Pros & Cons of Company Liquidation – What You Need to Know

directors sat at a table discussing the pros and cons of company liquidation.

Company liquidation is a legal action in which a company ceases its trading activities. The liquidators sell the assets to repay its debts. This process is initiated when the company becomes insolvent and is unable to meet its financial obligations. Liquidation proceedings mark the final step in a company’s lifecycle. Its important to know the advantages of company liquidation.

While it may seem like a dire step to take, liquidation serves a crucial function in the business ecosystem. It provides a legal and structured way for an organisation to end its operations, settle its debts, and distribute any remaining funds to shareholders. It can also alleviate the burden of debt and offer a fresh start to the directors.

However, the process can be complex, with various advantages and disadvantages depending on the specific type of liquidation pursued. It is vital for the limited company director to understand these aspects to make informed decisions that best serve the interests of all stakeholders. The following article seeks to provide an overview of liquidation, its different types, and the respective pros and cons of each.

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Understanding Liquidation

In the context of a company, liquidation is a formal insolvency procedure wherein the business is brought to an end. This process involves ceasing all trading activities and the subsequent selling off of the company’s assets to generate funds. The objective is to repay as much of the debt as possible.

The process is typically initiated when an organisation is insolvent, meaning it cannot pay its debts as they fall due or its liabilities outweigh its assets. It’s worth noting that not only insolvent companies but also solvent companies may choose to liquidate for reasons such as retirement of the owners, business restructuring, or cessation of the business. The effect of liquidation can be significant for the company and its stakeholders, and it is important to consult with a director or seek clarification from HMRC.

During liquidation, the director appoints a licensed IP as the liquidator. The liquidator’s main responsibilities include selling the business assets, settling any legal disputes, distributing the remaining funds amongst the creditors, and finally, dissolving the company. This also involves addressing any HMRC debts that may be present.

After liquidation, the company no longer exists. It gets struck off the register at Companies House, and it’s incapable of carrying on its business or trading activities. For the company directors and shareholders, this can mean the end of an era but also a chance to move on from a situation of financial distress.

Types of Company Liquidation

There are primarily three types of company liquidation, each one unique and applied under different circumstances.

1. Creditors Voluntary Liquidation (CVL)

A CVL is a process initiated by the directors of a company when they recognise that the business is insolvent, meaning it is unable to pay its debts. The directors voluntarily decide to liquidate the company to avoid escalating debt and potential allegations of wrongful trading. This involves the appointment of a licensed IP who cooperates with the directors to ensure a well-ordered wind-down of the business and fair distribution of company assets to creditors.

2. Compulsory Liquidation

Compulsory Liquidation is a more severe form of liquidation, typically enforced by its creditors, often HMRC. This happens when the business owes money and has failed to repay it within a designated timeframe. In such cases, the creditor can petition the court to liquidate company assets to recover the debt. A court-appointed official receiver will then oversee the liquidation process.

3. Members’ Voluntary Liquidation (MVL)

An MVL is a process utilised by solvent companies. This takes place when the directors or owners of a financially healthy firm decide to close the business for reasons like retirement, succession planning, or a shift in their personal or business interests. An MVL enables the directors to close the business in an orderly way, maximising return to shareholders. The directors appoint a licensed IP to conduct the process and distribute the remaining assets amongst the shareholders once all debts and liabilities have been settled.

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Pros and Cons of Different Types of Liquidation

Creditors Voluntary Liquidation (CVL)

Advantages of CVL

Control: By choosing to liquidate, limited company directors retain some control over the process. A CVL allows directors to proactively manage it’s affairs and work alongside an IP.

Avoid Legal Consequences: If a business continues to trade while insolvent, directors can be held personally responsible for the debts. A CVL can help avoid this potential legal action.

Creditor Confidence: A CVL can show that the directors are taking the financial situation seriously, which can improve relations with creditors.

Employees’ Interests: If the organisation goes into a CVL, employees may be able to claim redundancy payments from the National Insurance Fund.

