Corporations Information Sheet 1

Winding up proceedings based on an unsatisfied Statutory Demand

About this Information Sheet

This Information Sheet has been prepared for litigants who intend to make a winding up application pursuant to s459P of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) based on a company's failure to comply with a Statutory Demand.

This Information sheet should be read in conjunction with the Corporations Information Sheet 2: Winding Up Checklist and the Judicial Registrar's Winding Up Guide.

It is important to note the following information:  

  • this Information Sheet is published as part of a series of information sheets and practical guides and contains links to the most commonly used forms approved or prescribed by the relevant legislation or court rules.
  • this Information Sheet contains general information only and is not a substitute for the Corporations Act or the Corporations Rules. To the extent that there is any inconsistency or discrepancy, the Act and Rules as interpreted by the courts prevail.
  • while registry staff can provide practical assistance to litigants they cannot provide legal advice or assist with the content of any document. The onus is on the party making the application to undertake their own enquiries and assessment of the legal issues.

References and links to Legislation, Court Rules and Approved Forms:

 

1. Nature of Application

1.1 A creditor of a company can make an application to the Court under s459P of the Corporations Act for orders winding up the company in insolvency under s459A.

1.2 The most common basis for an application under s459P is that the subject company has failed to comply with a Statutory Demand and is presumed to be insolvent (s459C(2)(a)).

1.3 A summary of the Statutory Demand procedure and the presumption of insolvency is set out below.

2. Making a Statutory Demand

2.1 A Statutory Demand is a creditor’s formal, written request requiring a company to pay a debt within 21 days of service.

2.2 The requirements for making a Statutory Demand are set out in s459E of the Corporations Act. Relevantly, the demand:

a) must relate to a debt or debts that are due and payable and total at least $2,000

b) must specify the debt and its amount

c) must be in writing, in accordance with the prescribed form, which is Form 509H

d) must require compliance with the demand within 21 days after the demand is served on the company

e) must be signed by or on behalf of the creditor, and

f) if relying on a debt that is not a judgment debt, the demand must be accompanied by an affidavit that verifies the debt is due and payable to company and complies with the rules (Corporations Form 7 – Affidavit accompanying Statutory Demand). The affidavit verifying the Statutory Demand must not pre-date the Statutory Demand.

2.3 A Statutory Demand in the correct form is given effect by serving the demand and any accompanying affidavit on the company. Section 109X of the Corporations Act provides how a document may be served on a company.

2.4 Serving a demand has serious consequences and a creditor should obtain legal advice to ensure it is entitled to make a Statutory Demand.

The period for compliance with a Statutory Demand

2.5 If a debtor company is served with a Statutory Demand, it has 21 days from service of the demand to either:

(a) comply with the demand, or

(b) apply to the Court under s459G of the Corporations Act for an order that the demand be set aside.

2.6 Any application under s459G of the Corporations Act to set aside a Statutory Demand must be filed with the Court and served on the creditor within 21 days after service of the demand. The 21 day compliance period has been strictly applied by the courts and no extensions of time, or dispensation with these requirements, can be given.

2.7 The Court may set aside a Statutory Demand if:

(a) there is a genuine dispute as to the debt (s459H(1)(a))

(b) the company has an offsetting claim (s459H(1)(b))

(c) there is a defect in the demand that will cause substantial injustice unless the demand is set aside (s459J(1)(a), or

(d) for some other reason (s459J(1)(b)).

2.8 If a company has applied to set aside a Statutory Demand, the time for compliance with the demand will automatically be extended pending the determination of the application (s459F(2)). If the Court sets the Statutory Demand aside, the demand will be of no force or effect and no presumption of insolvency will arise as a result of non-compliance. If, however, the set aside application is dismissed, the time for the company to comply with the demand will be extended until 7 days after the date of the dismissal, unless the Court specifies another period (s459F).

2.9 Challenging a Statutory Demand is a complex area of the law. It is important for a company that has been served with a Statutory Demand to obtain legal advice in order to understand its rights and obligations.

3. Making an Application for a Winding Up Order

3.1 If a company fails to comply with a Statutory Demand within the time provided, the company is presumed insolvent under the Corporations Act. Within three months of the date of non-compliance, the creditor who served the demand may rely on the presumption of insolvency as the basis for an application to the Court for orders winding up the company. The effect of the presumption is that the Court must presume, subject to evidence to the contrary, that the company is insolvent and should be wound up.

3.2 In making such an application, a creditor should ensure that the debtor company has in fact failed to comply with the relevant Statutory Demand and that a presumption of insolvency is available. This is important because the Court may dismiss a winding up application that is based on an unsatisfied demand if those proceedings were commenced before, or more than three months after, a presumption arose.

