Bankruptcy

You need to think carefully about declaring yourself bankrupt. Find out more about what it means then talk to a free debt adviser about whether bankruptcy is the best way to pay off or clear your debts - see Where to get help if you are in debt.

Bankruptcy should be notified to your chain of command. Depending on the precise circumstances, this may have a severe effect on your career. 

What is bankruptcy?

  • Writes off all debts you can prove you owe
  • If you have any assets, they will be taken and used to pay off your debts
  • Allows you to make a fresh start

    in scotland

    You can apply to the court if you're unable to pay your debts, or your creditors can apply to make you bankrupt if you owe them £3,000 or more - see mygov.scot.

How to apply for bankruptcy

If you are applying to become bankrupt, you must complete an online application and create an online account. 

You’ll need to provide information about your income, outgoings and debts, including any letters you’ve received from bailiffs or enforcement agents.

Your application will be reviewed by an official adjudicator who works for the Insolvency Service. They will decide if you should be made bankrupt.

You usually get a decision within 28 days of submitting your application.

Always speak to a free debt adviser before you make an application to go bankrupt. There are many ways to deal with debts and bankruptcy may not be the best solution for you.

You can find out more about how to apply for bankruptcy online on the GOV.UK website.

in northern ireland

You can apply to the court if you're unable to pay your debts or a creditor can present a creditor's petition if you owe them an unsecured debt of over £5,000 - see nidirect.gov.uk.

How much does it cost to go bankrupt?

It costs £680 to apply for bankruptcy and you will need to pay this before you submit your application.

If you can’t afford the fee you may be able to pay in instalments. To find out more about this, contact the insolvency enquiry line.

Remember to talk to a free debt adviser before you pay the fee to make sure that bankruptcy is the best solution for you.

What happens after I go bankrupt?

After you go bankrupt, an Official Receiver will be appointed within two weeks of receiving your bankruptcy order. 

They will assess your income, outgoings and assets and decide how they can be used to meet your debts. You may also be asked to attend an interview with the official receiver.

Your creditors have to make a formal claim to the trustee for the money they are owed. You can’t make direct payments to them and they can’t ask you for payments.

After a period of time (usually one year), most of your outstanding debts are written off and you can make a fresh start.

Until you are discharged from bankruptcy you will remain under bankruptcy restrictions.  For example, you won’t be able to apply for credit of £500 or more without telling the lender about the bankruptcy.

You can check your discharge date online using the Individual Insolvency Register.

Any credit you do get is likely to be expensive now and in the future. Bankruptcy affects your credit rating and credit reference agencies will keep your details on file for a minimum of six years.

Who is bankruptcy suitable for?

If you have no real way of paying off your debts and few assets, then bankruptcy could be a suitable option.

If you are a homeowner it’s worth looking at other options because bankruptcy puts your home at risk of being sold if there is enough equity in it.

If you’re a tenant, your landlord can apply to evict you legally if you have fallen into rent arrears.

It’s really important you don’t make a decision to go bankrupt alone. Talk to a free debt adviser first.

Can I be made bankrupt?

The minimum level of debt for which someone who you owe money to can force you into bankruptcy is £5,000.

The process for being made bankrupt is different. However, high street lenders rarely use this option and will prefer to work with you to find another way to pay off your debts.

You can find out more about what happens if someone does try to make you bankrupt on the Gov.uk website.

Get free advice about bankruptcy

It’s always best to talk things through with an experienced debt adviser before you decide to apply for bankruptcy.

This is because the debt solution that is best for you depends on your personal circumstances. There are alternatives to bankruptcy, such as Individual Voluntary Arrangements or Debt Relief Orders.

A debt adviser can help you make the right decisions – meaning you could be debt free sooner than you thought.

A debt adviser will:

  • Treat everything you say in confidence
  • Never judge you or make you feel bad about your situation
  • Always be happy to talk to you, however small or big your problem is
  • Suggest ways of dealing with debts that you might not know about
  • Check you have applied for all the benefits and entitlements available to you
  • Give advice about better ways of managing your money

You may only need to have one conversation with an experienced debt adviser to make sure that your plan to manage or clear your debts is the right one for you.

BEWARE!

Bankruptcy might sound like an easy option, but it means that you might find it difficult to open a bank account and it will affect you ability to take out loans or a mortgage in the future. And it could also affect your military career.

If you need more support or don’t know where to start, you’re not alone.

Nearly half of people in debt told us they aren’t sure about the best way to pay off their debts, and that is where a debt adviser can really help you.

More than eight out of ten people who have got debt advice tell us they feel less stressed or anxious and more in control of their life again.

The people that let their debts build up before they seek advice often find things have spiralled out of control, their cards are maxed out, no-one else will lend to them and it takes much longer to pay back what they owe.

You can contact a debt adviser in a way that’s best for you – online, over the phone or face-to-face.

So join the hundreds of thousands of people who get help each year and take the first step to being debt free - see Where to get help if you are in debt.

Last reviewed: 08/05/2018

This content has been provided by the Money Advice Service