An Australian Business Number (ABN) is one of the most fundamental requirements of starting a business in Australia. 

To operate any kind of business or run a company, you are legally required to obtain an ABN first. 

So, why are ABNs so important? 

They establish your business from the rest, as your ABN is unique to your business. It also makes things like taxes and other government related tasks much easier. So, if you’re thinking of starting a business, applying for an ABN should be high up on that to-do-list. 

Let’s take a closer look at ABN’s below. 

What Is An ABN?

An ABN is a 11 digit identifier that is exclusive to your business. All businesses have a different ABN. 

Some things to understand about an ABN:

  • To qualify for an ABN, you need to be running (or about to) run a business
  • You should ideally get an ABN prior to starting business operations 
  • You cannot use another person’s ABN
  • Two people cannot share an ABN (even if they are running the same business together)
  • All different industries and types of businesses are required to have an ABN
  • Even if your business isn’t established in Australia but carries certain business operations here, you may still be required to get an ABN
  • Once you get your ABN, it will not change. The ABN you have will be yours for life – unless you decide to cancel it. 

If you want to learn more about ABN’s and their place in the business world, check out our article: Navigating ABNs: A Guide To Australian Business Numbers

How Do I Get An ABN?

Acquiring an ABN is a quick and simple process – it also won’t cost you anything. You just need to go online to the Australian Business Register and fill out a quick application form. 

Currently, the ABN application form has 6 parts to it, here’s a breakdown of what you can expect: 

ABN entitlement: The first part of the application will ask a few questions to ascertain whether you really need an ABN

Application details: This part of the form will inquire about the kind of entity you will be operating as, your tax file number etc 

Business information: Next, you’ll need to answer some questions regarding your business and it’s operations

Associate details: This part of the application asks about any important people (such as colleagues) that will be involved in your business

Reason for application: The application will then ask details regarding the purpose of your ABN i.e a new business 

Declaration: Finally, you’ll need to confirm all the information you added to the application was correct and officially declare it. After that, your ABN application will be submitted. 

Once your application is submitted, you should receive an email containing your ABN not long after that. We know the six step application process might seem long but there’s really only a small number of questions per section. If you start the application prepared with all the right details, you should be done in no time. 

How Do I Find My ABN?

Already have an ABN but just can’t seem to find it? There’s no need to panic. If you’ve lost your ABN details, then you can always visit the ABN Lookup and enter your business name in order to find it. 

Once you get to the site, just type in your business name and hit the search button. From there, you’ll see search results that contain the name you searched for, the ABN and the respective registered location for the ABN. 

Remember, keeping your ABN close and maintaining it is your responsibility. It’s a good idea to keep your ABN details somewhere safe. If something changes, ensure you’ve notified the ABR as soon as possible, so your details remain up to date. 

What Is The Difference Between An ACN And An ABN?

Aside from an ABN, you might have heard about an ACN. ACN stands for ‘Australian Company Number’. 

Unlike an ABN, an ACN is not compulsory for all Australian businesses. The only time you’ll need an ACN is if you’re starting your own company. Upon completing an application form to register your company, you will automatically receive an ACN. 

Keep in mind, getting an ACN does not mean you no longer need an ABN. If you’re thinking of starting a company, you will still need to apply for an ABN even after registering your company and getting your ACN – read more about this process here

The application process to register your company is very different from applying for an ABN. There’s a lot more details you’ll need to have figured out, legal requirements to consider and even application fees to think about. So, if you want to start a company, then it’s a wise idea to get a legal expert to help you out. 

Next Steps 

An ABN is a legal requirement and an integral part of running a business. To summarise what we’ve discussed: 

  • An ABN (Australian Business Number) is essential for starting a business in Australia
  • ABN is an 11-digit identifier exclusive to each business and getting one is a legal requirement for operating a business
  • It uniquely identifies your business and simplifies tasks like taxes and government-related activities
  • Acquiring an ABN is a free and straightforward process, involving a six-part online application on the Australian Business Register website
  • Once obtained, your ABN remains the same for the life of your business unless canceled by you
  • If you lose your ABN details, you can find them on the ABN Lookup website
  • An ACN (Australian Company Number) is only necessary for starting a company and does not replace the need for an ABN

If you would like a consultation on your ABN, you can reach us at 1800 730 617 or for a free, no-obligations chat.

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