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Liquidation vs Dissolution – The Key Facts

When it comes to closing a business, the terms liquidation and dissolution often come up. But what exactly do they mean, and how do they differ?

As a business owner, it’s crucial to understand the nuances between these two processes and their impact on your company, its directors, and shareholders.

In this blog post, we will explore “Liquidation vs dissolution: the key facts” in-depth and guide you in making the right choice for your business’s future.

Understanding Liquidation and Dissolution

Liquidation and dissolution are two different procedures that directors undertake to terminate a business and deregister the company from Companies House.

While both processes ultimately lead to the end of a company, they differ in their approach and outcomes.

Liquidation involves disposing of a company’s assets to settle its liabilities, while dissolution entails voluntarily removing the company from the register at Companies House.

The primary factor to consider when determining which process to choose is the company’s financial position – specifically, whether it is solvent or insolvent.

Seeking professional help when facing financial difficulties can not only protect you and your creditors but also ensure the correct closure route is chosen.

Liquidation: A Closer Look

Liquidation marks the end of a company’s life and is typically viewed as a last resort due to the associated costs, duration, and negative impact on the business’s reputation.

In this process, a company’s assets are distributed to settle its liabilities, and upon completion, the company is delisted from the register of companies and ceases to operate.

Liquidation may be considered when a company is unable to settle its financial obligations or is facing legal proceedings.

There are three distinct types of liquidation: Members’ Voluntary Liquidation (MVL) for solvent companies, Creditors’ Voluntary Liquidation (CVL) for insolvent companies, and Compulsory Liquidation, initiated by a court order.

A certified insolvency practitioner, called a liquidator, is appointed to manage the process, and their fees are paid from the proceeds of asset sales.

Dissolution: A Closer Look

Dissolution, on the other hand, is the process of terminating a company’s legal status. Directors may decide to dissolve a company for various reasons, such as unprofitability, the retirement of directors, or the completion of the company’s purpose.

The process involves submitting an application with Companies House, and it’s crucial to ensure all outstanding debts are settled prior to initiating the dissolution process.

Failing to notify affected parties before the dissolution can lead to hefty fines, director disqualification, and even imprisonment.

Dissolution is generally a more cost-effective and efficient process compared to liquidation, as there is no need to appoint a liquidator.

Key Differences Between Liquidation and Dissolution

The key differences between liquidation and dissolution can be summarised in three main areas: financial status, asset distribution, and debt repayment.

In liquidation, the company is insolvent and unable to fulfil its financial obligations. Conversely, dissolution is typically pursued by solvent companies that have ceased trading and wish to terminate their legal existence.

Asset distribution also varies between the two processes, with liquidation involving the sale of assets to pay creditors, while in dissolution, the assets are allocated to shareholders after settling outstanding liabilities.

Debt repayment in both processes follows a prescribed order of priority, but the liquidation process requires the appointment of a liquidator, making it a more intricate and laborious process compared to dissolution.

Financial Status

The financial position of a company plays a critical role in determining the choice between liquidation and dissolution.

Solvent liquidation, such as Members’ Voluntary Liquidation (MVL), involves a company’s ability to discharge its debts in full.

Insolvent liquidation, on the other hand, involves a company’s incapability to pay its debts in full and is typically applicable to companies facing compulsory liquidation.

Continuing to trade while insolvent can lead to disqualification as a director and potential personal liability for company debts.

It’s crucial for company directors to seek guidance from a licensed insolvency practitioner to assess the financial position of their company and determine the most appropriate course of action.

Asset Distribution

Asset distribution in liquidation and dissolution processes also differ significantly. The company’s assets are sold in liquidation.

The proceeds from the sale are used to pay off creditors. Any remaining funds are then allocated to the shareholders.

In the case of dissolution, the assets are distributed to creditors first, and any remaining assets are allocated to shareholders.

This distribution can have significant implications for both shareholders and employees, as their rights and potential asset distribution may vary depending on the chosen process.

Debt Repayment

Debt repayment processes in liquidation and dissolution also differ in complexity.

In liquidation, a liquidator is appointed to manage the distribution of the company’s assets to creditors in a prescribed order of priority, starting with secured creditors, followed by unsecured creditors, and finally, shareholders.

In contrast, the dissolution process follows the same order of priority for creditors, but is notably more efficient, as there is no need to appoint a liquidator.

Understanding these differences is essential for company directors when deciding between dissolution and liquidation.

The Impact on Company Directors and Shareholders

The impact on company directors and shareholders varies depending on the chosen option of liquidation or dissolution.

In liquidation, company directors do not automatically become personally liable for company debts; however, they may be held accountable for their actions or omissions that cause detriment to creditors, employees, or other stakeholders.

This can lead to significant financial and legal repercussions for the director, including loss of assets or personal bankruptcy if they are unable to pay the unpaid debts.

On the other hand, dissolution typically has less severe implications for company directors and shareholders, as the company’s full legal entity and status are simply terminated.

Company Directors

In liquidation, company directors face the risk of potential disqualification and personal liability for company debts if their actions are found to have caused harm to creditors, employees, or other stakeholders.

