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Specialist Insolvency Practitioners

Licensed Insolvency Practitioners

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Can’t Pay Company Debt?

Are you concerned about the potential implications for your business and personal finances when you can’t pay company debt?

This guide will explain the vital steps and options available to navigate the treacherous waters of company debt.

Understanding your company’s financial situation, seeking professional advice, and exploring debt management solutions can go a long way in protecting your business and your personal assets.

Gain an understanding of your company’s financial status through analysing cash flow and identifying the sources of debt.

Seek professional advice to assess viability, address wrongful or fraudulent trading, and explore suitable debt management solutions.

Consider personal guarantees, ceasing trading immediately if necessary, pre-pack administration options, or commercial finance for businesses in need of debt management.

Exploring Debt Management Solutions

Once you clearly understand your company’s financial situation and have sought professional advice, it’s time to explore the available debt management solutions.

Some of the most common solutions include Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA), Company Administration, and Creditors Voluntary Liquidation (CVL).

Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA)

A Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) is a debt management solution where a company agrees to make payments to its creditors over a fixed period of time.

A CVA offers several benefits, allowing directors to remain in control of operations and the company to resume trading. Interest and charges on company debts are suspended.

Creditors will not be able to take any legal action against the company to recover their funds, as long as CVA terms are respected.

Additional working capital is liberated, which sometimes is the only thing required in court order to make the company profitable again.

Opting for a CVA instead of informal arrangements with creditors can be advantageous, as the involvement of an Insolvency Practitioner implies that creditors’ interests are more likely to be prioritized.

This legally binding agreement between the directors of the company and its creditors allows the company to pay off its debts over a predetermined period of time, usually paid at a reduced rate.

Company Administration

Company Administration is a process in which the control of the company is officially transferred to a qualified Insolvency Practitioner, who may decide to liquidate certain or all business assets to generate funds for creditors.

Company Administration may be a viable option if the company holds considerable assets that can be used to compensate creditors.

The debt burden of the company may be lightened substantially, a drastic step that could bring it back to its original form.

This process would require a revision of the current organisational structure.

Creditors Voluntary Liquidation (CVL)

Directors and shareholders can choose to place the company into liquidation through Creditors’ Voluntary Liquidation (CVL).

This is an alternative to traditional insolvency and companies who decide upon this route are usually those facing financial difficulty.

An Insolvency Practitioner is appointed to administer the process, dispose of the business assets, and bring the company to a close.

During CVL, the Insolvency Practitioner is responsible for selling the business assets.

Directors should provide access to all company records, including accounts, payroll, and asset information.

The Role of Company Directors in Debt Management

As a company director, it is your responsibility to ensure that your company’s debts are managed effectively.

This includes being aware of personal guarantees and ceasing trading immediately if necessary.

Personal Guarantees

A personal guarantee is a contractual agreement between a business owner and a creditor, indicating that the signatory is liable for repaying a loan in the event that the business is unable to make payments.

Directors can become personally liable for company debt when personal guarantees back loan that have been signed against company debts, often involving a family house.

Personal guarantee insurance can be accessed when signing personal guarantee documents to protect against potential risks.

Ceasing Trading Immediately

Ceasing trading immediately entails an immediate cessation of all business operations and transactions, which may be due to insolvency or other financial difficulties.

The implications of abruptly discontinuing trading include the termination of all business operations, potential redundancy of personnel, obligation to settle outstanding liabilities, and potential disposal of assets.

When trading is ceased immediately, it is imperative to inform all creditors, customers, and suppliers, and ensure that all transactions are recorded accurately.

Additionally, it is necessary to contact HMRC to notify them of the situation and request counsel on the appropriate course of action.

Business Rescue Options

When traditional debt management solutions are not sufficient or appropriate for your company, Business Rescue options such as Pre-Pack Administration and Commercial Finance can be explored.

Pre-Pack Administration

Pre-pack administration is a procedure where the sale of a company’s business and/or assets is pre-negotiated and agreed upon prior to the appointment of an insolvency practitioner.

The related documents are signed and put into effect shortly after the appointment.

It enables the expeditious sale of the assets of an insolvent business.

The primary benefit of pre-pack administration is that it facilitates the rapid and effective restructuring of a company’s debts and liabilities, enabling it to remain in operation and avoid liquidation.

Additionally, it allows the company to maintain its clientele and goodwill, which can be advantageous in the long term.

The primary drawback of pre-pack administration is that it can be challenging to reach an equitable agreement for all parties involved.

It can be complicated to guarantee that creditor interests of all creditors are treated equitably, as the licensed insolvency practitioner is often pressed for time to complete the process expeditiously.

