Bankruptcy offers an individual or business a chance to start fresh by forgiving debts that simply cannot be paid while offering creditors a chance to obtain some measure of repayment based on the individual's or business's assets available for liquidation. In theory, the ability to file for bankruptcy can benefit an overall economy by giving persons and businesses a second chance to gain access to consumer credit and by providing creditors with a measure of debt repayment. Upon the successful completion of bankruptcy proceedings, the debtor is relieved of the debt obligations incurred prior to filing for bankruptcy.
A failure of a nation to meet bond repayments has been seen on many occasions. Philip II of Spain had to declare four state bankruptcies in 1557, 1560, 1575 and 1596. According to Kenneth S. Rogoff, "Although the development of international capital markets was quite limited prior to 1800, we nevertheless catalog the various defaults of France, Portugal, Prussia, Spain, and the early Italian city-states. At the edge of Europe, Egypt, Russia, and Turkey have histories of chronic default as well."[7]

Before a consumer may obtain bankruptcy relief under either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, the debtor is to undertake credit counselling with approved counseling agencies prior to filing a bankruptcy petition and to undertake education in personal financial management from approved agencies prior to being granted a discharge of debts under either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. Some studies of the operation of the credit counseling requirement suggest that it provides little benefit to debtors who receive the counseling because the only realistic option for many is to seek relief under the Bankruptcy Code.[45]
In Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the debtor retains ownership and control of assets and is re-termed a debtor in possession (DIP).[50] The debtor in possession runs the day-to-day operations of the business while creditors and the debtor work with the Bankruptcy Court in order to negotiate and complete a plan. Upon meeting certain requirements (e.g., fairness among creditors, priority of certain creditors) creditors are permitted to vote on the proposed plan.[51] If a plan is confirmed, the debtor continues to operate and pay debts under the terms of the confirmed plan. If a specified majority of creditors do not vote to confirm a plan, additional requirements may be imposed by the court in order to confirm the plan. Debtors filing for Chapter 11 protection a second time are known informally as "Chapter 22" filers.[52]

In some countries, such as the United Kingdom, bankruptcy is limited to individuals; other forms of insolvency proceedings (such as liquidation and administration) are applied to companies. In the United States, bankruptcy is applied more broadly to formal insolvency proceedings. In some countries, such as in Finland bankruptcy is limited only to companies and individuals who are insolvent are condemned to de facto indentured servitude or minimum social benefits until their debts are paid in full, with accrued interest except when the court decides to show rare clemency by accepting a debtors application for debt restructuring, in which case an individual may have the amount of remaining debt reduced or be released from the debt.[citation needed][15] In France, the cognate French word banqueroute is used solely for cases of fraudulent bankruptcy, whereas the term faillite (cognate of "failure") is used for bankruptcy in accordance with the law.[16]
Bankruptcy, also referred to as insolvency in Canada, is governed by the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and is applicable to businesses and individuals. For example, Target Canada, the Canadian subsidiary of the Target Corporation, the second-largest discount retailer in the United States filed for bankruptcy in January 15, 2015, and closed all of its stores by April 12. The office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy, a federal agency, is responsible for overseeing that bankruptcies are administered in a fair and orderly manner by all licensed Trustees in Canada.
The most common types of personal bankruptcy for individuals are Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. Chapter 7, known as a "straight bankruptcy" involves the discharge of certain debts without repayment. Chapter 13, involves a plan of repayment of debts over a period of years. Whether a person qualifies for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 is in part determined by income.[43][44] As many as 65% of all U.S. consumer bankruptcy filings are Chapter 7 cases.
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