A comprehensive guide to registering a business in Australia

July 8, 2024
minutes to read
Jaala Alex
Table of Contents

You wouldn't try to build a house without the right tools, would you? The same goes for your small business.

Registering your business isn't just a formality; it unlocks a toolkit full of essential resources for building and growing your venture. From financial tools like business bank accounts to the credibility that comes with a registered name, these resources empower you to turn your entrepreneurial vision into a thriving reality.

Why registering your business in Australia is important

Protection. Registration creates a legal separation between you and your business. This means your personal assets are protected if something goes wrong with the company.

Finances. A registered business can open a business bank account, apply for loans, and get paid by other businesses.

Credibility. Registration shows customers and suppliers that you're a serious business owner. It builds trust and can help you get more customers.

Taxes. Depending on how your business is structured, registration can help you save money on taxes.

Support. Registered businesses can often access government programs and support to help them grow.

What is Australian Business Numbers (ABN)

An Australian Business Number (ABN) is a unique 11-digit identifier required for businesses to operate and interact with the Australian government and community. It is essential for tax purposes and helps streamline business activities.

Eligibility and application

To be eligible for an ABN, an entity must be conducting a business or intending to start one. This includes companies, sole traders, partnerships, and trusts. The application process involves providing detailed business information, such as the business structure, contact details, and business activities.

Applications can be submitted online via the Australian Government Business Registration Service (ABN). Once approved, the ABN helps businesses register for tax obligations, such as Goods and Services Tax (GST) and Pay As You Go (PAYG) withholding.

ABN lookup services

The ABN Lookup service is a tool that allows businesses and individuals to search for ABNs to verify business information. This can be useful for confirming the legitimacy of a business before engaging in transactions. The ABN Lookup is accessible to the public and provides details such as:

  • Business name
  • ABN status
  • GST registration status

Using the ABN Lookup services ensures the accuracy of business information, promoting transparency and trust in business transactions.

ABN updates and renewals

Maintaining accurate ABN details is critical for effective communication and compliance. Businesses must update their ABN details within 28 days of any changes, such as changes in business address, contact details, or business structure. This ensures that the Australian Business Register has the most current information.

Businesses can use the online portal provided by the Australian Business Register to update ABN details. Failure to update information can lead to penalties and complications in business operations.

In summary, applying for an ABN, using ABN Lookup services, and keeping information current are essential steps for any business operating in Australia.

Registering a business name with ASIC

Registering a business name in Australia involves a streamlined process through the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC). Key points include:

  • Selecting a unique name.
  • Using the ASIC Connect online portal.
  • Understanding the renewal process and associated fees.

Select a business name

Before registering, it's essential to select a unique business name that fits your business profile. The chosen name must not be identical or overly similar to any existing registered business names. You can check this on the ASIC website.

Consider names that reflect your business's products or services. It's also useful to ensure the name doesn't infringe on any trademarks. An Australian Business Number (ABN) is required before registering the business name.

Not sure where to start with choosing a unique business name? Take our quick quiz to get personalized suggestions based on your business goals and values: https://www.thriday.com.au/quiz/what-should-you-name-your-business.

Use ASIC Connect

ASIC Connect is an online service that facilitates the registration of business names. To start, login or create an account on the ASIC Connect portal. Select the 'Licences and Registrations' tab and follow the prompts to register a new business name.

For first-time users, select "No" when asked if you have a current business. No ASIC key is required for registration. Once all details are submitted, the processing time is typically short, allowing businesses to start operating under the new name quickly.

Business name renewal process

Business names need to be renewed periodically, either annually or every three years, depending on your preference. Renewal notifications are sent by ASIC before the expiration date. Business owners can manage renewals via ASIC Connect.

Sign in to the ASIC Connect portal to check the renewal status and pay the business name renewal fees. Keeping the business name current avoids any legal or operational issues. Ensure contact details are up to date with ASIC so that timely renewal reminders are received.

Taxation and business structure

Understanding how different business structures impact tax obligations is crucial for efficient management and compliance. Business owners should carefully consider how their choice impacts their tax, GST, and PAYG responsibilities.

GST, PAYG, and other tax obligations

Businesses in Australia need to navigate various tax obligations, including Goods and Services Tax (GST), Pay As You Go (PAYG) withholding, and other taxes.

