainty for creditors.

A scheme of arrangement can involve almost any other kind of consideration, including payment of funds from the bankrupt or third parties and the sale or transfer of property.

What is a Section 73 Proposal?

A proposal pursuant to Section 73 of the Bankruptcy Act 1966 is a formal agreement between a bankrupt, creditors and the Trustee that monitors the agreement. If creditors accept the Section 73 proposal, the bankruptcy is annulled and it is as though the bankruptcy never occurred.

Under a Section 73 Proposal, the bankrupt is released from the restrictions of remaining in bankruptcy. They are released from their debts and their property revests in them (unless it is dealt with in the Section 73 Proposal). In return, creditors would expect to be offered a higher return than they would have received in the bankruptcy.

What are the consequences & pitfalls of a Personal Insolvency Agreement?

Whilst executing a Personal Insolvency Agreement may bring significant benefit to a debtor in allowing them to deal with their creditors in an orderly manner, there are a number of pitfalls that you should be aware of:

  • Executing a Section 188 Authority is an ‘act of bankruptcy’. If a proposal for a Personal Insolvency Agreement is not accepted by creditors, a creditor may rely on this act to bankrupt the debtor.
  • Whilst the controlling Trustee period is in place, a debtor cannot act as a director of a corporation, or until the terms of the Personal Insolvency Agreement have been fulfilled (at which time the Trustee will issue a certificate of completion).
  • Executing a Section 188 Authority affects a debtor’s credit rating – although the effect of this is much less detrimental than if bankruptcy were to occur.

If a debtor’s proposal for a Personal Insolvency Agreement is not accepted by creditors, a debtor cannot present another proposal under Part X of the Act for a further 6 months, without leave of the Court.

What causes Part IX Debt Agreements?

A Part IX Debt Agreement occurs in lieu of bankruptcy, when the individual is unable to pay all debts. The individual receives letters of demand, writs and/or bankruptcy notices from creditors, debt collectors or solicitors.

What is a Part IX Debt Agreement?

A Part IX Debt Agreement is when an individual who is insolvent enters into a formal agreement with creditors. The Agreement is administered by an independent person and is a flexible arrangement negotiated between the individual and creditors.

A Part IX Debt Agreement is different from a Part X Arrangement in that eligibility is limited based on debtor’s assets, liabilities, income and prior acts of bankruptcy. This agreement is aimed at lower level debts often associated with consumer liabilities.

What can be offered in a Part IX Debt Agreement?

Almost anything can be offered, it just needs to make sense and be believable. Things that are commonly proposed include:
• A lump sum of money
• Funds over time
• Proceeds from the sale of certain assets
• Any combination of the above

Who can apply for a Part IX Debt Agreement?

A Debt Agreement is limited to a debtor who has:

  • Not been bankrupt, utilised a Debt Agreement or given an Authority under Part X of the Bankruptcy Act in the last 10 years;
  • Estimated after tax income, for the 12 months after the proposal is given, of less than the threshold amount.

What is the Part IX Debt Agreement effect on individuals?

Possible effects a Part IX Debt Agreement can have on individuals include:

  • It is binding upon all parties
  • The restrictions of bankruptcy are avoided
  • Provide relief from debt problems and extinguish existing debts
  • Arrangements are flexible
  • Can start life afresh, free of debt
  • Less expensive than Part X

What are the effect on creditors?

Once accepted, unsecured creditors are bound by the agreement, regardless of whether they are in favour of the proposal. Unsecured creditors exchange their right to pursue the debtor for payment for an entitlement to receive a dividend from the funds or property made available under the proposal.

The effects on creditors can include:
• The arrangement is binding upon all parties
• Uncertainty is crystallised
• Arrangements are flexible
• Often provides a higher and quicker dividend than under bankruptcy
• The arrangement is generally finalised sooner and is less costly than Part X

How is a Part IX Debt Agreement settled?

A debtor can make a written proposal through AFSA. The debtor can propose to pay creditors by instalments, make a lump sum payment or even give an asset(s) to creditors. There is a fee payable to AFSA, plus any other fee if you engage external assistance for work carried out in setting up the Debt Agreement.

Debt Agreement proposals are either accepted or rejected by creditors. Voting is normally done by letter, however a physical meeting may be held. A proposal is accepted if a majority in value of creditors who vote / reply before the applicable deadline state that the proposal should be accepted. Take

Note: Giving a proposal to AFSA, or setting up a Debt Agreement and not keeping up the repayments is an ‘Act of Bankruptcy’. A creditor can use this to apply to the Federal Court or Federal Circuit Court for a Sequestration (Bankruptcy) Order.

How does a Part IX Debt Agreement end?

A Part IX Debt Agreement ends when the debtor has completed all obligations and payments to the creditor. The debtor is then released from all the debts covered in the debt agreement. The National Personal Insolvency Index (NPII) will be updated once your administrator notifies the Official Receiver of the completion of all obligations and payments.

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