Every limited company (and any foreign company with a branch or office in the UK) must pay corporation tax on its profits.
But it’s a common enough scenario for directors to find, when the demand letter arrives from HMRC, that they’ve failed to put the money aside.
Late corporation tax is a situation you’ll need to treat carefully, seek specialist insolvency advice, or face debt esclation by HM & Revenue.
This article will explain your options, and the likely course of events if the arrears remains unpaid.
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Cannot Pay my Corporation Tax Bill: What Happens Next?
When a company is experiencing cash flow problems and is unable to pay Corporation Tax, it’s important not to ignore demands and notices as they will start to pile up quickly.
If your company can’t pay before the deadline, the first step is to contact HMRC straightway via its Business Payment Support Service on 0300 200 3825. This service is open Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm and on Saturday and Sunday from 8am to 4pm.
If they can’t help you, you will need to speak to an insolvency practitioner or firm specialising in HMRC mediation. Speaking with an insolvency practitioner doesn’t necessarily mean you will go into liquidation. You will simply receive accurate, practical advice about the options and steps available to you in your situation.
Time to Pay Arrangements When You Can’t Pay Your Corporation tax bill
The tax authority will always listen to struggling businesses, and it’s important to be prepared for questions that will almost certainly be raised such as: why are you finding it difficult to pay and what have you done to try to get the money to pay the bill? How much money can you pay immediately and how long do you need to pay the rest?
HMRC will need to know the following information about the company:
- Income and expenditure
- Assets (savings and investments)
- What the plan is to get tax payments back on track.
HM and Revenue will then come to a decision as to whether tax needs to be paid immediately or whether it will be possible to get tax payments back on track with more time.
HMRC may agree to a Time to Pay or TTP arrangement where tax payments are made in instalments over a period of six to 12 months if it believes that the company can’t afford to pay in full now, but will be able to pay in the future. The company can set up a plan to pay in instalments by Direct Debit on dates that have been agreed with the tax authority.
However, at this point, it’s critical that directors keep these payments up to date and pay other taxes, such as PAYE and VAT as if they fail to do so HMRC will typically cancel the arrangement and may move to wind up the company immediately. HMRC is an aggressive creditor.
Negotiating Time to Pay your Corporation Tax with HMRC
Within certain parameters, HMRC are open to negotiation. As with all things, it pays to know how to approach them, so it may be worth using an expert for the mediation process.
Of course, if HMRC believes that the company won’t be able to get payments on track with more time, it won’t agree to a Time to Pay arrangement and it will expect the company to settle the tax bill straightaway using emergency finance.
When companies fail to do so, HMRC typically begins enforcement action to collect the money owed. This could be in the following ways:
- Through earnings or pension
- Use debt collection agencies
- Make direct withdrawals from bank accounts
- Take assets and sell them
- Take the company to court
- Close down the business
Can Directors be Liable When a Business Can’t Pay its Corporation Tax?
DIrectors of a limited company are considered a seperate legal entity to the companies themselves. As such, you are not liable for corporate debts in the event of insolvency, with certain exceptions.
- wrongful trading
- fraudulent trading
- personal guarantees
Both of these charges pertain to the mismanagement of companies at the point of insolvency, by which creditors interests are not prioritised as per statutory requirements.
Where this is found to be the case, directors may be held personally liable for some or all of the money. Where HMRC is the creditor they are especially likely to take strong action to recoup their debt: they are, in fact, the largest issuer of winding up petitions in the country.
Does Liquidation Write Off Corporation Tax Arrears?
Corporation tax arrears is one indication of an insolvent company. If you can’t pay bills when they’re due, or you owe more than your company’s assets, then closing the company may be the practical solution to writing off the debt. With a creditors voluntary liquidation, all corporate debts come to an end.
This is the time to take professional advice from accredited insolvency practitioners such as ourselves. We can explain your options to you, without obligation, inlcluding laying out the process of voluntary liquidation, if that’s the appropriate choice.
Can I dissolve my company if I owe corporation tax?
You cannot dissolve a company with corporation tax debt, but must rather liquidate it with the assistance of an insolvency practitioner.