3.3 In calculating the date of a company’s non-compliance with a Statutory Demand, a creditor should take care to determine when the Statutory Demand was effectively and properly served on the company. There is an extensive body of law regarding issues of timing and sufficiency of service on companies which will not be dealt with in this Information Sheet. A creditor’s attention is drawn to s109X of the Corporations Act, s29 of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901(Cth) and s160 of the Evidence Act 1995(Cth), which (subject to contrary evidence) provide for a presumed date of service where service is effected by prepaid post addressed to the company’s registered office.

3.4 Once winding up proceedings have been commenced, they must be determined within 6 months unless the Court makes an order extending this time period (s459R).

Steps to be taken before filing

3.5 No more than 7 days before filing the application, a creditor needs to arrange a search of the records maintained by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) in relation to the debtor company and obtain a document with the results of the search. A fee may be payable for this search. The purpose of the search is to ascertain whether there are any pending winding up proceedings and to confirm that the company is not already in liquidation.

Documents to be prepared

3.6 Proceedings are commenced by filing with the Court an originating process in accordance with Corporations Form 2. The originating process must attach a copy of the Statutory Demand and any accompanying affidavit verifying the debt as required under s459E(3). The entity filing the originating process is referred to as the 'Plaintiff'. And the debtor company the subject of the proceedings is referred to as the 'Defendant'.

3.7 The originating process must be supported by affidavit evidence of certain matters.  The affidavit or affidavits in support must:

(a) Contain details of how and when the Statutory Demand was served on the company

(b) Contain details of the failure of the company to comply with the Statutory Demand

(c) State whether and, if so, to what extent the debt, or each of the debts, to which the Statutory Demand relates is still due and payable at the date when the affidavit is made, and

(d) Annex a copy of the ASIC search of the company (which must be conducted no more than 7 days prior to filing of the originating process.

3.8 The affidavits in support should be completed using Form 59. A sample affidavit is set out in Note 2 of Schedule 3 of the Corporations Rules.

Filing the originating process with the Court

3.9 The originating application and affidavit/s must be filed in the Federal Court of Australia.

3.10 The plaintiff should lodge all required documents electronically through the Court’s eLodgment system. For more information on eLodgment and the Court’s Online Services, refer to section 7 of this Information Sheet.

3.11 If the documents lodged are in the correct form they will be accepted for filing and processed. The documents will be endorsed by the Court and the application given a hearing date. Through eLodgment, an applicant can access the endorsed versions of the documents, which can be printed or emailed for the purposes of service.

Filing fee

3.12 A fee is payable for filing a winding up application. Different amounts are payable depending on whether the applicant is a corporation or an individual.

3.13 If a plaintiff cannot afford this fee, they may be able to ask the Court to exempt them from having to pay it, or to defer the time for its payment. Information and the form to be used to request the Court to either exempt or defer payment can be obtained from the registry or found on the Court’s website.

Serving the originating process

3.14 The plaintiff must arrange for a stamped copy of the Originating Process and supporting affidavits to be served on the defendant company within 14 days of filing the application in the Court (s 465A) and not less than 5 days before the hearing date (rule 2.7). For more information about service see: s109X of the Corporations Act; s29 of the Acts Interpretation Act and s160 of the Evidence Act.

3.15 The plaintiff must also arrange for an affidavit to be filed with the Court providing evidence of how and when the Originating Process and supporting affidavits were served on the company.

4. Steps to be taken before the hearing

Notification to ASIC of Application

4.1 The plaintiff must lodge notification to ASIC of the application for winding up orders no later than 10.30 am on the next business day after filing of the Originating Process.

4.2 The correct form for this notification is Form 519 under the Corporations Regulations. A copy may be obtained from ASIC. The form must be filled in correctly and lodged with ASIC.

4.3 Before the hearing of the winding up application, the plaintiff must prove that ASIC was notified of the application. This is generally done on affidavit. A copy of the Form 519 must be attached to the affidavit.

Obtaining Consent of Person to Act as Liquidator

4.4 The plaintiff must obtain the consent of a person who is an official liquidator to act as liquidator if a winding up order is made. A current list of official liquidators can be obtained from ASIC.

4.5 The consenting person should fill out Corporations Form 8. This is the Consent to Act as Liquidator form.

4.6 The Consent to Act as Liquidator should be filed prior to the hearing and a copy of the consent must be served on the company at least 1 day before the hearing. The Court will not make a winding up order until the plaintiff has obtained an official liquidator’s consent to be appointed as the liquidator.

Publishing Notice of Application

4.7 The plaintiff must also publish notice of its application on the Insolvency Notices page of the ASIC website. This must be done at least 3 days after the application was served on the company and at least 7 days before the hearing of the application (rule 5.6).

4.8 Notice is provided in accordance with Corporations Form 9. This is the Notice of Application for a Winding Up Order. A fee may be payable to ASIC to publish the notice.

4.9 The completed Form 9 should be lodged on the Insolvency Notices page of the ASIC website. The user should follow the instructions on that page to lodge the notice. The user may be required to register if not already registered.

4.10 Before the hearing of the application, the plaintiff must file with the Court an affidavit giving evidence that notice was published on the ASIC website. A copy of the Form 9 must be attached to the affidavit.

