Arrears with Inland Revenue and Insolvency

Many NZ companies are currently affected by cash flow issues and are facing insolvency. To be insolvent means one of two things:

  • Debts can’t be paid when they’re due.
  • Total debt is more than the value of all assets.

The Commissioner of Inland Revenue ("CIR") will take debt recovery action where debts are in arrears. The CIR is able to issue a statutory demand as a step necessary to advance a proceeding against a company. 

Ignorance Isn't Bliss

It is recommended for any business struggling to meet tax arrears that negotiations are entered into promptly to avoid a potential winding up proceeding.

Taxpayers are required to pay their tax in full and on time. Failure to do so leads to late payment penalties and interest. These charges compensate the Commissioner for the loss of use of the money and act as a deterrent to encourage taxpayers to pay the correct amount of tax on time.

If your company receives an IRD formal demand, doing nothing really isn’t an option. Inaction will limit your options and virtually guarantees insolvency. You can also be held personally liable for failing to pay PAYE.

In certain situations the Commissioner may be able to provide assistance to taxpayers if they are not able to pay on time, or if the imposition of penalties and/or interest is not appropriate. Depending on the circumstances the Commissioner may also agree to write off or remit amounts owing (so they do not need to be paid), or agree that the taxpayer enters into an instalment arrangement (so the amount is paid over time rather than immediately).

The IRD seek open communication and are more willing to consider instalment arrangements when directors have been upfront from the start. Company directors that bury their heads in the sand and have no plans in place may face less leniency and liquidation proceedings.

The IRD can find directors liable for their company’s tax under general insolvency law. The law also says if a company agreement purposefully leaves it unable to pay a foreseeable tax liability, a director can be personally liable.

In the first instance the IRD will try for a settlement. This is your chance to negotiate terms and arrive at a compromise that allows you to stay in business while the IRD claims their tax. If you can reach a repayment agreement, the IRD won’t take the matter further.

If you’re unable to reach a compromise, the IRD will issue a formal demand, followed by a statutory demand and then issue an application for putting the company into liquidation (winding up proceeding) if you don’t settle the demand. If you do nothing the company will be placed into liquidation by the High Court.

The first step is to make contact, complete a 12 month forecast (IR591) recording what you can afford to pay and discuss the options.

Relief Options

The IRD offer relief options for companies with viable businesses.  

Financial relief can be granted when a taxpayer cannot meet their payment obligations. The process to apply for financial relief or an instalment option is here.

The Commissioner is open to instalment arrangements towards tax arrears. Splitting up what you owe over weekly or fortnightly payments can make it easier to repay your tax debt.

The CIR may agree to collect the amounts owing over a period of time through an instalment arrangement, or to not collect the amount owing (that is, write off the amount), or a combination of the two options (that is, write off some of the debt and enter into an instalment arrangement for the remainder). An amount may be written off if collecting it would place the taxpayer in “serious hardship”.

Where an amount is considered irrecoverable, the Commissioner has the discretion to write it off. The Commissioner may write off amounts if collecting the amounts owing is considered to be an inefficient use of Inland Revenue’s resources.

Certain penalties may be remitted when an event or circumstance has occurred which is beyond the taxpayer’s control.

Interest or certain penalties may be remitted if to do so is consistent with the Commissioner’s duty to collect the highest net revenue over time.

Voluntary Liquidation

One possibility for meeting the IRD formal demand is voluntary liquidation. This gives the director and shareholders a small element of control over liquidation proceedings. If liquidation is inevitable then the opportunity to voluntarily appoint a liquidator is usually required within 10 working days of the winding up proceeding being served so acting promptly following the statutory demand (or earlier) is advised.  Waiting until the service of the winding up proceeding is not a good idea and limits your options.

If you do nothing or you can’t reach a settlement, the IRD can apply for their preferred liquidator or Official Assignee and manage your affairs and liquidate your company. In this instance the Court will appoint the IRD’s liquidator. As company director you have less control over the process and must cooperate with the Court appointed liquidator or Official Assignee at all times.

Deciding between involuntary and voluntary liquidation may not seem like much of a choice. Appointing a licensed insolvency practitioner that you believe understands you, your business and your industry, and who can consider your interests while satisfying the IRD’s demands provides more certainty of the likely outcomes. For example, with the liquidators approval, you may be able to be involved to help achieve better outcomes for your creditors and in doing so, you may reduce your own personal exposure from personal guarantees.  Your liquidator can apply specialist skills to remove some of the sting from this traumatic process.  Acting cooperatively with the liquidator is good advice.  If you would like more advice from experienced insolvency practitioners contact our team.

Statutory and formal IRD demands are outside threats to your business. There are just as many risks that can come from within, so how do you protect your business from those?

If your company is experiencing financial difficulty, download our free guide for NZ Companies to discover your different options.


  1. Consider the risks of trading insolvently and how directors can be held personally liable.
  2. Negotiate an instalment plan with IRD for historic arrears and have a plan in place. The Inland Revenue have pressure to maximise the recovery for the Commissioner under the Tax Administration Act. They are willing to work with companies that communicate early on and this can save further interest/penalties.
  3. Assess the viability of the business and its future. Prepare a cashflow forecast.
  4. Where cashflow is an issue, consider compromises with creditors leading to some debt forgiveness and time payment arrangements or voluntary administration.

If the company has lost too much and the prospects are that the company has minimal ability to repay creditors nor has a financial source to fall back on to offer a better position than what liquidation holds, then liquidation sooner may be the better option. Continuing to trade with knowledge of insolvency is a risk for the directors.

Our team are happy to discuss the options available for struggling companies and how to manage personal guarantees and personal exposure. Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

If your company needs some advice on the restructuring options or is likely facing the prospect of liquidation, we are happy to advise on the process and consequences.

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