Disadvantages of CVL

Loss of Control: Once the CVL process begins, the licensed insolvency practitioner takes control, and the directors’ powers are limited.

Reputation: A CVL can potentially damage the reputation of the business

Cost: The cost of employing an insolvency practitioner and going through the CVL can be substantial.

Compulsory Liquidation

Advantages of Compulsory Liquidation

Definite End: Once the process begins, it brings a definite end to creditor pressure.

Creditor-Driven: This process is often driven by creditors, meaning the company directors are not voluntarily deciding to liquidate their business.

Disadvantages of Compulsory Liquidation

No Control: Directors have very little control, which is driven by the court and the appointed official receiver.

Potential Investigation: Directors’ conduct may be investigated, which could lead to disqualification, personal liability for company debts, or even criminal charges in severe cases.

Negative Impact: It can significantly damage the personal and business reputation of the directors involved.

Members’ Voluntary Liquidation (MVL)

Advantages of an MVL

Maximise Returns: An MVL can maximise returns to shareholders by ensuring that assets are sold at the best possible price.

Tax Efficiency: It may also allow shareholders to take advantage of Entrepreneurs’ Relief, leading to a lower rate of tax.

Disadvantages of an MVL

Costly: The MVL process can be expensive, due to the cost of employing an insolvency practitioner.

Time-Consuming: An MVL can take longer to complete compared to alternative methods of closing a company, such as striking off.

Public Knowledge: The process is public, which means that the company’s reputation could be affected.

In the text above the advantages of company liquidation is given for each different solution.

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Role of Insolvency Practitioners

In the journey of company liquidation, insolvency practitioners (IPs) play a vital role. They’re licensed professionals who carry out formal insolvency procedures, such as liquidation, administration, and voluntary arrangements. These individuals have both the legal knowledge and experience to navigate the often complex waters of insolvency.

The initial role of an insolvency practitioner begins with advice. Before any drastic decisions are made, an IP, like those at Company Doctor, can provide the needed guidance for directors to fully understand their situation. This may involve a thorough evaluation of the company’s financial situation, exploring potential rescue or recovery options, and if necessary, advising on appropriate routes.

If liquidation is chosen as the most viable route, the IP can then lead the process. In a CVL, for instance, the insolvency practitioner takes control of the company, dealing with assets, creditor claims and distributions. Similarly, in an MVL the IP is responsible for settling any claims and distributing surplus assets among the members.

Additionally, an IP is also tasked with investigating the company’s affairs, particularly in cases of compulsory liquidation. This involves a comprehensive review of the company’s trading activities, financial conduct, and transactions to ensure everything has been carried out legally and ethically.

Overall, the assistance of IPs like Company Doctor can provide company directors with the peace of mind needed during the challenging process of liquidation. Their extensive knowledge, experience, and commitment to acting in the best interests of all parties involved make them an invaluable asset during such difficult times.

Understanding the Complexities

In the realm of company liquidation, several complex issues can emerge. Among these are personal guarantees, wrongful trading, and bounce back loans – each of which carries significant implications for company directors.

Personal Guarantees

Personal guarantees serve as a legal promise made by directors to repay the company’s debts from their own personal assets in the event the company becomes insolvent. Essentially, they represent security for creditors. If a company enters liquidation and a director has given a personal guarantee, they may be required to pay the company’s debts. Thus, while it may facilitate access to funds or credit, a personal guarantee also introduces a level of personal risk for directors.

Wrongful Trading

Wrongful trading refers to a situation where directors continue to trade when they know or should conclude that there’s no reasonable prospect of avoiding insolvent liquidation. If found guilty of wrongful trading, directors could be held personally liable for the firm’s debts. Furthermore, they may also face disqualification from acting as a director for up to 15 years. It’s, therefore, essential that directors seek guidance from IPs at the earliest signs of financial distress to avoid wrongful trading.

Bounce Back Loans

The Bounce Back Loan were introduced by the UK government to provide financial support to businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Bounce Back Loan is fully government-backed, meaning the government carries the risk, not the banks. If a company that took out a Bounce Back Loan enters into liquidation, the government scheme would cover the loan, and the directors would not be personally liable, unless there has been fraudulent activity.