Updating affidavit of debt or search

4.11 Note: Generally, an updating affidavit of debt or search will not be required at the hearing before the Court will make a winding up order. There may be some circumstances where an updating affidavit may be appropriate, for example where the defendant company is the subject of a strike off application pending before ASIC.

5. Hearing of the Originating Process

5.1 At the listing of the Originating Process before the Court, the defendant company may appear to request an adjournment or oppose the making of winding up orders. If it intends to do so, it will usually be required to file and serve a notice of appearance and/or a notice stating its grounds of opposition. In such cases, the Court will consider the defendant’s grounds before allowing the plaintiff to proceed on its application.

5.2 Subject to any request for an adjournment or notice of opposition, the Court will generally make a winding up order if it is satisfied that the following formal requirements under the Corporations Act and Corporations Rules have been met:

(a) that the plaintiff has standing as a creditor of the company

(b) that the Company is presumed insolvent because of non-compliance with a Statutory Demand

(c) that the presumption has not been rebutted by evidence of the company’s solvency, and

(d) that the plaintiff has complied with all steps required by the rules, including: service of all relevant documents on the defendant, obtaining the consent of an official liquidator, lodgment of notice at ASIC, and publication of notice of the proceedings on the ASIC insolvency notices page.

Note: Corporations Information Sheet 2: Winding Up Checklist contains a checklist of the matters to be proven at the hearing.

5.3 A plaintiff who has validly instituted winding up proceedings based on an unsatisfied Statutory Demand will ordinarily be awarded their costs of the application. If a costs order is sought, the plaintiff should prepare and file a short form bill of costs prior to the hearing.

5.4 Even if all the formal matters are proven, the Court may adjourn or dismiss the originating process, or make any other interim order that it thinks fit (s467(1)).

5.5 If a winding up order is made, it will be produced by the Court electronically and will be available online via the Commonwealth Courts Portal (CCP) within 24 hours.

6. Steps to be taken after the hearing if a Winding Up Order is made

6.1 The plaintiff will be able to obtain a copy of the Winding Up Order made through the Commonwealth Courts Portal (CCP). Information about registering for the CCP is available on the Court's website.

Notification of Liquidator

6.2 The plaintiff should contact the liquidator and inform them of the order no later than the day after the day the winding up order is made.

Notification of ASIC

6.3 Within 2 business days of the making of the order, the plaintiff should lodge with ASIC a notice of the making of the order which states the date on which the order was made and the name and address of the liquidator. The plaintiff can use Form 519 to do this. This form is available online at the Federal Register of Legislation or can be obtained from ASIC.

Other Matters

6.4 Within 7 days of the winding up order, the plaintiff should:

(a) lodge a copy of the order with ASIC

(b) serve a copy of the order on the company and any other person the Court may have directed and

(c) deliver a copy of the order to the liquidator together with a statement that the order has been served on the company.

7. Information on the Court’s Online Services

eLodgment

7.1 The Court provides an electronic lodgement (eLodgment) facility through which a document that commences a proceeding or is relevant to an existing proceeding may be lodged for filing online. This facility can be accessed through the Court’s website.

7.2 The use of eLodgment provides many benefits to court users. It is available from each user’s computer at any time and provides a complete record of all lodgement transactions with the Court.

7.3 eLodgment also allows court users to lodge other documents regarding a proceeding, for example: a draft order, terms of consent and case management correspondence.

7.4 A party must be registered to use eLodgment. Information about registering, preparing and lodging documents using eLodgment can be found on the Court's website.

eCourtroom

7.5 eCourtroom is a virtual courtroom that assists in the management of matters by allowing directions and final orders to be made online.

7.6 Once lodged applications will be given a return date with the location as eCourtroom. Practitioners must ensure that when an application is lodged, the full name and email address of the practitioner who will be conducting the eCourtroom hearing is provided at the foot of the first page of the application. More than one practitioner’s name and email address may be provided.

7.7 For each application, practitioners will receive a further email notifying them that the particular matter has been set up in eCourtroom. The Judicial Registrar allocated to deal with the matter will then communicate with each practitioner.

7.8 Before or on the eCourtroom return date the Judicial Registrar will:

(a) consider the filed evidence, any communications and the draft orders forwarded by the applicant, and

(b) make appropriate orders, notify parties (or the applicant in ex parte matters) and provide a sealed copy of the order.

Commonwealth Courts Portal

7.9 Filed documents in a matter can be viewed by parties or those authorised by a party on the Commonwealth Courts Portal (CCP).  The CCP provides web-based services for court users to access information about cases before the Court. Parties may register for the CCP to gain access to documents which have been eLodged, as well as orders of the Court, judgments and listing events (past or future).

Federal Law Search

7.10 Alternatively, stamped Court orders are also available online on Federal Law Search. The Federal Law Search facility provides selected information on cases to members of the public.