Will Closing a Bankrupt Company Bankrupt Me Personally?

by Josh Biggs in Finance on 1st June 2024

The current economic climate in the UK is in a difficult spot. Rising interest rates, has affected the way that consumers go about their business. Combined with, increasing operational costs, escalating staff wages and an economy that is still affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is a time where a lot of businesses are struggling. The big question a lot of business owners are currently asking is, how can my business debt affect me personally, will it make me personally bankrupt

Understanding the Basics

When your business is facing the prospect of bankruptcy, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. However, before you start worrying about your personal finances, it’s important to understand some key concepts.

  1. Type of Business Structure: The impact of your business’s bankruptcy on your personal finances largely depends on your business structure. Are you a sole trader, part of a partnership, a limited liability company (LLC), or a corporation? Each structure has different implications for your personal assets.
  2. Sole Traders and Partnerships: If your business is structured as a sole trader or a general partnership, you and your business are legally the same entity. This means your personal assets, such as your home, car, and savings, could be at risk to cover business debts.
  3. Limited Companies: If you operate as a limited company, you are generally protected. This structure creates a legal separation between your personal assets and the business’s liabilities. Thus, if your company becomes insolvent, your personal finances are typically safeguarded.

Personal Guarantees: The Hidden Risk

Even if you operate as a limited company, there may be a potential risk: personal guarantees. When you secured loans or credit lines, did you provide personal guarantees? If so, lenders can pursue your personal assets if the business is unable to repay the debts. It’s akin to covering a friend’s expenses when they forget their wallet, but on a much larger and more significant scale.

Taxes and HMRC: A Unique Challenge

Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) does not take tax liabilities lightly. If your business owes payroll taxes, HMRC can hold you personally responsible, even if you have a limited company. These taxes are considered trust fund taxes – collected from employees and meant to be remitted to HMRC. Failure to do so can result in personal liability.

Tips for Navigating Business Bankruptcy

  1. Seek Professional Advice: Engaging a skilled solicitor and accountant is highly advisable. They can help you understand your specific situation and guide you through the process.
  2. Consider Bankruptcy Options: There are different types of bankruptcy (e.g., administration, liquidation, voluntary arrangements) and each has distinct implications for both your business and personal finances. A professional can help you choose the most suitable path.
  3. Negotiate with Creditors: Creditors might prefer to receive partial payments rather than nothing at all. Negotiating reduced payments or settlements can alleviate some of the burden without jeopardising your personal finances.
  4. Protect Your Personal Assets: If you’re starting a new business or considering restructuring, consider forming a limited company to protect your personal assets from future business debts.
  5. Stay Calm and Plan Ahead: Panic is counterproductive. Take a deep breath, assess your situation, and develop a step-by-step plan to manage the fallout. It may be challenging, but it’s manageable.

In Summary

So, will closing a bankrupt company bankrupt you personally? It depends. If you’re a sole trader or in a general partnership, your personal assets are indeed at risk. If you’re operating as a limited company, you’re generally protected – unless you’ve signed personal guarantees or owe payroll taxes.

The key takeaway is that understanding your business structure and liabilities is crucial. Additionally, reaching out to professionals who can help you navigate this complex terrain is always a wise decision.

Categories: Finance