If you are a company director and your business now can’t pay back instalments on the Bounce back loan, the first question to consider is whether your business is insolvent. 

Some directors also advise us that they worry about whether there may be an investigation into whether their company was eligible for a bounce back loan and how the money received was used.

If your business might be insolvent, you certainly should not prioritise paying some creditors over others, however much some of them pressure you.

If you are fairly clear that you won’t be able to pay the Bounce Back loan instalments in the medium to long term, your business is almost certainly insolvent and you should cease trading.

If insolvency is inevitable, in most cases voluntary liquidation will be the best option and this tends to reduce the possibility of an in-depth assessment of whether you should have received Bounce Back loan funding in the first place.

If your financial problems are more short term it may be possible to negotiate a payment holiday, reduced payments with a longer term with your bank, although this is uncertain because the bank have the benefit of a Government guarantee on the loan and may not be as flexible with you due to that.

As insolvency practitioners, we offer support to company directors in situations like this. We also offer clear and accurate advice, as well as careful and regulated solutions to challenges such as being unable to repay creditors; either on time, or at all.

If you are considering liquidation as an option as a direct result of being unable to service a bounce back loan then please reach out to one of our experts who will be happy to help you.

How to Manage a Bounce Back Loan if You Can't Repay

What happens if you don’t pay a Bounce Back Loan?

If your business has defaulted here’s what you should expect to happen:

  • You will receive a letter from the bank, as per their normal processes.
  • Over time, the bank may escalate towards debt collection and/or court action if the amounts are not paid, although finance providers may differ in their policies.
  • Banks have suggested that businesses refrain from seeking other finance from them in the future.

Current recommendations are for the approved lenders/creditors to follow ‘appropriate recovery processes’, using the Court where necessary.

As per the terms of the BBLS itself, lenders are required to offer a 12-month period after they have issued a formal demand to the borrower, when pursuing the outstanding amounts.

What if my Company Cannot Repay any of the Loan?

If your company is unable to repay the bounce back loan then it is likely in a state of insolvency. When your company reaches this stage it is very important that you take a great deal of care, as your duties as a director change. Your priorities shift from the shareholders to the creditors and you should consider seeking professional insolvency advice immediately.

Directors may have the option to enter the company into voluntary liquidation without the risk of personal liability, assuming that the funds were used as intended.

What are the implications for Directors?

In general terms, unless you have given a personal guarantee for company borrowings or have traded on when insolvent or dealt with assets in a way you shouldn’t have, you will not be personally liable.

Aside from this, Insolvency practitioners have a requirement to investigate the company’s position prior to insolvency. Where evidence is discovered that the directors knew that the company was already insolvent, the liquidator will be required to investigate this.

It is not yet clear what repercussions HMRC have in mind for those directors who have misused these funds. However, HMRC have allocated staff within a specific department to focus on investigating bounce back loan fraud. As of the date of writing this article, there have been examples made, where directors have been jailed due to proven deliberate misuse of the funds.

How to Minimise Personal Risks?

Directors were asked to confirm that their limited companies were not insolvent at the point of the initial bounceback loan application. Assuming this was true, and the funds were used legitimately, there should be no issues over personal liability when facing liquidation, or closing your business.

If your company is insolvent, choosing a creditors voluntary liquidation may help reduce risk. Whilst the liquidator appointed is bound to make enquiries about directors past conduct, he or she may not pursue this line of enquiry as vigorously as if he or she is appointed by a hostile creditor as part of compulsory liquidation.

Once a company becomes insolvent, however, the directors duties become more onerous and seeking the professional counsel of a licensed insolvency practice, such as ourselves, is wise. We will be able to assess whether there are any other debts that you may be personally liable for within the company, outside of the bounce back loan.

Will the bounceback loan be written off on liquidation?

For company directors facing insolvency, the question of whether the bounce back loan will be written-off alongside the other business debts; is one that we get asked a lot. The simple answer is yes. The process of liquidation brings an end to all unsecured business debts, as well as the company itself.

Liquidations must be carried out by a licensed insolvency practitioner. All creditors, including the finance provider of the BBL, will be paid in the order of priority. Funds made available to the creditors are realised by the Liquidator after selling any available assets that the company may have.

Please seek guidance from a licensed insolvency practitioner such as ourselves if you are considering liquidation and would like to know more about this process.

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