Since 2000, Experian says 13% - more than one in eight - micro firms have wound up without settling their debts, whether because their only employee has retired or gone into permanent employment elsewhere, or simply because they were struggling financially.
This figure rises during times of recession, understandably enough.
Insolvent invoices in 2011
While the £4.7 billion figure is based on data from 2000 onwards, and relates to the net balance between companies' assets and debts when they wound up, the picture for 2011 was quite different.
According to Experian, 300,000 firms voluntarily wound up in 2011, of which 36,000 left behind debts of £5.9 billion - an average of £164,000 each for those with debts, or £20,000 each across the board.
A further 21,000 firms were declared insolvent, leaving behind around £11.7 billion in debt, or over £557,000 each.
In all, that's a total of £17.6 billion in unpaid invoices wiped away by insolvency or winding-up procedures over the course of the year.
Non-payers in perspective
If the numbers involved here sound scary, then they'd be even scarier if it was even possible to comprehend their sheer scale.
Few of us will ever truly appreciate what almost £18 billion would look like in cash, or the impact it can have on the nation's economy during what is still an economically turbulent cycle.
What we can all do, however, is work harder to keep our own cashflow looking healthy, and take some of that turbulence out of our personal economies.
This is where Safe Collections are keen to help - particularly with smaller businesses who might otherwise find it hard to make their voices heard.
Commencing formal debt collection proceedings against a non-paying client can demonstrate that you are not simply going to go away - and doing so promptly can help you to get what you are owed, even from companies that are teetering on the edge of insolvency.
The loudest voice
Where a debt has gone unpaid for an extended period of time - for 6-9 months, or even longer - it's imperative that you recover your funds as soon as possible.
Doing so cuts down on administrative costs, the 'bad blood' of badgering a client for payment, and the risk of them going bust while still owing you.
In these situations, where a client may owe several amounts to several different suppliers, the 'loudest voice' can often receive their funds first.
Polite enquiries are fine at the outset, but if you've been owed a substantial amount for several months, it's time to stop hiding in the corner.
Issue formal B2B debt recovery proceedings, consider court action, and generally take advantage of all of the protections afforded to you under UK law, and you can maximise your chances of getting your money back before your client is declared insolvent or bankrupt.
Image by flickr user Fabrizio Morroia is licensed under CC BY 2.0