Contractors' Questions: Can I get cash back from my dissolved 'Ltd'?

Contractor's Question: My limited company was recently dissolved by my accountant after it ceased trading some months before. There were funds remaining in my business bank account for paying my final tax bill. The funds were seized by Her Majesty's Treasury and I have since had to borrow money from a family member to pay my tax bill. The company now has no debt outstanding with HM Revenue Customs so there is no tax, national insurance or VAT to pay.

I hope the process of applying for a "discretionary" grant from HM Treasury is straightforward, even though the legal jargon about it slightly confuses me. Can you please advise me on this process, and of my chances of being awarded such a grant?

Expert's Answer: The success of any application to recover a bona vacantia asset really does depend on the context of the application. The guidelines are available.

The process of making a claim is not complicated, as you hoped. It is effectively a statutory declaration supported by some other documents (passport, proof of address, etc.) witnessed by a solicitor. There is a standard statutory declaration template you can use on the website. But the Treasury has total discretion over whether they will give the grant and the terms on which any grant is made.

Grants are only awarded where:

o it would alleviate hardship
o it would otherwise be unreasonable or unconscionable for the Crown to keep the assets, or
o there is a compelling public interest in making the grant

They also may consider further factors including:

o the size and nature of the bona vacantia asset
o whether any statutory or other remedies are or have been available to the applicant
o the extent to which the applicant has contributed to the asset becoming bona vacantia
o the length and nature of the relationship between the applicant and the dissolved company
o any legal obligations that the company had towards the applicant before it was dissolved
o whether there would have been any tax payable, either by the applicant or the company, if the asset had been distributed or dealt with in the course of either trading by the company or in the course of winding up of the company
o any rights to the asset that someone else may have or may be acquiring
o who (if anyone) is in possession of the asset

The Treasury consider each case on its own merits and will make only one grant in each case. Experience suggests that if you can demonstrate that you have met the criteria, then grants are made in "most cases".

The expert was Jon Sutcliffe, a technology partner at chartered accountants Kingston Smith LLP.

Sunday 23rd May 2010