Consumer proposals and bankruptcy are often confused with one another because they both involve a Trustee in Bankruptcy. In Canada, the government introduced legislation to protect people who have reached a breaking point with their debt. Over time that legislation has been amended and re-worked to simplify processes and to make the process fair for both creditors and those who owe money.
The Superintendent of Bankruptcy is an entity of Industry Canada, and is the individual who administers the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act through appointed officers. These officers are Trustees in Bankruptcy. The Trustee in Bankruptcy’s role is to administer a consumer proposal or bankruptcy on behalf of the creditors and the people who owe money.
A bankruptcy and a consumer proposal are both powerful in that, once filed, all collection and enforcement action being made by unsecured creditors stops, interest stops, and in many cases the overall amount of debt is reduced.
That being said, a consumer proposal bears less strings than bankruptcy and should always be considered as option number 1 - bankruptcy is generally a last resort measure.
In a consumer proposal, a proposal is made to your creditors – basically you are offering them a sum of money to be repaid through the Trustee over a term of, typically, 5 years.
· Your creditors have a specified amount of time to accept or reject the proposal.
· If no one responds, the proposal is accepted.
· If the majority creditor(s) accepts, the proposal is accepted.
· If a proposal is accepted you make a single monthly payment to the Trustee for the term proposed. You can pay off the proposal at any time. You have no ongoing income reporting requirements to your Trustee.
In a bankruptcy your creditors don’t get a choice to accept or reject.
· You make a monthly payment to the Trustee in Bankruptcy over 9 or 21 months in a first time bankruptcy, depending on your income. There are maximum income thresholds set out and if your income exceeds those thresholds the term of your bankruptcy payment extends from 9 to 21 months.
· During your bankruptcy you have to report your income and any changes to your financial circumstances to the Trustee.
· If you come into any significant sums of money you may have to pay surplus income to the Trustee.
A consumer proposal is removed from your credit report 3 years from the date it is paid in full. A bankruptcy remains for 6 years from the date of discharge.
Since the Trustee doesn’t represent you, going to one directly is never recommended. Any financial information you divulge can’t be taken back. Prior to meeting a Trustee you are best served to work with a financial representative who specializes in bankruptcy and consumer proposals – one who will represent you – to review and help you structure your financial information to be presented to a Trustee. Some may even help you negotiate the terms of your proposal or bankruptcy with the Trustee.
Both of these options are viable when it comes to debt relief - just make sure that you are not putting your financial affairs at risk by attending a Trustee before seeking real help.
For more information or to protect yourself before going to a Trustee, please call DebtCare Canada today at 1-888-890-0888.