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Navigating the Pitfalls of Overdrawn Directors’ Loan Accounts and Illegal Dividends

Nov 10, 2023

Business owners have been through hell in the last few years.  From Covid, working from home, lack of supply of materials, inflation and huge interest rate hikes.  This is topped off by increasing corporation tax rates and loans no business owner wanted in the first place, but still need to be repaid.

 As directors it's crucial to understand the complexities surrounding Directors’ Loan Accounts (DLAs) and the implications of illegal dividends, especially in today's challenging economic climate. This brief guide aims to provide clear insights and practical advice to avoid these pitfalls, keeping your business on a steady and compliant course.

Understanding the Risks of Overdrawn DLAs

 A DLA is essentially an account where transactions between the company and its directors are recorded. It's a common misconception in the SME sector that these accounts are straightforward. However, they require careful management. If a DLA is overdrawn, it means the director owes money to the company. In a solvent state, this isn't immediately alarming, provided the balance is repaid within nine months of the company’s accounting year-end.

Failure to do so can trigger a substantial tax penalty of 33.75% on the unpaid amount.

(Section 455 Corporation Tax Act 2010)

 The real danger emerges if your company faces insolvency with an overdrawn DLA. In such cases, directors are personally liable to repay these amounts. Neglecting this responsibility can lead to severe consequences, including legal action and even director disqualification.

 Illegal Dividends: A Risky Escape Route

 Dividends are a common method for directors to clear overdrawn DLAs. However, dividends can only be legally declared out of distributable profits. As the economic landscape shifts post-pandemic, with many businesses grappling with reduced profits, the temptation to declare dividends without sufficient profits can lead to illegal dividends. Such actions, particularly near insolvency, are scrutinized and can result in financial recovery actions against directors.


Staying Compliant and Proactive


To avoid these pitfalls, it's essential to:


  1. Regularly Review DLAs: Keep a close eye on your DLA balance. Regular reviews with your accountant can help detect and address any issues early on. 
  2. Understand Dividend Regulations: Ensure that any dividends declared are from genuine profits. Avoid using dividends as a stop-gap measure for financial difficulties. 
  3. Plan Ahead: If you anticipate financial challenges, proactively plan with your accountant. Consider alternative financing methods or cost-cutting measures.


Seek Professional Advice: At Brookwood Accountancy, we're equipped to guide you through these complex issues. Our team can help you maintain a balanced DLA and ensure dividends are legally and ethically declared.



 Navigating the intricacies of DLAs and dividends is not straightforward, but with vigilant management and professional guidance, you can safeguard your business from significant risks.

Remember, Brookwood Accountancy is here to assist you every step of the way, ensuring your business remains solvent, compliant, and successful.

We are here to support you.  If anything in this Blog is relevant and you need help or advice, get in touch below.

Phone us: 01865 842266

Email us: [email protected]

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