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What is insolvency?

What is insolvency?


Insolvency, commonly referred to as bankruptcy, is a legal status that indicates an individual or organisation can’t to pay off its debts because of a lack of cash or assets. In simple terms, insolvency happens when liabilities exceed assets, leading to a situation where creditors may not be fully repaid.

There are two main types of insolvency:

  • Cash-flow insolvency: This happens when a company has enough assets to cover its debts in the long run, but not enough cash on hand to pay its current bills. An example is a business that owns valuable equipment but can’t afford to pay rent or salaries this month.
  • Balance-sheet insolvency: This is more severe and occurs when a company’s total liabilities (debts) outweigh its total assets. In other words, even if they sold everything they owned, they wouldn’t have enough money to pay off all their debts.

How does insolvency work?


When one files for bankruptcy, a court-appointed trustee oversees the liquidation of assets to repay creditors. The trustee evaluates the debtor’s financial situation, manages the sale of assets, and distributes the proceeds according to a predetermined hierarchy of creditor claims. This process aims to provide some level of financial relief while also ensuring fair treatment for all parties involved.

Businesses that enter insolvency can face different consequences, such as:

  • Loan defaults: Failure to repay loans can trigger penalties and legal action from creditors.
  • Bankruptcy: A formal legal process where a business’s assets are liquidated (sold) to pay off creditors as much as possible.
  • Loss of reputation: Insolvency can damage a business’s reputation and make it difficult to attract future investors or partners.

How to handle the accounting during insolvency


When a business faces insolvency, immediate and decisive action is crucial. Here’s a quick rundown of how to navigate this complex situation, focusing on that accountancy side:

Create a comprehensive financial assessment

Prepare or obtain up-to-date financial statements (balance sheet, income statement, cash flow statement) to gain a clear picture of the business’s financial health. Calculate key financial ratios (liquidity, solvency, profitability) to identify areas of weakness and assess the severity of the insolvency. Analyse cash inflows and outflows to pinpoint any cash flow bottlenecks or unsustainable spending patterns.

Identify the root cause of insolvency

Work with stakeholders and management to understand the reasons behind insolvency. Several factors can come into play, such as declining sales, poor expense controls, or aggressive expansion plans. Analyse past financial data to identify red flags that might have been missed earlier.

Communicate to stakeholders

Facilitate open communication with creditors, lenders, investors, and employees. Prepare clear and concise reports outlining the company’s financial situation and potential solutions. Create realistic financial forecasts that project future cash flow and potential turnaround timelines.

Explore restructuring options

Assist the company in negotiating with creditors to restructure debt, potentially extending repayment terms or obtaining lower interest rates. Evaluate the business’s assets and identify any non-core assets that could be sold to generate immediate cash flow.

Implement solutions and monitor progress

Work with management to create a comprehensive turnaround plan outlining cost-cutting measures, improved revenue generation strategies, and debt repayment schedules. Depending on the complexity of the situation, seek help from turnaround specialists or bankruptcy lawyers.



Overall, insolvency is a mechanism that helps individuals or businesses overcome overwhelming debt burdens. It provides a structured process for debt repayment, taking some of the pressure off. Although it’s a complex and often difficult experience, businesses can eventually regain financial stability with the right guidance and support.

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