Insolvency vs Bankruptcy: Definition and Differences

What Is Insolvency?

Insolvency is a state of economic distress when an individual or a business can no longer meet their financial obligations and are unable to pay their debts. Before an insolvent individual or business gets involved in insolvency proceedings, they will be likely involved in informal arrangements with creditors, to set up alternative payment arrangements to clear the debt. Insolvency can occur due to several reasons such as poor cash management, a reduction in cash inflow, or an increase in expenses, loss of job or unpaid payments. Insolvency in a company can happen because of situations that lead to poor cash flow. When faced with insolvency, an individual or a business can contact the creditors directly and discuss restructuring of debts to pay them off.

An insolvent business or person is unable to pay their bills. This can lead to insolvency proceedings, in which a legal action will be taken against the insolvent individual or entity, liquidating their assets to pay off pending debts. Business owners can also contact creditors themselves and restructure the outstanding debts into manageable installments. Creditors are typically compliant to this approach because they want repayment, doesn’t matter even if the repayment is on a delayed schedule.

The inability to pay off debts when they are due being referred to as insolvency. Luckily, there are solutions for resolving insolvency which include increasing money, cutting costs and borrowing money so that you can pay off your debts. A negotiation of a debt payment or a settlement plan with your creditors is also a good option. If nothing works out bankruptcy is usually a final option and the only way out when all other methods to clear debt fail.

Types of Insolvency

To simplify insolvency, it comes in two flavors. There’s “cash-flow insolvency” which occurs when a debtor can’t pay off his debt because he lacks the money. The other, “balance-sheet insolvency” occurs when the debts exceed the assets. Once a business has reached insolvency of any one of the types, it will then decide whether they can overcome the challenge by the help of review of finances and some detailed analysis. A test can also be conducted to review the situation. Following is a description of both types of insolvency in detail.

  • Cash-flow insolvency

Cash-flow insolvency occurs when the individual or a firm have enough assets to meet their financial obligation to pay off creditors but they do not have the proper form of payment. In short, the debtor possesses assets but lacks cash on hand. A lack of liquid assets to meet debt obligations is referred as Cash-flow insolvency.

Cash-flow insolvency impacts both individuals and business. It most commonly occurs when the debtor has exhausted other ways of resolving a debt. This situation can be sometimes solved by negotiation. For instance, the creditor may grant the debtor more time to pay and is willing to wait for repayment. In this way the debtor can sell his assets, converting them into cash.

If an individual has a credit card payment due, he can liquidate his asset to pay the debt and prevent cash-flow insolvency, for the moment at least. When one runs out of assets to liquidate or sell and does not have places to borrow money from, and his income isn’t sufficient to cover all his debts, he’ll have to either negotiate a payment agreement directly with his creditors or through a debt management firm.

Taking a cash-flow insolvency test helps one to decide what they can do about this type of insolvency. An evaluation of current and future cash flows is needed to be determined by the debtor to consider whether his income is enough to pay debt payments. Your insolvency could be temporary if you have an inheritance distribution or some other stroke of good luck coming in a few months, but you may not have a easy way out if you’ve sold all your assets and there is no increase in your income. This analysis will help you decide whether you should seek a debt settlement or file for bankruptcy protection.

  • Balance-sheet insolvency

Balance-sheet insolvency occurs when an individual or a firm lack enough assets to meet their financial obligations to creditors. The individual or firm has negative net assets and there is a much higher possibility for the bankruptcy proceedings will be filed.

A balance sheet insolvency test is most commonly used by businesses to decide whether to take steps that are necessary for staying afloat or file bankruptcy. The business will have to evaluate all its assets, inflows and outflows in order to decide what step they will take. If their inflows are less than their outflows and the value of all assets that are owned is worth less than what is owed – a condition called negative net assets — concludes that restructuring would be pointless without the help of a bankruptcy filing and that they can’t resolve this situation on their own and declaring bankruptcy is the best course of action. But if the business owns assets that could be sold – a car or a store location, for instance – that can be used to cover debts then they might sell the asset and shrink the business.

Financial advisors can help review business operations and suggest ways for the elimination or reduction of debt and also suggest course of action that could prevent the business from future damage.

Insolvency vs Bankruptcy

The two terms Insolvency and bankruptcy may sound familiar, but they are not. Although both the terms directly deal with the inability of an individual or a firm to pay debt, insolvency is a problem and bankruptcy is proposed to solve it.