Continuing to trade while insolvent can lead to severe consequences, including disqualification as a director and personal liability for the company’s debts.

It is crucial for company directors to seek professional advice from a licensed insolvency practitioner when navigating the complexities of liquidation and dissolution processes, as they can help ensure compliance with statutory requirements and minimise risks for directors.


Shareholders are also affected by the decision to liquidate or dissolve a company. In liquidation, shareholders may receive a portion of the company’s assets after the payment of liquidation costs.

Such as the liquidator’s fees, and the rights of any secured creditor have been settled. However, the available assets for distribution to shareholders pay creditors are usually limited.

In dissolution, shareholders will no longer possess any rights or duties to the company, and all assets of the company will be distributed to creditors first, and any remaining assets will be allocated to shareholders.

Understanding the implications for shareholders in both processes is vital for making informed decisions.

Choosing the Right Option: Factors to Consider

Selecting the most suitable option between liquidation and dissolution depends on the company’s financial status and specific circumstances.

For solvent companies, the choice may lie between dissolution and Members’ Voluntary Liquidation (MVL), while insolvent companies may need to consider liquidation as their only viable option.

In this section, we will explore the factors to consider for both solvent companies and insolvent companies when choosing between liquidation and dissolution.

Solvent Companies

For solvent companies, Members’ Voluntary Liquidation (MVL) is a potential option to consider.

In an MVL, directors must submit a declaration of solvency before the process begins, indicating that the company will be able to pay all creditors in full within 12 months of closure.

Consulting a licensed insolvency practitioner (IP) prior to entering an MVL can help verify the company’s financial position and protect directors from becoming personally liable for the company’s debts.

It’s crucial for directors of solvent companies to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of dissolution and MVL before making a decision.

Insolvent Companies

For insolvent companies, liquidation is often the most appropriate option.

It provides several benefits, such as reducing debt payments, terminating lease agreements, ceasing legal proceedings, enabling employees to apply for redundancy pay, and offering a fresh start for the company’s directors.

Directors of insolvent companies should assess their company’s ability to pay its debts and consult with a licensed insolvency practitioner to determine the most suitable course of action.

Understanding the implications of liquidation for insolvent companies is essential in making an informed decision.

Navigating the Legal Processes

Navigating the legal processes associated with liquidation and dissolution requires guidance and expertise.

Working with a licensed insolvency practitioner and dealing with the register at Companies House are crucial steps in ensuring compliance with statutory requirements and minimising risks for company directors.

In this section, we will explore the importance of working with a licensed insolvency practitioner and dealing with Companies House when navigating the legal processes of liquidation and dissolution.

Working with a Licensed Insolvency Practitioner

A licensed insolvency practitioner is a professional who is authorised to provide advice and undertake appointments on behalf of individuals, partnerships, or companies facing insolvency or financial difficulty.

They play a vital role in navigating the legal processes associated with liquidation and dissolution, ensuring compliance with all statutory requirements and minimising risks for directors.

Engaging the services of a licensed insolvency practitioner early in the decision-making process can help company directors make informed choices and protect their interests.

Dealing with Companies House

Companies House is a UK government agency responsible for incorporating and dissolving limited companies, examining and storing company information, and making the relevant information accessible to the public.

Registering, then dissolving a company, and filing documents with Companies House are essential steps in the whole company liquidation and dissolution processes.

Ensuring compliance with the procedures and requirements of Companies House is crucial for company directors when closing their business.

In case of any doubts or uncertainties, seeking professional guidance from a licensed insolvency practitioner can be invaluable in navigating the legal processes involved in liquidation and dissolution.


In conclusion, understanding the differences between liquidation and dissolution is crucial for company directors facing the decision to close their business.

The choice between these two processes largely depends on the company’s financial status and specific circumstances.

Seeking professional guidance from a licensed insolvency practitioner and dealing with Companies House are essential steps in navigating the legal processes associated with liquidation and dissolution.

Ultimately, being well-informed and making the right choice can protect the interests of company directors, shareholders, and other stakeholders, paving the way for a fresh start and new business opportunities.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between dissolution and liquidation?

The main difference between dissolution and liquidation is that dissolution is the process of striking a company off the register at Companies House when the business is inactive.

While liquidation is the formal closing or closure of a business by a liquidator when there are still some business assets and liabilities to be resolved.

Thus, it’s important to understand the difference between the two in order to choose the best approach for your business.

What are the 3 types of liquidation?

The three types of liquidation are creditors’ voluntary liquidation, members’ voluntary liquidation and compulsory liquidation.

Creditors’ voluntary liquidation involves your dissolving a company’s creditors when it is unable to pay its debts and members’ voluntary liquidation occurs when your company can still pay its debts but you want to close it.

Compulsory liquidation requires an application to the courts for an order to dissolve the company.

Does dissolution always lead to liquidation?

Company dissolution does not always lead to liquidation. Liquidation is the legal process of winding down a business when it is no longer profitable or capable of being rescued.

Whereas company dissolution is the act of formally closing a company and striking it off the Companies House register.

A company can be dissolved without necessarily going into liquidation.

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