Food and clothing in the bankruptcy means test
One of my jobs as a bankruptcy lawyer is to make you look good on the bankruptcy means test.
Here in Northern Virginia, I claim an extra 5% on your food and clothing allowance. The bankruptcy means test law talks about that 5% in 11 USC 707(b)(2)(A)(ii)(l).
That law says, “if it is demonstrated that it is reasonable and necessary, the debtor’s monthly expenses may also include an additional allowance for food and clothing of up to 5 percent.”
Here in Northern Virginia, I always claim that 5%.
That’s because this is a high cost of living area. I was challenged on it for the first time now in June 2014. (That was the first challenge on that I had since that law was passed in 2005.)
It ended up we handled the case in a way that it didn’t matter. But that challenge forced me to track down whether, and why, I say we live in a high cost of living area.
Here’s what a found from the 2010 census. It shows that in the Washington DC/Arlington/Alexandria area, food is 107.9% of the national average. (Housing costs, no surprise to anyone who lives here, are at 226% the national average!)
Based on that, I’m going to keep on claiming that extra 5% on the bankruptcy means test for food and clothing.
PS. Suppose you live in an area which does NOT have high food costs, according to the census. Could you claim the extra 5% allowance? Your approach would have to be different than mine. If you could show that somebody in the family has food allergies or medical needs for a special diet, maybe you could claim the extra 5% on the bankruptcy means test that way.