When a company goes bankrupt, it means there is either no cash to pay bills, or more liabilities than assets.
Below we’ll explain how to tell if you’ve reached bankruptcy, and what are your options if you have.
Company Bankruptcy: Definition
While bankruptcy is a commonly used term in the UK, it should correctly be used only to refer to individuals who can no longer afford to pay their debts. While individuals go bankrupt, limited companies become insolvent.
Insolvency Means a business either
- Cannot pay it’s bills when due
- Finds itself in a position where its liabilities outweigh its assets
If you’re the director of a limited company that fulflls one of these two criteria, you’ll need to take advice immediately. Insolvency represents a fundamental change in your responsibilities as a director and you’l need to understand the rules.
When a Company is Bankrupt
If you’re insolvent, cease trading immediately.
Don’t pay anyone, including yourself, and take careful notes of all your actions. You’ll need to ensure you’re not breaching any responsibilities, which could land you in hot water later on.
As the director of a bankrupt company, your primary responsibility is no longer to your shareholders, but to your creditors.
Whether you choose to liquidate the company and write off the debts, or to try to rescue it via a company voluntary arrangement, you’ll need to seek advice from an insolvency practitioner.
Going into Liquidation
Choosing liquidation means you feel the company has no viable future and feel the correct decision is to close the company down. This may be chosen voluntarily, or perhaps you’re being forced into it by creditors via a winding up petition.
Legally, any liquidation requires a licensed insolvency practitioner. It is their job to oversee the liquidation process and ensure fair play for creditors.
They will take control of the business and:
- Settle any legal disputes or outstanding contracts
- Sell the company’s assets and use the funds to pay the creditors
- Make payments to creditors (in this order of priority)
- Complete all the relevant paperwork
- Pay the final VAT bill
- Settle the liquidation costs using funds raised through the sale of company assets
- Strike the Company off the Register at Companies House
At the end of the liquidation, the limited company will cease to exist.
What Happens to Employees
When a company becomes insolvent, employees become creditors for unpaid wages, holiday pay, and other outstanding amounts.
For some debts they are ranked as preferential creditors, and for others unsecured creditors. Read our full guide to employee rights in insolvency.
Redundancy Claims During Bankruptcy
The Redundancy Payments Service (RPS) administers claims for employees (including company directors) on the National Insurance Fund. This means you may be entitled to statutory redundancy pay even if you’re the director of a company that has gone into liquidation.
Rescuing a Company from Bankruptcy
The insolvency of your business is not an untenable situation. Depending on your circumstances, there will be a number of options open to you, some of which offer the potential to rescue the business.
- Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) – Formal negotiations take place with your creditors which, if successful, will allow interest and charges on outstanding debts to be frozen. A consolidated monthly payment plan will be put in place that allows you to pay all or part of the debts over an extended period of time, typically three to five years.
- Alternative Finance – Solutions like invoice finance may allow enough improvement in the cash-flow cycle to avoid insolvency altogether.
- HMRC Time to Pay Arrangements – We are experienced mediators with HMRC and can help you put forward the best possible case to increase the likelihood of them giving you time to pay.
- Going into Administration – This rescue solution is appropriate for larger companies and involves temporary management and restructuring from an insolvency practitioner, whilst protected from legal threats by a moratorium.
Can I be a Director After My Company has Gone Bankrupt?
The simple answer is yes.
The only restriction you face is that you cannot set up a new company with the same or a similar name as the old company. This is called ‘passing off’ and can lead to criminal action against you and personal liability for the debts of the new company if it enters liquidation.