Yes and no
So it might not be a great surprise that Liberty Steel is facing a winding up petition brought against them by HMRC for unpaid taxes.
Their speciality steels division employs 3,000 workers across five plants in England at Rotherham, Stocksbridge, Scunthorpe, West Bromwich and Hartlepool.
Liberty Steel is one of four companies owned by GFG Alliance that has had a winding up petition issued against it. The others are Liberty Pipes, Liberty Performance Steels and Liberty Merchant Bar for a collective total of £26.3 million.
The Serious Fraud Office is also investigating instances of suspected fraud, fraudulent trading and money laundering related to GFG Alliance, who have denied any wrongdoing and have promised to cooperate with the investigation.
A spokesperson for Liberty Steel said: “Our priority has been to protect thousands of jobs in the UK. We’re committed to repaying all our creditors and continue to work with all stakeholders around the UK to create a sustainable future for our businesses following the collapse of Greensill Capital (their largest lender) last year.
“Against a very challenging backdrop in the UK with record high energy prices and imports, we have provided tens of millions in funding to keep our people in employment and maintain operations to serve customers and strategic supply chains while we complete our refinancing.
“We’re in continuous dialogue with all our creditors including HMRC to find an amicable solution that’s in the best interest of all stakeholders.
“Short term actions that risk destabilising these efforts are not in anyone’s interest, and undermine creditor recovery at a critical stage in our debt restructuring efforts that seek to secure the future of our business.”
An HMRC spokesperson said: “We take a supportive approach to dealing with customers who have tax debts, working with them to find the best possible solution based on their financial circumstances.”
A spokesperson for BEISS (the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy) said: “The government is closely monitoring developments around Liberty Steel and continues to engage closely with the company.
“As always, we stand ready to support their dedicated employees and their families affected by any developments.
“We have provided extensive support to the steel sector as a whole to help with the costs of electricity and are working with them to support their low carbon transition.”
HMRC have confirmed that total debt owed to them fell from £44.1 billion in Q2 of 2021-22 to £39.5 billion in Q3 but the debt available for pursuit (which isn’t subject to a Time To Pay agreement or otherwise deferred due to Covid-19) is at its highest level since before the pandemic.
Restrictions on winding up petitions are coming to an end – act now
Chris Horner, insolvency director with BusinessRescueExpert said: “All restrictions on winding up petitions are due to be lifted at the end of March but the high profile news about Liberty Steel and other related companies receiving them will still be a surprise for some.
“Any business that owes over £10,000 or over to a single or group of creditors is eligible to have a petition filed against them right now.
“There is a safeguard process built in however that forces creditors to seek repayment proposals from debtors in the first instance. They then have a further 21 days to respond before any winding up process can proceed.
“They can use this time to work on a repayment strategy or they can explore other options including administration or an insolvency moratorium that will give them even more time to work on a viable and realistic solution to HMRC and any other outstanding debts they owe.
“If you’re contacted by HMRC demanding repayment of outstanding debt then you should get in touch as soon as you can so – which remains the best advice on dealing with any creditor making legal demands.”
It’s still early in 2022 but there are several signs that society might be returning back to pre pandemic behaviour and norms.
Many businesses, especially in the hospitality and retail sectors, will be hoping against hope that the current downward trajectory of Covid-19 continues and customers get more comfortable with physically visiting premises and generally going out more than they have for the previous two years.
What will also follow is the final lifting of all economic pandemic support including the stay on winding up petitions of under £10,000 and the suspension of eviction proceedings against commercial tenants among others.
Which means that if you’re a business owner or director then you might have to deal with creditors and their demands a lot sooner than you might have anticipated or wanted.
The good news is that you can start preparing for this straight away by arranging your free consultation with one of our expert advisors.
They will work through your concerns and be able to let you know what options you have to deal with outstanding debts or any other problems you’re facing in a clear and focused way so you’ll understand precisely what you can do about them.
Then you’ll be able to spend the rest of 2022 doing what you do best and maybe, just maybe, enjoying it again.