While each of these aspects introduces additional layers of complexity, they underline the necessity for expert advice. IPs like those at Company Doctor can help navigate these complexities and provide clear, actionable guidance for directors.

Key Takeaways

When it comes to the liquidation process, there are several key points that company directors need to bear in mind.

  1. Understanding Liquidation: Company liquidation is the process whereby all assets are sold to repay creditors, with the business ceasing to exist upon completion of the liquidation process. The method and the impact can vary depending on the type – Creditors’ Voluntary Liquidation, Compulsory Liquidation, or Members’ Voluntary Liquidation.
  2. Pros and Cons: Each type of liquidation brings with it unique advantages and disadvantages. For instance, Creditors’ Voluntary Liquidation can potentially provide better outcomes for creditors and limit directors’ liability, but it might also lead to lost control over the process and the potential for investigation.
  3. Role of Insolvency Practitioners: In navigating the complexity of liquidation, insolvency practitioners play a critical role. They provide professional advice, assist in carrying out the process smoothly, and help directors understand their responsibilities and possible consequences of their decisions.
  4. Managing Complexities: Issues like personal guarantees, wrongful trading, and bounce back loans can significantly impact the course of liquidation. Directors need to understand these complexities and ensure they seek professional advice when necessary.
  5. Early Action: One of the key takeaways is the importance of taking early action when insolvency looms. Seeking advice and considering the options early can potentially lead to more favourable outcomes, or at least limit the adverse consequences of liquidation.

Navigating the landscape of liquidation is challenging, but with the right advice and guidance, directors can make informed decisions that serve the best interests of all parties involved. The role of insolvency practitioners like Company Doctor in this context cannot be overstated.


What is company liquidation?

Company liquidation is the process of winding up a business, selling its assets, paying off creditors where possible, and distributing any remaining assets to the shareholders if applicable.

What is the role of an insolvency practitioner in a company liquidation?

Insolvency practitioners are professionals who are licensed to act on behalf of companies that are insolvent. They can guide company directors through the complex process of liquidation, helping them comply with all legal obligations and ensure the process is as smooth and painless as possible.

What is the difference between voluntary and compulsory liquidation?

Voluntary liquidation is initiated by the company’s directors when they believe the company is insolvent and unable to pay its debts. Compulsory liquidation, on the other hand, is initiated by the company’s creditors (typically through a court order) when they believe the company can’t repay its debts.

What are the effects of liquidation on company directors?

Once a company enters liquidation, the directors lose control of the business, and the appointed liquidator takes over. Directors can face restrictions, and their conduct may be investigated. If wrongful trading is found, they may be held personally liable for company debts.

What is a bounce back loan, and how does it factor into liquidation?

A bounce back loan is a government scheme introduced to help small and medium-sized businesses during difficult times, like a pandemic. If a company with a bounce back loan goes into liquidation, the terms of the loan usually state that the debt does not need to be repaid if the company is insolvent.

What happens to redundancy pay in the event of liquidation?

If a company goes into liquidation and employees are made redundant, they may be entitled to redundancy pay. In cases where the company cannot afford to pay, employees can apply to the National Insurance Fund for a direct payment.

What is the difference between members’ voluntary liquidation and creditors’ voluntary liquidation?

Members’ voluntary liquidation (MVL) happens when directors believe the company is solvent and can pay its debts within 12 months, while creditors’ voluntary liquidation (CVL) occurs when the company is insolvent. In an MVL, any remaining profits after the sale of assets and payment of debts are distributed among the members. In a CVL, any proceeds from the sale of assets are used to repay creditors.

Remember, every situation is unique, so these answers may not cover every circumstance. For tailored advice, contact a licensed insolvency practitioner like Company Doctor on 0800 169 1536.


The primary sources for this article are listed below.

Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) – British Business Bank (

Details of our standards for producing accurate, unbiased content can be found in our editorial policy here.

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