GST registration is mandatory if a business's turnover exceeds $75,000 annually. Additionally, non-profit organisations with a turnover above $150,000 must also register for GST. It's essential for businesses providing taxi or limousine services, including ride-sourcing, to register regardless of income.

PAYG withholding requires employers to withhold a portion of payments made to employees and contractors and remit these amounts to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

Moreover, businesses might need to register for other taxes, such as fringe benefits tax (FBT) and fuel tax credits. Each tax type has specific registration requirements and compliance obligations. Detailed information can be accessed on the Australian Taxation Office website.

To help you out, Thriday's Automated Accounting and smart GST recognition automate away many of the tedious BAS and tax calculations. And the platform's rules-based automated personalised deductions system can help identify the correct deductions you can claim to make sure you get everything you're entitled to.

automate away many of the tedious BAS and tax calculations.
Thriday automates many of the tedious BAS and tax calculations

Interested about this? Try this business finance management tool for free!

Choosing the right business entity

Choosing a suitable business structure involves understanding tax liabilities, legal obligations, and operational efficiencies. The four primary structures in Australia include sole trader, partnership, company, and trust.

A sole trader is the simplest form but carries personal liability for debts. A partnership involves two or more individuals sharing profits and losses, with tax obligations divided among partners based on their profit share.

Companies, particularly proprietary limited companies, offer limited liability but face more comprehensive reporting obligations and tax treatments. Public companies limited by shares or guarantees can raise capital publicly and involve more stringent governance and reporting requirements.

Each structure has unique tax implications, including differing rates and obligations. It's wise for business owners to consult with professionals to choose a structure that aligns with their long-term financial plans. More details on business structures and their key tax obligations can be found on the ATO's official website.

Online registration and updates

Easily set up and maintain your business presence online. Utilise Australia's Business Registration Service, powered by ASIC, to streamline the process and ensure compliance.

Navigate the business registration service.

The Business Registration Service allows users to efficiently register their business name and obtain necessary tax registrations. It combines several governmental forms needed for new, returning, and updating businesses.

The platform provides all-inclusive support for applying for an Australian Business Number (ABN), registering a business name, and accessing various business applications. The streamlined process ensures quick and accurate submissions, saving time and minimising errors.

This service also covers significant steps like identifying your business structure and verifying the availability of your chosen business name.

Updating business information online

Keeping your business details up to date is crucial. The ASIC Connect portal allows business owners to update several aspects of their registered business name and information.

Users can change addresses, update name holders and representative details, and add an ABN. The portal ensures that all information remains current, vital for compliance and communication.

Accessing and updating business information online is straightforward and secure. It reduces the need for paper forms and in-person visits, ensuring that your business remains compliant with legal requirements.

Licences, permits, and state requirements

To operate a business in Australia, understanding and obtaining the correct licences and permits is essential. Each state has its registration requirements and processes that businesses must follow.

State-specific business registries

Each Australian state has its regulations for registering businesses. For example, Business Victoria details requirements for licences and registrations specific to Victoria. Similarly, Business Queensland provides a guide for obtaining the necessary permissions to operate in Queensland.

Licenses can be accessed through Service NSW in New South Wales, while in Western Australia, businesses must refer to the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety for guidelines. Ensuring compliance with state-specific registries helps avoid legal issues.

Obtaining necessary licences and permits

Obtaining the correct licences and permits is crucial for legal business operations. Licences may cover activities such as food handling, alcohol sales, and construction. According to business.gov.au, these licences grant permission for specific activities and protect businesses, employees, and customers.

Businesses should consult the appropriate state or federal agencies to apply for necessary licences. For instance, the Business Registration Service simplifies the process by combining various government and tax registration forms. To maintain compliance, regular renewals and adherence to specific conditions are required.

Support and assistance

For business registration, there are various avenues for help, ranging from the ASIC Call Centre to private service providers and detailed help documentation. Each option offers unique benefits to assist businesses effectively.

Utilising the ASIC Call Centre

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) Call Centre is a valuable resource for anyone looking to register a business. They provide expert guidance on the registration process, regulatory requirements, and any complications that may arise.

Open weekdays from 8 am to 8 pm, the call centre is staffed by knowledgeable professionals ready to answer commonly asked questions about business registration. These specialists can also offer advice on updating existing registrations. This accessibility ensures you receive timely support, mitigating any administrative hassles.

