Toxic debt

Are you affected by toxic debt?

Authored by Kelly Burton

Kelly Burton

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Approximate read time: 5 minutes

If you’re struggling to repay either your company’s debts or your own personal debts, you may be struggling with ‘toxic debts’.

What is toxic debt?

Toxic debts are debts that the debtor will never realistically be able to repay with the agreed amount of interest. As such, they have a high default rate. Additionally, the interest rates on toxic debts can be high and subject to discretionary changes.

The term became commonplace after the Financial Crisis of 2007-08 after lenders granted mortgages and bank loans to high-risk individuals and businesses who couldn’t realistically repay them.

Although commonly used in relation to ‘toxic assets’, where an asset becomes difficult or impossible to sell due to a drop in demand or another reason for loss of value, any debt can become toxic once it starts harming the debtor.

Who can toxic debts affect?

Toxic debts can affect individuals and limited companies. Individuals might be struggling to repay personal loans or mortgages due to a change in circumstances or the repayment amounts become too much for them to manage. Companies may have purchased an asset through hire-purchase, but if their revenue drops or a sudden, unexpected expense befalls them, they could find the repayments become unaffordable.

With coronavirus support schemes, such as furlough and the suspension of winding-up petitions, ending recently, and the repayment dates for the first bounce back loans now passed, it’s possible a large number of businesses could find themselves lumbered with toxic debts.

How to relieve toxic debt

Finding yourself or your business suffering from toxic debt can be a worrying experience for anyone. Fortunately, we can offer help and advice if you’re struggling with debts that you can’t realistically afford to repay. We have an experienced team of initial advisors who can put you on the right path, and our licensed and regulated insolvency practitioners will work to secure the best outcome for you or your company.

Toxic debt help for limited companies

Limited companies can suffer from toxic debt if they’re in possession of, or repaying for an asset that has lost value, or have taken out a loan that cannot be repaid. Fortunately, depending on your circumstances, several options could be available to help you alleviate the debts.

  • Repaying the debt through a formal payment plan
    There is a formal process for limited companies with toxic debts; a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA). A CVA allows companies to consolidate their debts into a single, affordable amount, which is paid monthly to its creditors. The arrangement usually lasts five years, and all unaffordable debt that hasn’t been repaid is written off once the arrangement ends.
    More on Company Voluntary Arrangements (CVA)
  • Restructuring the company in an administration
    Depending on the severity of the toxic debts and how many parties it is owed to, repaying may not be the most feasible relief option. In which case, administration might be a better option. Administration protects the company from creditor pressure while a nominated licensed insolvency practitioner formulates a plan to restructure or sell it and its assets.
    More on administration
  • Closing via a voluntary liquidation
    If the toxic debts are of such a level that the company has very little chance of recovery, you might be better off closing the company and starting afresh. You can do this via a Creditors Voluntary Liquidation (CVL), wherein a licensed insolvency practitioner closes the company in an orderly manner. Once the company is closed, all the unaffordable unsecured debts are written off, allowing you to start a new limited company should you wish.
    More on Creditors Voluntary Liquidations (CVL)

Toxic debt help for sole traders

While a CVA is designed to work for companies, an Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA) can help individuals and sole trader businesses repay an affordable portion of their debts in monthly instalments, usually over five years. Depending on your circumstances, an IVA could be a viable alternative to personal bankruptcy.

More on Individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVA)

How we can help

  1. Get in touch
    You should speak to us as soon as you realise either you or your company is insolvent. Acting fast means more opportunities and options you may have to alleviate your debts. Leaving it too long could leave these out of your reach and encourage your creditors to take further action to recover what you owe.
  2. Speak to our team
    Once you pick up the phone or contact us via our website, our initial advice team will assess your circumstances and guide you through the options available. Our advisors have many years’ experience in dealing with indebted companies and individuals. They will work to find the solution best suited to your circumstances.
  3. Our work begins
    After speaking with our initial advisors, we’ll put you in touch with a consultant, who will provide a detailed breakdown of the solution they feel is best suited to your circumstances. For limited companies, that might be a CVA, or an IVA for individuals or sole traders. Once all the relevant information is gathered, we will draft a proposal for you and your creditors to review, which, if approved, will become legally binding.


Debts can become toxic when the debtor can no longer realistically repay, and they become harmful. While often used to describe the fallout of the financial crisis, they can still affect businesses and individuals today, and more could find themselves straddled with toxic debt with coronavirus support winding down. If you’re finding yourself or your business struggling to repay debts, speak to us, and our experienced team of initial advisors and licensed insolvency practitioners can assess your circumstances and decide the best way forward.

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