A Complete Guide to Creditors’ Voluntary Liquidations (CVL)

What is the main purpose of a CVL? Which party initiates it, the creditors or the debtors? When should a business initiate a CVL?

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into everything a CVL entails, its purpose, procedure, costs, duration, and what businesses can expect before and after a CVL.

Insolvency is one of the last things any business owner wants to face. A business faces insolvency when it’s unable to service its debts. Luckily there are various procedures and options available for business owners facing financial difficulties without it destroying them.

The key to successfully navigating insolvency is understanding the various procedures and options available to you. One such procedure is a creditors’ voluntary liquidation or CVL. So what is a creditors’ voluntary liquidation? If you’ve never heard what is CVL, it’s a formal insolvency procedure undertaken by financially distressed companies to wind up their affairs when they’re unable to pay their debts.

What Is the Purpose of a CVL?

A CVL is a strategic move directors can make when they recognise their company is insolvent and unable to continue operating. Deciding to initiate a CVL is not a decision to be taken lightly, because it effectively means voluntarily winding up and dissolving the company. Once a creditors’ voluntary liquidation process begins, the company will cease to exist as a legal entity after the liquidation is complete.

Directors should carefully consider and understand what is a CVL, and the implications and potential alternatives, as it marks the end of the road for the business in its current form.

For example, a small manufacturing firm, struggling with declining sales and mounting debts, reaches a point where it’s unable to meet its financial obligations whether to banks or suppliers. The directors, after careful consideration and professional advice, can decide to initiate a creditors’ voluntary liquidation process.

In this instance, opting for a CVL allows the directors to take control of the situation before it escalates. Rather than allowing creditors to take legal action against the company, potentially resulting in even greater losses and personal liabilities for the directors, the creditors’ voluntary liquidation process offers a structured framework for winding down the company’s affairs. It demonstrates a commitment to transparency and accountability, as the directors work alongside an appointed liquidator to ensure that creditors’ interests are prioritised, and assets are distributed fairly.

Ultimately, by voluntarily entering into liquidation, the directors aim to mitigate potential financial repercussions and pave the way for a fresh start for all parties involved.

What Happens in a CVL?

We’ve defined what is creditors’ voluntary liquidation, but what actually happens in the process?

Once the creditors’ voluntary liquidation process is approved and underway, an insolvency practitioner is appointed to act as the liquidator. This professional becomes the central figure, guiding the company through the steps of the CVL.

As the CVL unfolds, the company ceases its trading activities, signalling the start of the winding-up process. Assets are meticulously assessed and liquidated to generate funds for repaying creditors. Throughout this phase, the liquidator assumes control of the company’s affairs, examining its financial records to conduct comprehensive investigations and search for assets to convert for debt repayment.

While it may seem like the liquidator is only focused on winding down the company’s operations and selling off assets, the ultimate goal of a CVL is to bring about a resolution that benefits all parties involved.

At its conclusion, any available funds generated from the asset realisation process are distributed to creditors in accordance with the statutory hierarchy. This equitable distribution ensures that creditors receive their entitled share of the proceeds, marking the end of the creditors’ voluntary liquidation process.

What Is the Procedure for CVL?

The creditors’ voluntary liquidation process involves several steps:

Appointment of an Insolvency Practitioner

The first step is the appointment of an insolvency practitioner (IP) to act as the liquidator. This professional oversees the entire liquidation process, ensuring compliance with relevant laws and regulations.

Cessation of Trading Activities

Upon the decision to proceed with a CVL, the company ceases all trading activities. This signifies the official commencement of the winding-up process.

Realisation of Assets

Under the guidance of the liquidator, the company’s assets are assessed and realised to generate funds for repaying creditors. Tangible and intangible assets are sold off, following the statutory hierarchy of creditor priority.

Assumption of Control by the Liquidator

The liquidator takes control of the company’s affairs, managing ongoing legal matters, addressing employee concerns, and communicating with relevant parties on what is a CVL and all the steps throughout the process.

Investigations into Financial History

Thorough investigations are conducted into the company’s financial history by the liquidator. This includes scrutinising accounts, transactions, and identifying any instances of misconduct or fraudulent activity.

Transparent Communication and Distribution

Throughout the liquidation process, the liquidator maintains transparent communication with creditors, keeping them informed of progress and developments. Any available funds generated from asset realisation are distributed to creditors in accordance with their respective claims.

The summary of procedures in a CVL involves the appointment of an insolvency practitioner, cessation of trading activities, realisation of assets, assumption of control by the liquidator, investigations into financial history, and transparent communication and distribution of funds to creditors. This structured approach ensures an orderly wind-up of a company’s affairs while prioritising creditors’ interests.

For a detailed breakdown on what is a creditors’ voluntary liquidation, you can read our overview here.

Who Pays for a CVL?

The costs associated with a CVL typically come from the company’s assets. When a company opts for a creditors’ voluntary liquidation, the financial costs are borne almost exclusively by the company, but there are instances where directors and shareholders have been required to bridge any financial gaps to facilitate successful liquidation and uphold creditors’ interests.

The insolvency practitioner, pivotal in overseeing the CVL from start to finish, charges fees based on factors like case complexity and statutory requirements. Legal expenses may also arise, covering consultations, court filings, and any necessary legal proceedings. Additionally, administrative costs, such as investigations and creditor communications, contribute to the overall expenditure.

