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Liquidation and bankruptcy

Authored by Phil Meekin

Phil Meekin

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Approximate read time: 3 minutes

CVL, Liquidation, bankruptcy, administration, voluntary arrangements – these are just some of the industry-specific terms which grace our newspaper headlines. Sometimes the media gets confused referring to the appointment of receivers when in fact they mean administrators or liquidators. Here’s a definition of a couple of these terms.


This is a process available to insolvent individuals only – those who cannot meet their outgoings and commitments. It can be the result of poor cash management or even reckless spending. However frequently it follows changed circumstances where income drops perhaps as a consequence of illness, an accident, redundancy or a simple cut back in working hours. Commitments such as mortgage payments, rent, credit cards, hire purchase or loan payments which were previously paid on their due dates start to fall behind and can soon spiral out of control.

Bankruptcy relates to any type of debt. The law does not differentiate between consumer debt and business debt. An individual can become bankrupt as a result of being a member of a partnership which has hit financial problems or can be a sole trader where trade has ground to a halt.

The bankruptcy process can be started by the individual himself or by a creditor who is owed at least £5,000. Once commenced it affords protection from creditor action and pressure. It is a way for the debtor to have a fresh start following the bankruptcy, but he is likely to have to sell major assets such as an expensive car or house (if there is equity in it). Additionally, bankruptcy remains on the individual’s credit history for 6 years making the process of borrowing money in the future both difficult and more expensive.

Liquidation and bankruptcy are completely different in UK law


Liquidation is a similar procedure to bankruptcy but relates to insolvent (*) limited companies and limited liability partnerships (LLP) rather than individuals.

There are numerous circumstances which can result in a company becoming insolvent, but the end result is the same – the company runs out of cash. Insolvency is where a company either cannot meet its liabilities as they fall due and/or where the value of company liabilities exceed its assets.

Like bankruptcy, the process of liquidation can be instigated by the company’s directors or creditors who are owed a minimum of £750. During the process, a licensed insolvency practitioner acts as liquidator and liquidates (i.e. turns into cash) all assets and distributes any proceeds amongst creditors.

Following the distributions of cash, the liquidator will investigate the conduct of the directors in the period preceding the liquidation for any wrongdoing or neglect of duties.

(*) Solvent companies can also be liquidated using a process known as a members voluntary liquidation (MVL), which can be a tax-efficient way of shareholders withdrawing their investment in the company.

Following the liquidation, the company will be dissolved and records struck off at Companies House. Thereafter the company will cease to exist.

In summary

Bankruptcy is a term used in relation to individual and sole trader debts, which can occur as a result of poor money-management or reckless spending, or in the case of a sole-trader, a downturn in business or an unexpected out-payment. Bankruptcy is a process which generally lasts for a year but will affect an individual’s credit rating for six years.
Liquidation, on the other hand, relates to the business debt of limited liability entities only. It is the process by which the company assets are realised and sold to pay back creditors, then the company is dissolved.

How we can help

We understand that insolvency is a complex topic, and not everyone can be an expert in the field. If you need help to identify your debt and the process you need to begin the road to financial recovery, call one of our experienced advisors today. We provide free, regulated and actionable advice, and can arrange a no-cost, no-obligation, face-to-face meeting with one of our consultants if you require a more in-depth assessment.

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