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What Is The Difference Between Voluntary Liquidation and Compulsory Liquidation?

Written by Keith Steven Managing Director 26 May 2021

What Is The Difference Between Voluntary Liquidation and Compulsory Liquidation?

It’s important to understand what the difference is between compulsory and voluntary liquidation. Both are insolvency proceedings, but have vastly different implications for you as a director and for your company.

What Is Liquidation?

Liquidation is a formal insolvency process whereby a liquidator (or insolvency practitioner) ‘winds up’ a company’s affairs. It sells all of the insolvent businesses’ assets, including property, and the proceeds go to as many creditors as possible - in order of priority.

By the end of the liquidation process, the company is completely dissolved and struck off the Companies House register. The Insolvency Service will also investigate the conduct of the company's directors, seeking examples of wrongful or fraudulent trading.

There are two core types of liquidation; compulsory and voluntary. As their names suggest, the main difference relates to how the proceedings come about.

Compulsory Liquidation

Compulsory liquidation is forced on a company by creditors, usually after the approval of a winding up petition in Court.

After approval, the Official Receiver will take over, freeze bank accounts and begin the investigation into what led to the company’s insolvency.

A liquidator will be appointed if there are assets to recover. The proceeds from this will cover the cost of the liquidation. Any remaining funds will go to the creditors, however it is unlikely that they’ll receive anything like the full amount owed.  An investigation into the directors conduct is carried out as a statutory duty of the official receiver whether or not there is any evidence of wrong doing. 

Voluntary Liquidation

Also known as a Creditors Voluntary Liquidation (CVL), a voluntary liquidation starts when the directors, and owners, decide to close their business as they cannot pay their creditors.  The company has to be insolvent for this to happen.  See this page to find out if your business is insolvent.

This requires a meeting of the shareholders and creditors to pass appropriate resolutions and appoint a liquidator. Neither the Court or Official Receiver are part of voluntary liquidation.  The process is quicker than a compulsory liquidation. 

We explain a little more how it works in this video below

Which type of liquidation is best for you and your company?

So, the main difference between compulsory and voluntary liquidation is whether or not the process was the director's idea. In both situations, the company is insolvent with no prospect of turnaround.

The compulsory liquidation process is not ideal for any business. Waiting for creditors to wind up the company suggests that directors were unaware, or ignoring, their company’s financial state. If the Official Receiver finds this to be the case, the director could be held personally liable for debts accrued since they knew the company was insolvent. What is more the whole process takes a long time.

So, the option of a voluntary liquidation may be your best option as it has several benefits;

The directors seem to be acting proactively in the creditors’ best interests. This is very important when it comes to the conduct investigation later on.  Also, the process is much quicker which means that employees can receive compensation from the redundancy payments office in good time. In a compulsory it can be up to a year before they can claim. It also ensures that the directors remain in control of the process, and the company closes down in an orderly manner. This helps if the directors wish to create a phoenix company, or start over in the same industry.

In a voluntary liquidation the directors can receive pre-insolvency advice about the likely impact of the liquidation on them personally and take appropriate action. 

How can you avoid being liquidated compulsorily?

  • Paying the debt
  • Defending the petition at court
  • Entering a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA)
  • Choosing a CVL before the hearing ( this can only be done with permission of the petitioner ie they must withdraw the petition )

If you are concerned about liquidation or your company’s finances, please get in touch with our insolvency experts today. They’ll provide advice tailored to your company’s situation, and suggest several options you can take.

Category: Liquidation, Complete Guide to Creditors Voluntary Liquidation CVL, Winding up petition

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Please note that the guide includes updates due to Covid-19 For instance there have been some changes to insolvency legislation that limits creditors actions.  A new 20 day moratorium for distressed businesses has also been introduced. 

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