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Social Security Numbers and Massachusetts Bankruptcy

We are often asked how to file bankruptcy in Massachusetts when our clients do not have a social security number. This question comes at the intersection of bankruptcy and immigration law. All bankruptcy petitions have a page in which you are expected to report your social security number. However, the bankruptcy code does not require that page of the standard petition to be completed. Nevertheless, many folks who do not have a social security number are concerned about filing for Massachusetts bankruptcy.

Thus, for those folks who have a social security number, of course, a Boston bankruptcy lawyer would put that on the social security number reporting page. That page of the Petition and Schedules undergoes protections by the Bankruptcy Court. However, it is generally used by the Trustee at the 341 Meeting of Creditors to compare with the petitioner’s social security card. We always instruct our clients to bring their license, or state identification, along with their social security card, for identification at the hearings.
For folks who do not have a social security number but who have a United States Individual Tax Identification Number ITIN, we advise that they use this number. If you don’t have at ITIN, you can secure one by going to the IRS website. Many of our clients work in the United States, pay taxes using their tax identification number, but do not have a social security number. This is how they can file for bankruptcy in Massachusetts.
As indicated above, we check all state identifications and social security cards or tax identification cards before we complete the Petition and Schedules. You can never ever use someone else’s social security number or tax identification number. This will result as a fraud on the Court, which is, of course, a federal crime. This would affect your status if you did not have legal status in the US.
For immigration advice, we refer to Massachusetts immigration lawyer Joshua Goldstein. According to Attorney Goldstein, there is no known reporting from the United States Bankruptcy Court to the Immigration Court. Nor has he seen any correlation between bankruptcies and reporting to immigration.
Just for your information, social security numbers are not random! There is a method to the assigning of numbers. Since 1936, the Social Security Administration has been issuing social security numbers. It has become a requirement to have one. However, it is difficult to figure out the formula. For example, if you were born in Massachusetts, the first three numbers should be between 010 and 034. Of course, there are some changes – before 1973 the numbers were based on where the applicant applied, since then, the central office issues the number by zip code. The second set of numbers is relative to time of application chronologically. Thus, someone with 01 in that second series applied for their social security number before someone with 99 in that series. The third set of numbers is merely the sequential number within each group. There are no 0000s and no 666s, however!