Of course, not every business operates under a corporate veil. Often times a small business will trade merely as a sole trader or partnership. Actually, this form of business structure is especially common around Blackpool and along the north west coast. Naturally, sole traders and partnerships need to be acutely aware that if things don’t go well, then they will end up personally liable for the debts of the business.
Our advice to sole traders and partnerships is always the same, keep your tax returns and payments in good order.
If you don’t, HMRC will make you bankrupt.
So what advice do we give to ensure business keep their tax affairs in order? Get a good bookkeeper is a great place to start. It is far better that the books are done each week or month rather than passing a huge bag of receipts to your accountant at the end of the tax year. Most bookkeepers will use some form of accounting package or spreadsheet to keep your books up to date. The beauty of such computer packages is that they will also help you see how your business is doing week to week and month to month.
I’m going to assume you make a profit and so you need to ensure that you make some kind of provision for payments to HMRC when they fall due for payment. This is where lots of sole traders slip up. If you can’t make your tax payments in a timely manner interest and penalties soon start to add up and a small tax liability can soon enough grow into a large and unmanageable debt. Negotiating repayment plans with HMRC is not straight forward and they normally won’t agree to any proposals that stretch over a period longer than a year or so.
If you get to a situation where your debts are more than you can cope with then the very best thing you can do is take professional advice. It’s common to make your accountant your first port of call and if he or she thinks you are insolvent or need time to pay your debts, then they will usually refer you on to a bankruptcy or personal insolvency specialist. Someone who knows their way around the complex laws that can make bankruptcy a difficult process. For local people looking for bankruptcy advice Blackpool is home to a local debt specialist who knows his way around the bankruptcy process and IVAs as well.
Never assume that just because you are struggling to pay off your debts that you need to stop trading and close down. Only once you have taken advice should you make that decision. For example, an IVA can allow a sole trader to carry on in business and make a payment each month from future income to pay back old debts. You don’t even always have to pay off the debts in full. If this makes creditors better off than bankruptcy they will agree to such a proposal so make sure you speak with your advisors about Individual Voluntary Arrangements.
If your business has hit upon hard times and you’re ready to meet up with a local insolvency practitioner (IP) then, as the boy scouts say, it’s best to “be prepared”!
Always remember that the first meeting is very important and it is YOUR opportunity to ask questions and ensure that you or your company are in the right hands. Insolvency practitioners are NOT all the same. Some specialise in working with limited companies and some may only deal with personal insolvency cases, like bankruptcies and Individual Voluntary Arrangements. Therefore, if you are a company director, make sure that when you make your appointment that the person you intend to see has the right kind of experience to give you the very best advice. Don’t be shy about this-ASK!
We mentioned it in our previous article as well, but don’t be afraid to ask the IP what his or her fees are likely to be. As part of the regulations they must abide by as members of their respective professional body, they must be open and transparent about fees. A good IP will explain what the fees are likely to be and the basis and indeed timing of when the fees will be drawn. Just to be clear here- an IP can charge fees on an hourly basis with each grade of staff having their own charge out rates, and alternatively an IP can draw fees based upon asset realisations and dividends paid to creditors.
When looking to find an insolvency practitioner, try and find a local one. There’s usually no need to be traipsing miles and miles to the nearest large city, many larger towns will have a lcal insolvency practitioner. bear in mind you will likely need to meet up on numerous occasions so choosing one local to you will save you a lot of time and expense. perhaps time and money you’d prefer to be spending on saving your business or starting up a new one.
Ask the insolvency practitioner how long the process is likely to take. Some insolvency and company rescue procedures can take years to run their course whilst others can be concluded quite quickly. A pre-pack administration for example may take only a few weeks from start to finish whilst in some instances a liquidation can run on for many years.
Remember! If you don’t like the first IP you meet there are plenty of others you can speak with so choose your insolvency practitioner carefully.
There have been numerous newspaper articles detailing the apparent high number of bankruptcies in coastal towns all around Britain. In fact a Guardian newspaper report said that the top 5 “blackspots”, as the Guardian put it, for bankruptcies are all coastal towns. Torbay topped the list with the highest rate of bankruptcies in the country but sadly, Blackpool featured on the list as well with 48 insolvencies per 10,000 of the local population.
So what is to blame for such stark insolvency figures in coastal areas? The high number of insolvency cases appears to reflect the steady general decline of coastal towns right across the UK. Local people from small coastal towns have tended to move away to larger towns and cities seeking out new work and study opportunities. Towns like Blackpool which have depended on the tourism industry have struggled to compete with cheap overseas package holidays. There is evidence though that more people are starting to holiday at home in the UK now because of such a long, difficult recession and because of poor excahnge rates in recent years against the Euro. Blackpool is fighting back and benefitting from some much needed local investment.
Insolvency Service in Blackpool
Of course, where there is a high number of insolvencies, there will always be local insolvency practitioners ready to deal with struggling businesses. In addition, Blackpool is home to an Official Receiver’s office. Many Official Receiver’s offices have been closed down in recent years, centralising their work in fewer offices to save costs but the Insolvency Service have kept the Official Receiver Blackpool office open and it deals with bankruptcy orders made in the following county courts:
All those offices deal mainly with bankruptcy cases but also compulsory liquidations of limited companies.
Licensed Insolvency Practitioners in Blackpool
Whilst the Official Receiver is appointed to deal with all the bankruptcy orders made, local firms of insolvency practitioners Blackpool deal with a mixture of personal insolvency cases, including bankruptcies and Individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVAs) and corporate insolvency matters. There are various company insolvency procedures that insolvency practitioners use with insolvent limited companies including creditors’ voluntary liquidation (CVL), administrations and pre-pack administrations. Also there is a company equivalent of an IVA which is called a CVA- a Company Voluntary Arrangement.
Insolvency Practitioners, often called IPs, sometimes specialise in one type of insolvency- either individual or company. If you are looking for a Blackpool insolvency practitioner you should ask him or her whether they have the right skills to handle your own situation. A personal insolvency specialist may not have much experience of liquidation of limited companies for example and vice versa. They are all licensed though and their activities are monitored by a regulating body.
Ips don’t work for free! Whether you are a director of a limited company or an individual considering bankruptcy or an IVA, you should discuss with the IP what their fees will be and how they are to be calculated and paid. It is more common for blackpool insolvency practitioners to calculate their fees on an hourly charge basis. Don’t hesitate to check what the chargeout rates are for the IP and his managers and staff and how many hours’ work it may take to deal with you or your company. If the IP doesn’t take fees based on a hourly rate he may well calculate his fees based on a percentage of assets realised and funds distributed to creditors. Ips are expected to be transparent about fees and charges these days so do check the basis upon which they will draw their fees.