Bankruptcy is not the same as insolvency. Insolvency is a state of financial distress on the other hand bankruptcy is a legal proceeding and a declaration that provides relief and protection for individuals who are not capable of paying off their debts. Bankruptcy is a court order that determines how an insolvent debtor will be dealing with unpaid obligations and resolve it which usually involves selling of assets to pay off the creditors debts and erasing debts that can’t be paid. Bankruptcy can gravely damage a debtor’s credit rating and his ability to borrow.

After you file for bankruptcy, a Licensed Insolvency Trustee will contact your creditors, investigate your affairs and liquidate your assets. You will also have to abide by with bankruptcy duties which include attending the credit counseling sessions. After the completion of all mandatory tasks, you will be discharged from bankruptcy and become solvent again.

An individual or a business can be insolvent without being bankrupt, for the most part if the insolvency is not permanent and avertible but not the other way around.

Insolvent individuals and business can alter course by selling assets, borrowing money, cutting costs and renegotiating debt or allowing themselves to be come into possession of a larger corporation or business that can take over the insolvent company’s debts in exchange for control of its services and products.

Can insolvency lead to bankruptcy

Insolvency occurs when an individual or a business is in a state of financial or economic distress, meaning the financial state in which the entity is unable to pay the debts and meet any other obligations. According to IRS “A person is insolvent when the total liabilities exceed total assets”.

Bankruptcy is a legitimate court order that resolves insolvency and tells how an insolvent individual or business will pay off their creditors and how they can sell their assets in order to clear the debts. An individual or a firm can be insolvent without being bankrupt even though it’s only a temporary situation. But if that situation prolongs than one anticipated, it sure can lead to bankruptcy.

Insolvency can be resolved by filing for bankruptcy but insolvency doesn’t directly lead to bankruptcy. Depending on one’s situation, one can address insolvency in other ways as well, some of which include making a consumer proposal or applying for a debt consolidation loan.

How to solve insolvency

What basically is insolvency? This is a complicated question to answer but its definition is really quite simple. Insolvency may be only temporary, but a business becomes insolvent when it lacks enough assets to pay off their debts. While insolvency does denote a tough time for an individual or a business, there is always a way out. There are some rescue options available to solve insolvency without filing for bankruptcy. One can cover debts by borrowing funds, increasing company’s revenue you can negotiate a settlement or a payment plan with the creditors. It’s possible to resolve insolvency for as long as an individual or an organization is willing to make progress towards paying down what it owes.

If one is financially overwhelmed and cannot pay off their debts, they should contact a debt management company or a non-profit debt counsellor which can help them to review their balance sheet. Even if one doesn’t have enough source of income to pay his debts, a debt manager may try to negotiate a settlement that will pay what one owes and also prevent one from filing for bankruptcy. One can also try negotiating with the creditors on their own. If one owes a large credit-card debt, he can always contact the card issuer and discuss his situation with the issuer. Though the issuer is under no obligation to offer help or a workout plan or make some reduction in your debt or lessen the interest rate, but you can still try your luck.

Effects of Insolvency

In the event that your organization gets insolvent, you should make a speedy move to settle on the most ideal path forward. In the event that you can locate another wellspring of financing or other kind of salvage bundle which permits you to continue exchanging, that is probably going to be the ideal arrangement. Failing that, you could attempt to accomplish a trade off with your lenders as an organization intentional plan (CVA). Under a CVA, the leasers will for the most part acknowledge a decreased installment throughout some stretch of time with the expectation that your business will ultimately figure out its monetary challenges and cover back its obligations.


In the event that you can’t get any new fund or accomplish a trade off with leasers, the best arrangement might be to acknowledge surrender and start deliberate liquidation procedures. This will assist with shielding you from any claims of unjust exchanging. It’s likewise feasible for one of your banks whom you owe more than $1000 to start wrapping up procedures against you. They will initially have to send you a legal interest requesting that you pay your obligations inside 21 days, failing which they can apply to a court to have your organization placed into liquidation.


Factors causing Insolvency

Insolvency can occur because of a number of reasons, some of which are:

  • Loss of job or reduction in salary
  • Pending payments
  • Hospital bills
  • Unwise use of credit
  • Budgetary mismanagement



Insolvency is basically the condition of being that prompts one to seek financial protection by filing for bankruptcy. An individual, family, or organization – becomes bankrupt when it can’t take care of its moneylenders on schedule. All in all, this happens when the entity’s income falls underneath its income out. Bankruptcy is a legitimate assertion of one’s powerlessness to take care of obligations. At the point when one seeks financial protection, one obliges to take care of what is owed with assistance from the public authority.

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