Jan 06, 2008

Error Found in Government's Latest Downloadable Means Test Forms

Update: January 8, 2008

Woo hoo! The problem with the means test forms has been fixed!

But if you were unfortunate enough to have downloaded an early version of this form (before January 8th, around 3pm EST) you were probably driven crazy by the the bug described in the original post below. Relax. You're not crazy. Download the new means test forms. They work. It's all good.

Original Post:

Imagine my surprise yesterday afternoon, while checking out the new official bankruptcy means test forms for Chapter 7 (Form 22A) (.pdf) and Chapter 13 (Form 22C) (.pdf) when I discovered they don't work right. In fact, the bug in the form makes it impossible to fill out correctly.

The problem is with Lines 19A and 39 of official Chapter 7 means test form (22A), and lines 25A and 45 of the Chapter 13 form (22C).

In each case, the first of these lines is the allowance for living expenses. The second of these lines is supposed to be the excess amount of living expenses you are claiming (if any), above and beyond the amount in the first line.

The problem is, the .pdf versions of the forms put the same number in both lines. This is a mistake - the second number is supposed to be the amount in excess of the first, or zero if the actual expenses were lower than the official living allowance.

So, for example, if you switch the amount on line 39, the amount on line 19 changes, and if you go back and change line 19, the value you type also appears on line 39. (The exact same problem happens in the Chapter 13 form, with lines 25 A and 45.)

Programming bugs happen, so as soon as I discovered the problem, I promptly sent an email to The Powers That Be so they can correct it. But for now, the defective forms are still posted on the official bankruptcy forms website run by the U.S. court system.

In principle, the fact that the government is now offering fillable .pdf forms is a great thing; fillable forms make it easier for people to complete them cleanly, without a typewriter (remember those?).

Unfortunately, the current bug makes it impossible to fill out the forms accurately.

While you're waiting for the government to fix the official form, you can get an idea of how you fare under the the new means test form by going to the means test calculator I offer on my site LegalConsumer.com. The calculator has been updated for the changes that were introduced January 1, 2008.

In the meantime, be aware that you are NOT crazy. It is impossible to fill in the government's downloadable means test form correctly. And if you know someone who has downloaded the new official forms, warn them about this issue and tell them check back at the official bankruptcy forms site (or this blog) to find out if the problem has been fixed.