When you go bankrupt, the official receiver will investigate your financial behaviour, both before the bankruptcy order was made and while it is in force. If you commit a bankruptcy offence you may be fined or sent to prison. The court may also make a bankruptcy restrictions order against you, extending the period during which you have to follow certain restrictions for up to 15 years.
This page lists what counts as a bankruptcy offence and tells you what to do if you think you’ve committed one.
Top tipThe official receiver has the power to investigate your behaviour before and after the time your bankruptcy order is made. This means you need to be sure you haven’t already done something that would count as a bankruptcy offence before you apply for bankruptcy.
What is a bankruptcy offence?
There are lots of different kinds of bankruptcy offence, but the important thing to know is that they count as a criminal offence. This means that if you commit one, you could be fined or sent to prison.
Examples of bankruptcy offences include:
- giving away or selling property that you got on credit in the 12 months before you applied for bankruptcy, at a time when you hadn't paid for the property
- lying or failing to mention relevant information about your finances or property in your bankruptcy application, during the bankruptcy interview or any other time you make a statement about your financial situation
- hiding details of your property from the bankruptcy trustee
- hiding any belongings worth £500 or more, which should be handed over to the official receiver or trustee
- giving away or selling property fraudulently during the five years before you were made bankrupt
- leaving England or Wales with any belongings of value worth £500 or more and which you are obliged to give to the official receiver or trustee
- getting credit of £500 or more without telling the lender about your bankruptcy
- carrying on a business under a different name from the one in which you were declared bankrupt without telling everyone you do business the name under which you were made bankrupt
- holding certain jobs or positions without the court’s permission, such as a company director
- breaking any of the other restrictions that are placed on you during the bankruptcy period
- breaking any restrictions that have been placed on you through a bankruptcy restrictions order or bankruptcy restrictions undertaking.
What happens if you commit a bankruptcy offence?
If you commit a bankruptcy offence, this counts as a criminal offence. You could be punished with:
- a fine and/or
- being sent to prison for up to seven years.
In addition, you could also have a bankruptcy restrictions order made against you, extending the period during which you have to follow certain restrictions for anything up to 15 years.
Generally, the worse the offence, the more severe the punishment will be.
If you think you’ve committed a bankruptcy offence
If you think you’ve committed a bankruptcy offence, your options depend on where you are in the bankruptcy process.
If you haven’t yet applied for bankruptcy
If you haven’t yet applied for bankruptcy but think you may have done something that would count as a bankruptcy offence, you should speak to an adviser.
If you’ve been declared bankrupt
If you’ve been declared bankrupt and think you’ve committed a bankruptcy offence, you should get legal advice as soon as possible. If you can show you didn’t intend to mislead or defraud the official receiver, you may have a valid defence in court, but you’ll need independent legal advice to help you work out your options.
Depending on your financial situation, you may be able to get Legal Aid to help you get this advice.
- Bankruptcy restrictions orders and undertakings
- What to do if you’ve had a notice of a bankruptcy restrictions order application
- You can get advice at your local Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, click on nearest CAB.