As a result of Uber’s and Lyft’s technological disruption of the transportation services market, the value of New York City taxi medallions has significantly decreased. In 2014 taxi medallions were being sold for approximately $1.3 million dollars, Current Taxi & Limousine Commission sales reports from December 2016 and data from taxi medallion brokers indicate that the current value of taxi medallions is approximately $400,000-$600,000. And according to a recent piece in Bloomberg News, over 80 percent of Capital One Financial Corp.’s loans for taxi medallions are at risk of default.
- The medallion owner can continue to make loan payments and hope that the value of the medallion increases over time and the increased value will allow for a sale of the medallion in the future, which will generate enough money to pay off the medallion loan. As discussed above, as a result of Uber, Lyft and other transportation service technologies, it is doubtful that the value of taxi medallions will ever return to its previous high valuations.
- The medallion owner can stop making loan payments and surrender the medallion to the bank or finance company or allow the bank or finance company to foreclose or repossess the medallion under New York State law. There are several problems with this strategy. First, the bank or finance company will commence an action against the medallion owner to collect their debt. Second, after the foreclosure or repossession, the bank or finance company is allowed to seek a deficiency judgment (the difference between the amount due on the medallion loan and the value of the medallion at auction or its value at the time of repossession including legal fees and court costs) against the medallion owner. Under New York State law a judgment is enforceable for 20 years (statute of limitations) and the bank or finance company will be able to: (a) garnish the medallion owner’s wages; (b) place a lien and levy on any financial accounts owned by the medallion owner; and (c) docket the judgment against any real estate owned by the medallion owner. Third, the bank or finance company will report “relief of indebtedness income” to the Internal Revenue Service pursuant to section 108 of the Internal Revenue Code, and practically speaking the amount of the deficiency judgment (calculated above) would be deemed to be income to the medallion owner (unless an exclusion pursuant to this provision can be found). Fourth, the judgment will be reported to credit reporting agencies, the medallion owner’s credit report score will decrease and the medallion owner will be unable to obtain a loan from another bank or finance company while the judgment is outstanding.
- The medallion owner can stop making loan payments to the bank or finance company and attempt an “out-of-court workout” with the bank or finance company. Under this scenario, the medallion owner would hire an attorney to negotiate a consensual return of the medallion to the bank or the finance company and any other consideration or money negotiated between the parties. The benefits of this approach are as follows: First, this arrangement is consensual and there will be no litigation between the medallion owner or the bank and finance company. Second, a judgment will not be entered against the medallion owner. Third, the amount of relief of indebtedness income that would be reported to the Internal Revenue Service pursuant to section 108 of the Internal Revenue Code would be minimized. Under this scenario, the bank or the finance company would ask for an Affidavit of Net Worth (a statement of assets and liabilities made under oath) from the medallion owner to determine what assets the medallion owner could use pay the deficiency to the bank or the finance company if the value of the medallion is substantially less than the value of the outstanding balance of the loan.
- The medallion owner can file a chapter 7 personal bankruptcy. Chapter 7 personal bankruptcy is known as a “Liquidation and Fresh Start”. The medallion owner would hire a bankruptcy attorney, provide financial information to the attorney, who would then prepare a bankruptcy petition for the medallion owner and file the bankruptcy petition with the bankruptcy court. The medallion owner would go to court for a meeting of creditors with the bankruptcy attorney and then obtain a Discharge from the bankruptcy court, discharging or eliminating the loan or monies due to the bank or financing company. Under this scenario, the chapter 7 bankruptcy trustee could attempt to sell the taxi medallion or it would be surrendered to the bank or the financing company. The good news for the medallion owner is that if a debtor files under chapter 7, there is no relief of indebtedness income to the medallion owner. Additionally, with guidance from an experienced attorney, the medallion owner will be able to repair their credit in approximately a year to 18 months. However, if the medallion owner owns other valuable property or assets (such as a house, co-op, condominium or vacation property), the bankruptcy trustee has the right to sell or liquidate those assets to repay creditors. With respect to the family house, co-op or condominium unit, the medallion owner would be able to claim a homestead exemption (in the New York metropolitan area) of $165,550 for himself or herself and $165,550 for their spouse (if they are married and both parties reside in the house, co-op or condominium). Additionally, the chapter 7 bankruptcy filing would negatively impact the debtor’s credit report score. A medallion owner should consult with an experienced bankruptcy attorney before going down the path of a chapter 7 personal bankruptcy filing.
- Finally, the medallion owner can file a chapter 13 personal bankruptcy. Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a form of personal bankruptcy for individuals who own valuable property that they want to keep at the conclusion of the bankruptcy case, and requires that the debtor to make three to five years of payments out of their disposable income (future income minus necessary living expenses) to the bankruptcy trustee, who then makes distributions to the creditors in the case. The chapter 13 bankruptcy filing could be used by a medallion owner who wants to keep the medallion and continue to make payments to the bank or financing company, or it could be used to return the medallion to the bank or financing company and allow the debtor/medallion owner to keep the other assets or property that they own, provided that they make all of the payments scheduled in their chapter 13 plan. A chapter 13 bankruptcy filing is more favorable for credit reporting purposes then chapter 7 bankruptcy.