The Insolvency Service has been doing excellent work sending regular and frequent Dear IPs to insolvency practitioners during the lockdown, giving practical information and guidance about how insolvency practitioners and organisations working with insolvency practitioners are dealing with the difficulties presented by the lockdown.
It is an indication of the speed of change during the lockdown that measures for the filing winding up petitions in Dear IP 96 are now likely to be overtaken by temporary restrictions on winding up petitions listed in the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Bill introduced in Dear IP 101. Different aspects of the IVA protocol guidance are included in both Dear IP 97 and Dear IP 102, perhaps reflecting the need to introduce flexibility and accuracy into individual voluntary arrangements at a time of massive change. Because of the extraordinary speed and nature of these changes it is useful to consider information from some of the April 2020 Dear IPs together with the more recent May 2020 Dear IPs.
Dear IP 96: A temporary practice direction has been put in place for insolvency court users. Remote hearings are now held using Skype so that physical attendance at court can be avoided and the temporary practice direction sets out how documents, including appointment documents for administrations, winding up petitions and bankruptcy petitions, should now be filed in court. The temporary insolvency practice direction can be accessed at https://www.justice.gov.uk/courts/procedure-rules/civil/rules/insolvency_pd
Dear IP 97: The Redundancy Payments Service, frequently a creditor, apparently sometimes receives notice of decision procedures for the approval of officeholder’s remuneration with as little as one or two days before the deadline for receipt of votes. Insolvency practitioners are reminded that there is a 15 day turnaround period for documents sent to the RPS and this should be incorporated into planning for decision procedures regarding the approval of officeholder’s remuneration when the RPS is a creditor.
Guidance has been issued for the management of straightforward individual voluntary arrangements where the consumer and therefore the progress of the individual voluntary arrangement has been affected by the pandemic. The guidance has been approved by the RPBs and its overall purpose is to limit the need for vast numbers of variance procedures. Payment holidays of three months or payment reductions up to 25% may be granted without the need for variance procedures, for example. It is however still necessary for the supervisor of individual voluntary arrangements to consider each case in the context of the guidance and to seek the consent or to advise the creditors and consumer/debtor as appropriate.
The guidance can be accessed at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-individual-voluntary-arrangement-iva-protocol-guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-for-the-straightforward-consumer-iva-protocol
Dear IP 98: HMRC has introduced electronic banking with immediate effect and asks insolvency practitioners to use electronic banking when making dividend payments to HMRC. Insolvency practitioners who do not use electronic banking are told not to send dividend cheques to HMRC and to hold on to these cheques. It is suggested that insolvency practitioners who follow this instruction keep a copy of the Dear IP 98 to hand to support this decision should it be challenged in future.
Dear IP 99: Companies House now accepts documents for filing by email and perhaps not surprisingly with a new system introduced in the lockdown this has resulted in a considerable backlog of documents to be filed. Companies House asks insolvency practitioners not to send duplicate emails with documents to be filed if they notice a delay in filing documents sent earlier by email. It can take a fortnight for a document sent by email to be filed and if a document has not been filed more than 15 days after being sent by email then Companies House requests insolvency practitioners to email email@example.com to check whether the email and document have been received.
Dear IP 100: Following on from Dear IP 99, Companies House is planning a future system to upload documents for filing, perhaps to avoid further problems with backlogs of duplicate emails. Insolvency practitioners who would be interested in giving feedback to Companies House to help with this should contact www.gov.uk/government/news/help-improve-companies-house
Dear IP 101: The Insolvency Service gives introductory information about the Corporate Insolvency & Governance Bill, to be debated in parliament and made law in the near future. Temporary and short term changes are suggested for wrongful trading provisions and the ability to present statutory demands or present winding up petitions in order to give more support to the economy because of the lockdown and permanent changes are suggested for an extendable four week moratorium and to prevent creditors from ceasing to supply goods in an insolvency situation.
Dear IP 102: The Insolvency Service again mentions the guidance for protocol individual voluntary arrangements affected by the pandemic, this time focusing on decisions made not to realise home equity during the pandemic. This decision should be consented to by the consumer/debtor and the insolvency practitioner who is the supervisor should of course make sure that there is a record of the decision.
Reviewing these Dear IPs at the same time shows how very extraordinary and heartening it is that in a period of a few short and pressurised weeks organisations such as the Court, the Insolvency Service, HMRC and Companies House, frequently seen as traditional and bureaucratic, can introduce electronic filing and banking systems, even start to develop a second tier of systems to improve the initial electronic systems and introduce new legislation.
RMCSC continues to work during the lockdown, providing bespoke insolvency compliance consultancy that is all the more welcome at a time of uncertainty. Please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org or 07854 067976 if you would like more information.