Normally, the court fee for filing a case under chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code is $306. The courts charge a $245 case filing fee, a $46 miscellaneous administrative fee, and a $15 trustee surcharge. Section 418 of the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 defines “filing fee” to include any fee prescribed by the Judicial Conference under 28 U.S.C. § 1930(b) and (c) that is payable to the clerk upon the commencement of a case under chapter 7.
However, if the debtor’s income is less than 150% of the poverty level, and the debtor is unable to pay the chapter 7 fees even in installments, the court may waive the requirement that the fees be paid. The fee waiver income limits are based on the official poverty guidelines last published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Other fees scheduled by the Judicial Conference under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1930(b) and (c) may be waived at the discretion of the bankruptcy court or district court for individual debtors whose filing fee has been waived. Therefore, instead of paying the filing fee or filing an installment application, an individual chapter 7 debtor can file an application for waiver of the filing fee along with the bankruptcy petition. The application must conform substantially to Official Form 3B.
Whenever a chapter 7 petition in an individual debtor case is accompanied by a filing fee waiver application, the court should initiate and process the case in the same manner as other individual chapter 7 cases. The court should determine whether the application should be granted, denied, or set for early hearing, on notice to the United States trustee or bankruptcy administrator, the case trustee, the debtor, and, if applicable, the attorney for the debtor. The order should be transmitted to the United States trustee or bankruptcy administrator, the case trustee, the debtor, and, if applicable, the attorney for the debtor.
If the court denies a filing fee waiver application, the debtor should be given reasonable time (generally, 10 days) to either pay the fee in full or begin making installment payments. Further, an order of the court denying the fee waiver application should set forth an installment payment schedule to eliminate extra work for the clerk’s office. It should also advise the debtor that failure to pay the fee or make timely installment payments can lead to dismissal of the case. If the filing fee of an individual chapter 7 debtor is waived and that debtor’s case is later converted to a case under chapter 13, the debtor must pay the full chapter 13 filing fee. Likewise, If a case is converted from chapter 13 to chapter 7, the court may waive any unpaid balance on the filing fee, if the circumstances so warrant.
If a debtor files an application to pay the filing fee in installments and later applies for a waiver of the filing fee, the court may waive any unpaid balance of the filing fee, provided the circumstances allow it. The court can also vacate an order waiving the filing fee if developments in the case or administration of the estate show that the waiver was unwarranted.