Company bankruptcy indicates a critical financial state where the entity can no longer meet its obligations due to insufficient cash or an excess of liabilities over assets. This can arise from various causes, including financial mismanagement, overwhelming debt burdens, and economic downturns. When bankruptcy strikes, a company’s assets are typically liquidated (sold) to satisfy creditors’ claims.

This article delves into the intricacies of UK bankruptcy procedures. We’ll explore the methods of determining insolvency, the steps involved in closing a limited company, and the potential repercussions for directors.


What happens to your business if you can’t pay your vendors?

Cash-flow problems are almost inevitable for any business, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less concerning.

Losing a key customer, as in your case, can quickly tip the balance and lead to more money flowing out than coming in. While replacing the lost customer can solve the short-term cash flow issue, it doesn’t erase the obligation to pay your suppliers and creditors.

Negotiating extended payment terms from 30 to 60 days can provide temporary relief. However, persistent delays in payment will raise red flags. As a limited company director or business owner, it’s crucial to carefully assess the situation and understand your responsibilities.

We often see small business owners feeling embarrassed and hesitant to communicate with suppliers when faced with late payments. If you need assistance navigating this situation, we’re here to help. Don’t hesitate to contact us.

What happens if you don’t pay your suppliers?

Facing payment delays with suppliers can lead to mounting pressure, legal threats, and damage to your credit rating. As a company director, taking swift action is crucial to resolve this situation.

1. Continue Trading:

If your aim is to prioritize your creditors’ best interests, you don’t need to cease trading. However, you must demonstrate a realistic prospect of repaying debts in full. Continuing while insolvent carries serious consequences, so consult our “wrongful trading” article and keep meticulous records.

2. Communicate with Suppliers:

Ignoring supplier communication will only worsen the situation. Maintain regular contact and explore their willingness to extend payment terms or find alternative arrangements.

Prepare a formal letter explaining your situation and reassuring them. We can assist with crafting such letters for small businesses.

3. Explore Asset-based Lending:

Utilize your business assets to access funds for supplier payments. Insolvency practitioners can help facilitate business rescue through secured loans on machinery or invoice finance options. Invoice finance delivers immediate cash based on issued invoices, mitigating the impact of late payments. This option scales alongside your sales turnover.

4. Consider a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA):

If your business can regain profitability after a cash flow crisis, a CVA (applicable to limited companies) can offer a solution. A CVA halts legal action, freezes interest and charges, and allows consolidation of debts into a monthly payment spread over five years. This protects you from further pressure and enables continued trading upon adherence to the repayment plan. Learn more about CVAs, which must be proposed by licensed insolvency practitioners.

5. Administration as a Viable Route:

If suppliers threaten to close your business, voluntary administration can be a viable strategy. Once the court grants the administration order, creditors lose the power to shut you down. An insolvency practitioner will manage your business as interim CEO, aiming for recovery and debt reduction.

6. Voluntary Liquidation:

If you feel the company has reached its end and wish to exit debt, voluntary liquidation (Creditors Voluntary Liquidation) may be optimal. This frees you from creditor interactions, your debts are written off, and the company ceases operations and closes. Liquidation must be handled by a licensed insolvency practitioner.


Informing a supplier of payment difficulties

Feeling the pinch with late supplier payments? Don’t let embarrassment or worry hold you back. We understand!

Need help navigating the situation? We’re here to support you. Reach out to us today.

Be honest and upfront with your suppliers. A clear explanation and realistic timeframe for payment goes a long way. You might be surprised by their understanding and willingness to work with you.

Open communication can pave the way for better solutions. Longer payment terms during a tough patch could be a possibility.

Don’t hesitate to seek assistance. We’re here to guide you through this and get things back on track.


Ignoring signs of insolvency can lead to serious legal and financial consequences for both the company and its directors. Directors may be held personally liable for the company’s debts and could be disqualified from acting as directors in the future. The company itself could be forced into bankruptcy, which could result in job losses and damage to the company’s reputation.

The length of the insolvency process depends on the complexity of the case and the specific options being pursued. Liquidation, which is the process of winding up a company’s affairs and selling its assets, can take anywhere from 6 to 12 months. Administration and voluntary arrangements, which are aimed at restructuring the company and rescuing it from insolvency, may take longer, especially if they involve complex negotiations with creditors.

Yes, it is possible for an insolvent company to recover and become financially viable again. This can be achieved through a variety of methods, such as restructuring debt, selling off assets, or entering into administration. However, the chances of success will depend on the specific circumstances of the company and the severity of its financial problems.

Creditors are paid in a specific order when a company becomes insolvent. Secured creditors, who have a legal claim against the company’s assets, are paid first. Preferential creditors, such as employees and tax authorities, are paid next. Unsecured creditors, who do not have a legal claim against the company’s assets, are paid last. Shareholders are not paid anything if there is not enough money to pay all of the creditors.

In some cases, a company can continue to trade while insolvent if the directors believe that they can restore the company’s solvency and have taken appropriate advice. However, this must be done with caution to avoid wrongful trading, which could have legal repercussions for the directors.

For companies with temporary cash flow problems, there are a number of options available. These include negotiating extended payment terms with creditors, seeking short-term financing, or invoice factoring. If the business is fundamentally viable, arrangements like a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) or refinancing assets may provide the necessary breathing space to improve liquidity.

Insolvency can lead to the termination of ongoing contracts, as many agreements include clauses that allow for termination in the event of insolvency. However, during certain insolvency procedures like administration, there may be some protection to prevent contracts from being automatically terminated.

While insolvency does not automatically prevent directors from starting another business, they may face restrictions if found guilty of wrongful or fraudulent trading. Additionally, they cannot use a name associated with the insolvent company for a new business without court permission.

A company that exits insolvency through a restructuring or a formal arrangement such as a CVA often emerges as a leaner entity with reduced debts. However, its credit standing would typically be impaired for some time, affecting its ability to secure future financing and potentially influencing its trade terms with suppliers and customers.

Yes, a director can be disqualified from managing or directing a company for up to 15 years if they are found to have engaged in unfit conduct, such as allowing a company to trade while insolvent, not keeping proper accounting records, or not acting in the company’s best interest.

Senior Partner at Vanguard Insolvency Practitioners | Website | + posts

I am an insolvency professional with a distinguished career specialising in commercial insolvency, adeptly navigating Creditors Voluntary Liquidation, Company Voluntary Arrangements, and Company Administrations. With a comprehensive understanding of insolvency laws and an unwavering commitment to ethical practices.