For example, if ABC Manufacturing Ltd., a small industrial equipment maker, decides to initiate a CVL due to declining orders and mounting debts of about £200,000. The company’s remaining assets, including machinery, inventory, and accounts receivable, are valued at £250,000. However, after deduction of the insolvency practitioner’s fees, legal expenses, and administrative costs, the remaining value of the assets is now only £150,000.

With a shortfall of £50,000, the directors of ABC Manufacturing Ltd. need to contribute personal funds to bridge the financial gap, ensuring that the creditors’ voluntary liquidation process can proceed smoothly and that creditors receive fair compensation from the available assets.

In essence, while CVL costs are typically covered by company assets, directors and shareholders should be prepared to bridge any financial gaps to facilitate a successful liquidation process and uphold creditors’ interests.

How Much Does a CVL Cost?

Determining the exact cost of a creditors’ voluntary liquidation is not a straightforward task, as it hinges on several factors unique to each situation. Variables such as the complexity of the company’s affairs, the number of creditors involved, and the extent of asset realisation required all play significant roles in shaping the final expense.

When contemplating a CVL, it’s prudent for directors to seek a detailed quote from the appointed insolvency practitioner. This quote provides clarity on the anticipated costs specific to their company’s circumstances, enabling informed decision-making before proceeding with the liquidation process.

How Long Does a CVL Take?

The timeframe for completing a creditors’ voluntary liquidation is not set in stone and is subject to various influencing factors. The complexity of the company’s affairs, the level of cooperation among stakeholders, and the efficiency of the liquidator all contribute to the duration of the process.

Typically, a CVL can span several months from initiation to conclusion. During this period, the appointed liquidator diligently works to realise the company’s assets and facilitate the equitable distribution of proceeds to creditors. This timeframe allows for thorough investigations into the company’s financial history, necessary legal procedures, and effective communication with all parties involved.

Here are some examples of how the CVL process can be delayed or sped up:

Factors that delay a CVL:

  • Complex company structure and operations: If the company has multiple subsidiaries, international operations, or intricate financial dealings, it will take more time for the liquidator to untangle and assess everything, thereby prolonging the CVL
  • Legal disputes and litigation: If creditors or other stakeholders challenge the liquidation process or there are ongoing legal battles, it can significantly delay the CVL’s
  • Lack of cooperation from stakeholders: If directors, employees, or creditors are uncooperative or fail to provide necessary information promptly, it can hinder the liquidator’s progress.

Factors that expedite a CVL:

  • Simple company structure and operations: If the company has a straightforward structure, limited operations, and clear financial records, the liquidator can assess and realise assets more quickly.
  • Proactive cooperation from stakeholders: If directors, employees, and creditors actively cooperate, provide information promptly, and adhere to timelines, it can significantly speed up the process.
  • Efficient liquidator: An experienced and well-organised liquidator can streamline the process, effectively communicate with stakeholders, and manage tasks efficiently, reducing the overall timeline.

While the duration may vary from case to case, maintaining open communication with the liquidator and adhering to agreed-upon timelines can help streamline the process and ensure its efficient progression.

Can a CVL Be Stopped?

Once the wheels are set in motion for a creditors’ voluntary liquidation, reversing course can be challenging. However, there are scenarios where stopping or delaying the CVL is feasible.

For instance, if there’s a successful challenge to the validity of the liquidation, such as procedural errors or evidence of improper conduct, it may warrant reconsideration of the CVL. Similarly, proposing a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) could offer an alternative solution. A CVA allows for the restructuring of the company’s debts while enabling it to continue trading under the supervision of an insolvency practitioner.

While halting a CVL may present hurdles, exploring alternative options and seeking professional guidance can offer avenues for reconsideration and potentially lead to more favourable outcomes for all stakeholders involved.

What Happens after a CVL?

Once the creditors’ voluntary liquidation process reaches its conclusion, a series of critical steps unfold, marking the company’s formal dissolution and the end of its legal existence. As the dust settles, several key considerations come into play.

First and foremost, the company undergoes formal dissolution, signifying the cessation of its legal existence. This marks the end of its journey, with all remaining affairs and obligations addressed within the confines of the CVL process.

Next, any remaining assets, if available, are distributed among creditors in accordance with the statutory hierarchy. This ensures that creditors receive their entitled share of the proceeds, marking the final step in settling the company’s financial obligations.

With the CVL process concluded, directors may find themselves subject to potential legal repercussions. Improper conduct during the liquidation process, such as fraudulent activity or breaches of fiduciary duties, could result in disqualification proceedings or other legal consequences. Directors should remain vigilant and ensure compliance with all legal obligations throughout the liquidation process to mitigate the risk of such repercussions.

A creditors’ voluntary liquidation is a significant step for a financially distressed company, offering a controlled and orderly wind-down of its affairs. By understanding what is a CVL, its purpose, procedure, costs, and implications, directors and shareholders can make informed decisions about the future of their company.

Navigating the complexities of insolvency and liquidation can be overwhelming, but you don’t have to go through it alone.

Want to know if a CVL is the right move for your business? Our UK team of experienced insolvency professionals at Irwin Insolvency is ready to guide you.

Contact us today for a confidential consultation and let us help you explore the best options for your business. Don’t hesitate; take the first step towards a fresh start by reaching out to us today.

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About the author

Gerald Irwin

Gerald Irwin is founder and director of Sutton Coldfield-based licensed insolvency practitioners and business advisers, Irwin Insolvency. He specialises in corporate recovery, insolvency,
 rescue and turnaround.