Have you heard the phrase, “You cannot change the past, but you may influence the future?  All too often we blame what has happened rather just accept that it has happened, and we need to address matters going forward.


The past 14 months, or so have been arguably the most challenging any of us have experienced but June brings forward two very important dates:

  • Assuming the Government road map stays on course, the 21st is expected to see the end of restrictions and a return to normal life.
  • It is widely believed the (thrice) extended deadline on various interim restrictions and amendments invoked under the Corporate Insolvency & Governance Act (“CIGA”) will end on 30 June.  These include a limitation on serving statutory demands, presenting winding up petitions and landlords taking recovery action for rental arrears.


In addition to the CIGA provisions, many businesses will now be receiving notification that repayments of the “Bounce Back” loans are falling due, while the employment furlough scheme is set to end in the autumn.

All the above events will serve to impact on company cash flow, while many will face recovery action from those debtors, frustrated they could not take enforcement action during the CIGA restriction period.  This includes HM Revenue & Customs where enforcement action has been limited to tax evasion and other limited taxation matters.  It is little wonder the Government have extended the restriction period.

Many will be aware of the phrase, “If you fail to plan then plan to fail.”  Unfortunately, all too often, people are great at what they do as a profession, but the accounting/bookkeeping side is seen as a necessary evil.  That may well be the view but if you had a flat tyre, would you carry on driving or stop and do that necessary evil of changing the wheel?

The prediction is UK will endure a short, but sharp economic recession.  As with previous economic challenges, those prepared are generally the ones who survive, so how do you promote the chances of you being one of those survivors?  Here are a few points that I see when assisting companies in financial difficulties:


  1. Put together a cash flow forecast (ask your accountant to help if preferred).  When you have this, check actual trading results with the forecast, at least on a monthly basis in order to compare projections with the actual results.


  1. Credit control.  Remembering cash is king and a good customer is a paying customer, and your customers are likely to be facing similar post COVID issues as you.  Unpaid debts do not pay the wages!


  1. With credit control comes setting and keeping to credit limits.  If you set a credit limit of (say) £5,000 for a customer and an order comes in that exceeds that limit, be bold enough to inform them you cannot entertain that latest order until some of the older invoices are paid.  Yes, some may grumble but your recovery time will improve.


  1. Where appropriate, consider negotiating longer debt repayment terms with creditors.  The Government anticipate there should be a lot of forbearance demonstrated by creditors (including HM Revenue & Customs) as, generally speaking and within reason, they would rather recover their debt than find they are on a list of creditors of an insolvency.


  1. Avoid the temptation of “Corrective trading.”  What I mean is, for example, do not think hiking your prices will help you recover sales income lost during the COVID restrictions.  While reasonable increases maybe acceptable, pushing that barrier too high will inevitably lose you custom.


  1. If in any doubt, seek independent and professional advice, whether that is from your accountant, solicitor, or an insolvency practitioner.  These advisors are there to assist you and steer you in the right direction so use them and use them at an early stage.


Should you have an insolvency-related issue then please contact me at PBC Business Recovery & Insolvency on (01604) 212150 (Northampton office) or (01234) 834886 (Bedford office). Alternatively, you may send an email to or access our website at

What superpower would you have if you could?

What superpower would you have if you could?  Invisibility? Being able to fly? Teleportation?  Or how about being able to re-write the law to suit yourself and ensure you are always on the right side?  That’s exactly what the government has done with two measures in the Finance Act 2020.


The first is the position where HM Revenue & Customs rank for dividend purposes.  For insolvencies commencing after 1 December 2020, HMRC shall rank as a secondary preferential creditor for the majority of taxes owed by the insolvent party where that party has acted as a collector of taxes.  This includes PAYE, VAT, CIS and employee’s NI contributions (but not any penalties associated with those debts).  “Secondary preferential” means their preferential status ranks after existing preferential claims (generally employee claims for wages and accrued holiday pay) but in priority to the holder of floating charge security.  HMRC will remain an unsecured creditor for other taxes including corporation tax and employer’s NI contributions.  To summarise, HMRC have therefore jumped to pretty much the top of the priority order in one fell swoop.


As a direct result of this, The Association of Business Recovery Professionals estimate that future new lending by banks will be £1 billion less, making recovery and turnaround harder.  To make things worse, the ability to use a formal insolvency vehicle (such as a company voluntary arrangement) may no longer be a viable option asthe unpaid taxes rank ahead of the general body of creditors, reducing the amount available to unsecured creditors.  Furthermore, it is likely there will be a significant HMRC debt as generally HMRC are the first creditor businesses and individuals stop paying – indeed this is one of the Government’s main reasons for introducing the measure.


The second new measure contained within the new law is where HMRC can issue personal liability notices against company directors following tax avoidance and evasion penalties and repeated insolvencies.


There are various conditions which must be met before HMRC can issue personal liability notices, but all involve scenarios where the company is insolvent (or likely to be).  In the tax avoidance and evasion cases, the directors can be held liable for all of the tax avoided (and any penalties as a result).  However, in the circumstances following repeated insolvencies the directors can be held liable for debts of the failed companies as well as for any future tax debt of a new company.


Before you come over all Lance Corporal Jones (Don’t Panic!) this legislation is aimed at those who act in a deliberate manner of tax avoidance/evasion.  It is not aimed at those who have missed the payment deadline for this month’s PAYE (provided you do still pay that is) or your overall circumstances demonstrate, as a director, you have acted honestly and fairly to creditors as a whole.


Having said that, the key message that should be derived from this legislation is if you feel there is an increasing difficulty in managing the company tax affairs, or liabilities as a whole, then seek early advice.  Creditors, including HMRC, are generally understanding where they learn of a possible issue at an early stage rather than wait until the need for enforcement procedures commences.  In addition, the earlier advice is sought the more options there are available.


Anyone with an insolvency related issue can contact PBC on 01604 212150.  Our initial consultations are always free, confidential, impartial and no obligation.

Jamie Cochrane