Kevin McLeod
Written By Kevin McLeod
Licensed Insolvency Practitioner
July 21st, 2023

Insolvency means that either an individual or a company cannot pay money owed to them.

However, in the UK the term more commonly refers to companies, whilst bankruptcy is used to denote personal insolvency.

This article will explore how corporate insolvency can affect a business, and what you can do about it.

Business Definition

There are two basic definitions of insolvency from a business setting. They are as follows:

Balance Sheet Insolvency

Balance sheet insolvency means you have negative net assets.

With assets (including cash) listed in column A of a spreadsheet, and liabilities in column B, you can quickly ascertain whether you have enough liquidity, at any given point in time, to pay what you owe. If you do not, you are technically insolvent.

Cash Flow Insolvency

The cash flow test is even simpler. Does your business have enough cash flow to pay your bills? If you don’t, you have failed the cash flow insolvency test.

What Should You Do if You’re Business is Insolvent?

Our chief bit of advice, if you either suspect or are certain that the business is insolvent, is to ask an expert. Speak with our friendly team right now via live chat or telephone, and find out what your options are. Failing that, speak to your accountant or other financial advisor at the earliest opportunity.

You should be careful not to pay anyone, including yourself.

It’s also worth documenting any actions you do take to ensure that your can demonstrate you acted responsibly.

What the Implications of Insolvency for Company Directors?

As a company director, insolvency comes with a very clear shift in responsibility.

Once you become aware of your company’s situation, you are no longer legally mandated to serve your shareholders. Rather, any actions you take on behalf of the company must be to the benefit of creditors, or you risk charges of wrongful trading.

As to what the situation means for your company, this will depend on the facts. Ultimately there are two outcomes for an insolvent company:

  • Business restructuring and/or turnaround
  • Liquidation and the end of the limited company

Working with an Insolvency Practitioner

Whether your company emerges from insolvency via a turnaround process or closes down, an insolvency practitioner will be required.

Insolvency practitioners in the UK are required to undergo a specialist training and obtain a license from a regulatory body in order to practice.

The industry is carefully monitored and regulated.

It’s important to realise that, while a company director can choose an IP, the IP’s duty is to provide the best return for creditors.

He will also be required to conduct what is called a ‘directors’ investigation’ whereby the actions of directors in the period preceding insolvency is examined for potential misfeasance.

United Kingdom Insolvency Law

The key pieces of legislation pertaining to insolvency in the UK are as follows:

According to these laws, insolvent company’s have access to four main processes:

  1. Company Voluntary Arrangement – A structured repayment plan with creditors
  2. Administration – Usually an attempt to rescue the business as a going concern the administration involves restructuring while under the protection of a statutory moratorium
  3. Receivership – Receivers seize control of failing businesses on behalf of lenders carrying a floating charge with the intention of recouping their money. Usually, receiverhip means subsequent liquidation for the company
  4. Liquidation – The formal closure of an insolvency company with debts, liquidation involves the sale of any assets to repay creditors