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What distinguishes a liquidator from the Official Receiver?

The role of a liquidator and the Official Receiver (OR) in a company liquidation may seem similar, but there are differences in the circumstances of their appointment. The OR is usually responsible for liquidation when a creditor takes legal action to force the company into liquidation through a winding-up petition. 

On the other hand, if the company voluntarily enters liquidation, its directors can choose their own private liquidator, who must be a licensed insolvency practitioner (IP) for the process of Creditors’ Voluntary Liquidation (CVL).

Who is the role of the Official Receiver in company insolvency?


The Official Receiver is an employee of the government’s Insolvency Service and acts as a court officer. They are authorised to handle company assets and complete the liquidation process. However, in some cases, the OR may delegate the case to an independent licensed insolvency practitioner (IP).

What is the role of a liquidator in company insolvency?


The main difference between a liquidator and the Official Receiver lies in their appointment process. Independent liquidators are licensed and regulated professionals who can be appointed by the directors of an insolvent company or by the Official Receiver after the initial stages of a compulsory liquidation have been completed. 

Liquidators can work independently or as part of a firm of licensed insolvency practitioners and often have a background in accountancy and/or law.

Comparing Liquidators and the Official Receiver: Appointment and Duration

Official Receiver


An Official Receiver, being a court officer, is informed when a compulsory liquidation of a company takes place. They oversee the beginning stages of the liquidation process and may or may not proceed to complete it.



An independent liquidator can be selected by the company directors after being proposed by the shareholders. However, the company’s creditors have the authority to cast a vote on whether to accept the appointment or choose a different liquidator.

Employment/Hiring by Whom?

Official Receiver


The Official Receiver, who is appointed by the Insolvency Service, is responsible to both the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation, and Skills and the court as an officer of the court.



In the case of insolvent liquidation, a private liquidator appointed by the company directors works for the benefit of creditors and not the directors. The liquidator has a legal duty to secure the best financial outcome for those owed money by the company and is not accountable to the directors who hired them in this scenario.

Why is Voluntary Liquidation preferred over Compulsory Liquidation?


If your company is facing severe financial difficulties, it is better to opt for Creditors’ Voluntary Liquidation instead of waiting for compulsory liquidation by a creditor. The Official Receiver has substantial investigatory powers and delaying the process could potentially result in worsening losses for creditors.

Furthermore, if any director misconduct is discovered, you may face disqualification or personal responsibility for some of the company’s debt. By choosing voluntary liquidation, you have the opportunity to select your own liquidator and prioritise the interests of creditors.

Additionally, as the director of a company in voluntary insolvent liquidation, you may be eligible for redundancy pay, which could cover the costs of professional fees.

For more information on the roles of a liquidator and the Official Receiver, contact We have a wide network of offices across the UK and offer free, same-day consultations with one of our experienced team members.

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