Commercial Finance

Commercial finance is a comprehensive term that refers to a variety of financial products and services provided by an external source intended for businesses, including both short-term and long-term solutions.

These products consist of traditional bank loans, factoring, invoice discounting, and international trade finance.

The available types of commercial finance include traditional bank loans, factoring, invoice discounting, and international trade finance.

The benefits of commercial finance include access to capital, improved cash flow, and increased purchasing power.

The drawbacks include high-interest rates, long repayment terms, and the potential for default.

Examples of commercial finance include traditional bank loans, factoring, invoice discounting, and international trade finance.

Understanding Your Company’s Financial Situation

In order to tackle company debt effectively, the first step is to gain a clear understanding of your company’s financial situation.

By analysing cash flow and identifying the causes of debt, you will be better equipped to make informed decisions about the best course of action for your business.

Analysing Cash Flow

The statement of cash flows is a vital financial statement that sheds light on the cash inflows and outflows of a business over a period of time.

It plays a crucial role in assessing the liquidity and solvency of a business.

When analysing cash flow, it is important to consider trends and changes in the amount of money invested in property, equipment, and other assets.

For a more comprehensive analysis, consider calculating ratios such as the cash flow to debt ratio, the cash flow to equity ratio, and the cash flow to total assets ratio.

These ratios can help you identify potential cash flow problems and provide valuable insights into your company’s financial status.

Identifying Causes of Debt

Debt can arise from a plethora of sources, ranging from insufficient cash flow and overspending to mismanagement, fraud, or wrongful trading.

It is crucial to identify the root cause of your company’s debt in order to address the issue effectively.

Tax arrears, particularly VAT debts, can be particularly problematic. HMRC demonstrates a less lenient attitude when it comes to VAT debts compared to other types of tax arrears.

In cases of significant VAT arrears, HMRC may send warnings, including winding up petitions, especially when the directors are not responsive and appear to be avoiding the issue.

To tackle serious VAT debt, maintain consistent contact with HMRC, investigate financing options, and seek advice from a professional organisation if the situation seems unresolvable.

Seeking Professional Advice

When faced with overwhelming company debt, seeking professional advice is of paramount importance.

Consulting with a licensed insolvency practitioner or a debt counselor can provide invaluable guidance in evaluating the sustainability of your company’s creditors and rectifying any wrongful or fraudulent trading.

Let’s explore the key aspects of assessing viability and addressing wrongful or fraudulent trading.

Assessing Viability

To assess your company’s financial situation, start by analyzing your financial statements, such as balance sheets, income statements, and cash flow statements.

This will give you an overview of your company’s financial standing and help you identify any potential issues.

Cash flow analysis involves examining your company’s cash inflows and outflows over a given period of time, which can help pinpoint potential cash flow problems and provide insight into your company’s financial status.

The sources of debt can be multifarious, but some of the most common ones include inadequate cash flow management, excessive expenditure, and incurring too much debt.

It is crucial to identify the root causes of your company’s debt and explore suitable debt management solutions, such as negotiating with creditors, restructuring debt, or filing for bankruptcy.

Addressing Wrongful or Fraudulent Trading

Wrongful trading is a civil offense that arises from directors failing to take steps to limit losses to company creditors once they become aware that their company is insolvent.

Directors ‘willfully’ or ‘knowingly’ exploiting company resources for personal gain is an example of wrongful or fraudulent trading.

Such exploitation occurs when directors are aware of the firm’s financial standing, but prioritize their own interests over those of the company’s creditors.

The implications of wrongful trading can be severe, potentially leading to the disqualification of directors for up to 15 years, financial sanctions, and detriment to creditors and/or the company’s assets.

To address wrongful or fraudulent trading, it is essential to seek professional advice to ensure that the optimal course of action is undertaken.


Navigating company debt may seem daunting, but with a clear grasp of your finances, seeking professional advice, and exploring debt management solutions, you can tackle the challenge confidently.

Remember that as a company director, it is your responsibility to manage debt effectively, be aware of personal guarantees, and be prepared to cease trading immediately if necessary.

By taking control of your company’s debt, you can protect both your business and personal assets, and ultimately steer your company towards a brighter financial future.

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens if a business Cannot pay its debts?

If a business is unable to pay its debts, the creditors may take legal action against it, or the company may have to enter into insolvency proceedings such as liquidation or administration.

Ultimately, these measures aim to restructure the business in an attempt to repay creditors and recover any money owed.

Failing that, the company will be dissolved and the company cannot cease trading.

Who is liable if a company Cannot pay its debts?

Limited liability means that the company is legally responsible for its own debts.

The directors and shareholders of the company are not held liable in these cases unless they have acted negligently or fraudulently.

About Insolvency Practitioner

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