Retail business owner advice: understand insolvent trading

A business owning three shops went broke months ago, owing close to two million dollars. The liquidators report was released recently, declaring that the business had been trading while insolvent for at least two years. This finding could have serious consequences for the directors.

ASIC defines insolvent trading:

An insolvent company is one that is unable to pay all its debts when they fall due for payment.

Yes, the definition is that simple. The director of the company to which I refer above was a blowhard, a gunna my mother would have called them. Gunna do this or that, with an attitude that they were an amazing business operator. Except, they were not. Many suppliers to the channel were left out of pocket along with banks and the ATO – and through the ATO, all Australians.

In my experience, often, the louder someone is about how great they are in business the worse they are.

ASIC provides advice on what to do if your company is insolvent:

If your company is insolvent, do not allow it to incur further debt. Unless it is possible to promptly restructure, refinance or obtain equity funding to recapitalise the company, generally, your options are to appoint a voluntary administrator or a liquidator. The three most common insolvency procedures are voluntary administration, liquidation and receivership.

ASIC has plenty to say on insolvent trading, including:

If dishonesty is found to be a factor in insolvent trading, a director may also be subject to criminal charges (which can lead to a fine of up to $220,000 or imprisonment for up to 5 years, or both). Being found guilty of the criminal offence of insolvent trading will also lead to a director’s disqualification.

ASIC has successfully prosecuted directors for allowing companies to incur debts when the company is insolvent, and has sought orders making directors personally liable for company debts. ASIC also runs a program to visit directors, where appropriate, to make them aware of their responsibilities to prevent insolvent trading.

If you think you may be insolvent, reach out to someone you trust for advice and to be by your side as you navigate the challenges.

The retailer in my story did not want help. They said there was no problem.

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