Articles > Small Business

Should I Register an ABN?

July 28, 2021   Ishani GangopadhyayPhilip Evangelou

An Australian Business Number (ABN) is a unique 11 digit number that acts to identify your business to both the Government and the community. The ABN registration details become part of the Australian Business Register (ABR) which is managed by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). In turn, the ABNs of all businesses can be searched and located on the ‘ABN Lookup’ which provides a free public view of the ABR.

Who Can Get an ABN?

Not everyone is entitled to an ABN; you are entitled to one if you are carrying on or starting an enterprise in Australia, making supplies connected with Australia’s indirect tax zone or if you are a company under the Corporations Act. 

If you are a sole trader, that being an individual running a business, it is likely that you will need an ABN in order to operate your business. 

Further, if you are a company operating in Australia, not only do you need an ABN, but you also need a Tax File Number (TFN) and Australian Company Number (ACN). 

It is important to note that you can conduct any number of business or activities under the same ABN as long as they all operate under the same business structure. If, for example, you have a second business that operates under a different business structure, separate ABNs are required. 

Advantages of an ABN

An ABN can be used to identify your business when invoicing or ordering, claim credits on energy grants and get an Australian domain name. 

An ABN also has certain tax benefits. For example, not only can you register for Goods and Services Tax (GST) with the ATO but after this registration, you can actually claim GST credits on your business activity statement (BAS). 

Furthermore, you can potentially avoid Pay As You Go tax being deducted from payments you receive. 

How to Register for an ABN

You can register for an ABN on the ABR website. When applying, you will need to provide the following details: 

  • Proof of identity 
  • Your TFN 
  • Location of your business
  • The industry of your business
  • Business activities that will be engaged
  • The reason you are applying for the ABN
  • The date from which you require the ABN to be effective
  • Any officeholders of your business and their details 

If your application is unsuccessful, the ABR suggests you contact them first to resolve the issue. However, if you are still not satisfied after this, you can lodge an objection within 60 days of the date you were first notified that your ABN application was rejected. 

About Ishani Gangopadhyay

Ishani GangopadhyayIshani works with OpenLegal as a paralegal whilst completing her law degree at the University of NSW. She is also Director of Content at the non-profit organisation Echo, and has worked within the business and marketing teams of The Meridian Magazine.

About Philip Evangelou

phillipPhil is a director at OpenLegal. He has over 16 years experience working in private practice and in-house counsel in Sydney and London, giving him expertise in employment law, IP, finance, leases, dispute resolution, insurance and contracts.