Cancellation of Debt - What You Need to Know

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Having a debt forgiven, discharged or cancelled can be a welcome relief for those struggling with debt. You may receive a debt cancellation through a few different methods, including filing for bankruptcy, participating in a debt relief program or negotiating settlements on your own. While having a debt cancelled can reduce your overall debt, there are some additional considerations that you’ll want to keep in mind, such as taxes and future credit.

What is a Cancellation of Debt?

Debt cancellation is when a creditor or lender forgives some or all of a debt obligation. This means that you’re no longer required to pay the cancelled amount, and your creditor will not ask you to pay it back in the future.

Debt Cancellation Methods

Debt can be cancelled or forgiven in a variety of ways, including the following:

  • Bankruptcy: This is a legal process that’s designed to help individuals or businesses who can’t repay their debts while still providing a fair outcome to their creditors. While it can provide financial relief, bankruptcy comes with long-term effects that should be thoroughly considered before proceeding.
  • Student loan forgiveness programs: The federal government offers a range of debt forgiveness programs for those who have taken out federal student loans. You may qualify if you’re employed by the government, work for a not-for-profit organization or teach at a low-income school. There are also forgiveness options for those who are enrolled in a school that’s closing or who become totally and permanently disabled. You can read more about forgiveness and cancellation programs on the U.S. Federal Student Aid website.
  • Debt Settlement Programs: There are a variety of debt relief programs that can make debt repayment more manageable, but debt settlement programs can reduce the overall amount you owe while reducing your monthly payments. In these programs, certified debt specialists will work with your creditors directly to negotiate new settlements and cancel a significant portion of the debt owed.

Debt Cancellation Definitions

There are a few different terms that might be used to describe a debt that you’re no longer responsible for. While they’re almost the same, there are some slight differences.

Debt Cancellation and Debt Forgiveness: This is when a creditor no longer requires you to pay back some or all of a particular debt. You may receive a debt cancellation as the result of a debt settlement or by participating in a federal loan forgiveness program. Forgiven and cancelled debts are considered taxable income, so it’s important to review any of these debts with a tax professional before you file.

Discharged Debt: This term is used when a debt is cancelled due to circumstances like bankruptcy and permanent disability. While these debts are often exempt from taxes, it’s a good idea to review any discharged debts with a tax professional.

Charged Off Debt: This is when a creditor takes a debt off of their books and tries to collect on the debt through an in-house collections team or by selling your debt to a different debt buyer. You’re still responsible for paying it back. Charged off debts are also reported to credit bureaus, which may affect your credit score and your ability to borrow money in the future.

Paying Taxes on Cancelled Debts

While having your debt cancelled or forgiven can help to free up your overall finances, you’ll need to keep your taxes in mind. While there are several exceptions, the IRS considers most cancelled debts are taxable income.

It’s highly recommended that you consult with a tax expert before and after pursuing debt cancellations. You should also be on the lookout for a 1099-C form from your creditor or lender if your forgiven debt totals $600 or more.

Alternatives to Debt Cancellation

  • Making Minimum Payments: Minimum payments are the least amount you can pay monthly on your debt without incurring penalties. They are typically 2-4% of your balance. Making minimum payments keeps your account in good standing, but it is the slowest and most expensive way to pay back your debt. 
  • Debt Counseling: Credit counseling involves working with a specialist who will evaluate your finances and help you make a budget with a strategy to pay off your debt. Credit counselors can help you manage your monthly expenses and make long-term financial goals. They might suggest debt relief options if you are good candidate for those methods.

Best Way to Cancel Your Debt

Everyone’s finances are unique, and the best solution for one individual might not be right for another. It’s important to thoroughly research all of your options before pursuing a debt relief plan or a debt cancellation strategy.

Accredited Debt Relief helps match individuals across the U.S. with customized plans to improve their finances. Their specialists can work with your creditors directly to reduce your monthly payments and the total amount of debt that you owe. Contact them today for a free consultation to learn more.