New York law allows you to use the exemptions found in the U.S. bankruptcy code (11 U.S.C. § 522(d)) or the exemptions provided under New York law. However, you cannot mix and match exemptions from the federal bankruptcy code and state law. You must choose one system or the other. However, if you use the state law exemptions, there are a few U.S. ‘non-bankruptcy’ exemptions (that is, exemptions that exist outside of federal bankruptcy code) that you can use in addition to your state law exemptions. The four most significant non-bankruptcy exemptions are for:
- Wages (a general cap on what percentage of your wages can be garnished)
- Social Security benefits
- Civil Service benefits, and
- Veterans Benefits
Other non-bankruptcy exemptions mostly deal with various benefits to government and military personnel, with a few odd laws regarding specially regulated labor markets such as railroad workers, merchant sailors, and longshoremen. NOTE: Federal Exemption amounts listed below reflect the April 1, 2010 adjustment for inflation every three years, and therefore do not match the figures shown in the federal exemption statutes. Click here for the April 1, 2010 inflation adjustments to Federal bankruptcy exemption amounts, published in the Federal Register. Can you double exemptions for joint filers? (General principles) If you are married and filing together, you and your spouse must use the same law; one cannot use federal law while the other uses state law. However, the exemption law chosen applies separately to each spouse. Thus, it is generally possible to double the amount of state law exemptions, Cheeseman v. Nachman, 656 F.2d 60 (4th Cir. 1981) (married couple filing a joint petition was entitled to double the Virginia homestead exemption), unless state law (e.g. California) specifically prohibits a couple from doubling certain exemptions. See First National Bank v. Norris, 701 F.2d 902 (11th Cir. 1984) (Alabama); Granger v. Watson, 754 F.2d 1490 (9th Cir. 1985) (California).