Difference Between Bankruptcy and a Consumer Proposal

The journey of financial management is often filled with numerous twists and turns. At times, it leads individuals and businesses down a path where they face mounting debts. In such scenarios, it’s crucial to understand the options available for dealing with these debts. Two common options are filing for bankruptcy and making a consumer proposal. This article aims to demystify the key distinctions between bankruptcy and a consumer proposal, providing a comprehensive understanding of these debt relief solutions.

Understanding Bankruptcy and Consumer Proposal: An Overview

Before delving into the differences, let’s first understand what bankruptcy and a consumer proposal entail.

Bankruptcy: The Basics

Bankruptcy is a legal process that offers relief to individuals or businesses overwhelmed with debt. When a person declares bankruptcy, they effectively surrender their assets (with certain exceptions) to a Licensed Insolvency Trustee. The trustee then liquidates these assets to repay creditors. Upon successful completion of the bankruptcy process, the debtor is released from most of their debts.

Consumer Proposal: The Basics

A consumer proposal, on the other hand, is a formal, legally binding agreement between a debtor and their creditors. This process is administered by a Licensed Insolvency Trustee who negotiates a revised debt repayment plan. Unlike bankruptcy, a consumer proposal allows the debtor to retain their assets while making reduced debt payments over an agreed timeframe.

Bankruptcy VS Consumer Proposal: A Detailed Comparison

Now, let’s delve into the key differences between bankruptcy and a consumer proposal. These differences span various aspects, including qualifications, cost, length, assets, and impact on credit rating.

Qualifications for Bankruptcy and Consumer Proposal

To file for bankruptcy, there’s no maximum limit on the amount of unsecured debt. However, for a consumer proposal, the total debt should fall below a certain threshold, excluding any mortgage debt.

Cost Implications

The cost of bankruptcy is calculated based on the debtor’s income and assets. This means that the more you earn or the more assets you have, the higher your bankruptcy payments will be. This is referred to as surplus income payment.

In contrast, the cost of a consumer proposal is determined through negotiations with the creditors. Once an agreement is reached, the debtor makes fixed monthly payments until the proposal is completed.

Duration of the Process

The length of bankruptcy can range from 9 to 21 months, depending on the debtor’s income. A consumer proposal, however, can extend up to 5 years but can be paid off early if the debtor is able to do so.

Impact on Assets

In bankruptcy, the debtor is required to surrender their assets, excluding certain exempt assets. A consumer proposal, however, allows the debtor to keep all their assets.

Effect on Credit Rating

Bankruptcy results in an R9 credit rating, the worst possible rating, which stays on the credit report for 7 to 14 years. A consumer proposal leads to an R7 rating, which remains for three years after completion or six years from filing, whichever is earlier.

Deciding Between Bankruptcy and a Consumer Proposal

The decision between bankruptcy and a consumer proposal depends on the specific financial circumstances of the debtor. Here are a few factors to consider:

  • Income and Assets: If your income is high or expected to increase, a consumer proposal may be a more cost-effective option as bankruptcy costs can rise with income. Similarly, if you have valuable assets that you wish to retain, a consumer proposal might be preferable.
  • Simplicity: A consumer proposal is generally simpler than bankruptcy. The terms of repayment are decided upfront, and there are no monthly reporting tasks or changes to payments if income changes.
  • Credit Score Impact: A consumer proposal has a less severe impact on your credit score compared to bankruptcy.
  • Tax Refunds: In bankruptcy, you lose all tax refunds and/or tax credits. In a consumer proposal, you keep all tax refunds and credits.

Professional Guidance: Making the Right Choice

Whether you’re considering bankruptcy or a consumer proposal, seeking professional advice is crucial. Licensed Insolvency Trustees can provide impartial advice and help you understand which option best fits your situation. They can guide you through the process, ensuring you make an informed decision that aligns with your financial goals.


Bankruptcy and a consumer proposal are different paths to the same destination—debt relief. Both options provide protection from creditors, stop wage garnishments, and eliminate unsecured debt. However, they differ significantly in their impact on assets, credit score, income, and lifestyle. Understanding these differences is key to choosing the right debt solution for your unique situation. Remember, the first step to financial freedom is reaching out to a professional for advice.

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