It is necessary to list all Judgment Creditors and/or a Judgment Liens, so before you file bankruptcy, it is wise to search the public records for lawsuits.   One online source for free searches is

Search the County Recorder’s Office in the county you live.  The IRS files tax liens under your name, Judgment Creditors file liens under your property address.  A proper search of the public records includes a search of both ‘your name’ and ‘your property address(s)’.  

You can also find out if the IRS has filed tax liens by requesting a copy of your ‘Account Transcript’.  There is a notation on your Account Transcript, if a lien was filed.  Here are 10 things to know:

  1. There are three options for obtaining free copies of your federal tax return information – on the web, by phone or by mail.

  2. The IRS does not charge a fee for transcripts, which are available for the current and past three tax years. 

  3. The tax return transcript shows most line items from your tax return as it was originally filed, including any accompanying forms and schedules.  It does not reflect any changes made after the return was filed. (Order this type of transcript if you are unable to locate your last filed tax return, because you are required to provide a copy of your last filed state and federal tax return to the Trustee.)

  4. A tax account transcript shows any later adjustments either you or the IRS made after the tax return was filed.  The transcript shows basic data, including marital status, type of return filed adjusted gross income and taxable income.  (Order this type of transcript and request up to the last 10 years, if you have tax debt.)

  5. To request either transcript online, go to and use the IRS online tool called Order A Transcript.  To order by phone, call 800-908-9946 and follow the prompts in the recorded message.

  6. To request a 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ tax return transcript through the mail, complete IRS Form 4506T-EZ Short Form Request for Individual Tax Return Transcript.  Businesses, partnerships and individuals who need transcript information from other forms or need a tax account transcript must use the Form 4506T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return.  

  7. If you order online or by phone, you should receive your tax return transcript within five to 10 days from the time the IRS receives your request.  Allow 30 calendar days for delivery of a tax account transcript if you order by mail.

  8. If you still need an actual copy of a previously processed tax return, it will cost $57 for each tax year you order.  Complete Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return, and mail it to the IRS address listed on the form for your area. Copies are generally available for the current year and past six years.  Please allow 60 days for actual copies of your return. (Order this type of transcript if you need for litigation.)

  9. The fee for copies of tax returns may be waived if you are in an area that is declared a federal disaster by the President.  Visit, keyword “disaster,” for more guidance on disaster relief.  

  10. Visit to determine which form will meet your needs.  Forms 4506, 4506T and 4506t-EZ are available at or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676). 

The State of California Franchise Tax Board provides a copy of your California tax return for $20, unless you are requesting a tax return for a year you were the victim of a designated California state or federal 

disaster.   You can make an online account at to register for your account to check your refunds, payment history, account details, view notices and correspondence.

You may also request a copy of your California tax return by submitting a Request for Copy of Income Tax or Fiduciary Return Form FTB 3516 or by submitting your request on plain paper and provide the following:

  • Your name (and Spouse if joint return)
  • Social security numbers
  • Telephone number including area code
  • Current address
  • Address shown on last return filed
  • Tax year or years of returns requested
  • Your signature.  If you filed jointly, either spouse may sign.

Send your request to:



PO BOX 1570

RANCHO CORDOVA, CA   95741-1570

 Did you find liens?  You may be able to eliminate judgment liens if you file a Motion to determine whether the Lien ‘impairs’ an exemption you claimed on the property.  Failure to strip an eligible lien from property during your bankruptcy case means the lien survives the bankruptcy and is collectable.    

The bankruptcy discharge only includes your personal liability for secured debt and only prevents creditors from collecting against you.  The Judgment Lien is still attached to your property, and failure to pay the debt gives the creditor the right to foreclose or repossess the collateral.  

How do you show the Judgment Lien ‘impairs’ the exemption you claimed?  

If your property is real property you will need to gather (1) a certified appraisal of your home, (2) a copy of the most recent statement for all lenders such as the 1st, 2nd and HELOC lenders, and (3) a copy of all liens.  

If your property is personal property, you need to gather (1) an appraisal of the property, (2) a copy of the most recent statement for all secured creditors, and (3) a copy of all liens. 

If you are not able to prove the Lien impairs your exemption, there are still solutions, such as settlement for less than the amount of the debt; then you have increased the likelihood of the success of your fresh financial start.    

Tax liens are a bit trickier because your exemption is not taken into consideration. If your property is worth less than the loan amount then the tax lien can be changed into an unsecured tax debt. As unsecured tax debt another set of rules apply to determine if the debt survives the bankruptcy in whole, in part, or not at all. Be sure and obtain a copy of your Account Transcripts from the IRS for all years you believe you have a tax liability. We are able to determine, for an additional fee, whether and when your tax debt is dischargeable. Filing your petition at the wrong time may prevent discharge of tax debt.

The Orange County Recorder is located at:

12 Civic Center Plaza, Room 101Santa Ana, CA 92701

The Los Angeles County Recorder is located at:

12400 East Imperial Hwy

Norwalk, CA 90650

The San Bernardino County Recorder is located at:

222 West Hospitality Lane

San Bernardino, CA 92415

The Riverside County Recorder is located at:

2724 Gateway DriveRiverside, CA 92507-0918