Engaging private service providers

Private service providers, such as accountants or solicitors, can streamline the business registration process. They offer tailored advice and ensure that all paperwork is correctly filled out and submitted efficiently. These experts also help navigate complex legal and financial requirements, making them indispensable for businesses with unique needs.

Accountants and solicitors can offer additional services, from financial planning to legal compliance. They provide a comprehensive approach to business setup, which can be crucial for long-term success. Engaging with experienced professionals can save time and prevent costly mistakes.

Accessing help documentation

ASIC and other governmental websites provide extensive help documentation to guide users through registration. These user guides cover various topics, from initial setup to ongoing compliance requirements. Detailed instructions, frequently asked questions, and troubleshooting tips make the process more manageable.

The top call centre questions are often addressed in these documents, reducing the need for direct contact. Additionally, accessing business banking guides can help new businesses make informed decisions about financial management. Using these comprehensive resources ensures that you have the information needed to succeed.

Engaging these multiple forms of support enables businesses to navigate the complexities of registration smoothly and successfully.

Compliance and legal obligations

Ensuring your business complies with Australian legal obligations is crucial. This encompasses registration, reporting, intellectual property, and the roles and responsibilities of shareholders and directors.

Review and reporting requirements

Businesses must regularly review their activities to ensure compliance with regulations. This includes lodging reports with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and other relevant bodies. Regular reports may encompass financial statements, tax returns, and activity statements. Additionally, maintaining accurate and up-to-date records is vital for audits and reviews. Failure to lodge reports on time can result in penalties or legal action.

Understanding the specifics, such as obtaining an ATO linking code via myGov, can simplify tax procedures and ensure you meet your obligations efficiently.

Understanding intellectual property

Protecting intellectual property (IP) is essential for safeguarding business assets. This includes trademarks, patents, and copyrights. Registering IP ensures that your business holds the exclusive rights to its creations, preventing unauthorised use by others. Businesses operating under a business name must also ensure the name is registered and complies with relevant laws.

Being proactive about IP can prevent costly legal disputes. IP rights in Australia provide businesses with tools to take legal action against infringers, ensuring your assets remain protected.

Liability of shareholders and directors

The structure of your business affects the liability of shareholders and directors. In a company, shareholders enjoy limited liability, meaning they are only liable up to the value of their shares. Directors, however, have specific responsibilities and can be held personally liable for the company's actions, especially if they fail to comply with legal obligations.

Understanding these roles and responsibilities is crucial. Directors must ensure the company operates ethically and legally, safeguarding the business and its stakeholders from potential legal repercussions.

Thriday customer
Thriday customer

Frequently asked questions

In Australia, registering a business involves several steps and requirements, depending on the type of business, location, and specific circumstances. This section covers the essentials for registering a business name, conducting name searches, obtaining certificates, understanding the difference between an ABN and company registration, costs, and necessary documentation.

What is required to register a business name in Australia?

Individuals need to apply through the ASIC to register a business name in Australia. If you are trading under your own name without modifications, registering a business name is unnecessary. However, using a different name requires formal registration.

How do I conduct a business name search before registration?

It's important to ensure the business name you want is available. Use the search tool on the ASIC website to verify that your chosen name is not already in use. This step helps avoid conflicts and ensures your business name's uniqueness.

What are the steps for obtaining a business registration certificate?

Obtaining a business registration certificate involves:

Once approved, ASIC issues the certificate, confirming your business name and registration details.

Can you explain the difference between an ABN and a company registration?

An Australian Business Number (ABN) is a unique identifier for businesses dealing with the Australian Taxation Office and other government agencies. Company registration, meanwhile, involves creating a legal entity separate from its owners, requiring a different registration process through ASIC.

DISCLAIMER: Team Thrive Pty Ltd ABN 15 637 676 496 (Thriday) is an authorised representative (No.1297601) of Regional Australia Bank ABN 21 087 650 360 AFSL 241167 (Regional Australia Bank). Regional Australia Bank is the issuer of the transaction account and debit card available through Thriday. Any information provided by Thriday is general in nature and does not take into account your personal situation. You should consider whether Thriday is appropriate for you. Team Thrive No 2 Pty Ltd ABN 26 677 263 606 (Thriday Accounting) is a Registered Tax Agent (No.26262416).

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