An Australian Business Number (ABN) is arguably one of the most important requirements for any Australian business. When you start a business, getting an ABN is one of the first things you need to check off that to-do list. Without getting your ABN sorted first, there’s not much else you can do. 

Even though ABN’s are so crucial for Australian business owners, many don’t fully understand what they are, how to get them and their real purpose. Let’s take a deep dive into the world of ABN’s so you can have a better understanding of them. 

What Is An ABN? 

An ABN is a unique identifier that every Australian business needs to have. It consists of 11 digits and is useful when it comes to dealing with government agencies, legal matters and identifying your business with the public in general. Many businesses can have similar names, so having something that exclusively belongs to your business can save a lot of headaches and confusion down the line. 

Getting an ABN is compulsory for all Australian businesses. It doesn’t matter what kind of business you plan on registering, whether it’s a partnership, sole trader or even a company. 

An ABN must be applied for and approved prior to starting any trading as a business. 

How Do I Get An ABN?

Acquiring an ABN is a fairly simple procedure. You just need a stable internet connection and the right information. 

Here’s a quick step by step guide on what you can expect when applying for an ABN: 

  • Go to the Australian Business Register (ARB) and click, ‘apply for an ABN’ 
  • Next, you’ll be asked a series of questions (it’s important to answer these truthfully) 
  • The first set of questions will determine your ABN entitlement, then it will gather general details regarding your application
  • After that, you’ll need to answer some questions about your business, such as address and contact details 
  • If you’ve got any associates, such as an accountant then you’ll have a chance to fill those details out to 
  • Finally, you will need to let them know your reason for application and then declare everything to be true 
  • Then, you’re ready to submit your application! 

Once you have submitted an application for an ABN, you should find out about the results soon enough. If the ABR is having trouble locating any information or confirming your identity, then the application might take a bit longer. In order to avoid this, make sure you have all the right details ready to go, such as your tax file number so you can ensure your application is processed on time. 

Once you have gotten your ABN, you can start trading as a business. Keep in mind, getting an ABN doesn’t automatically register your business name. That’s a separate process that can also be done online, however it requires a few more details and you will need to pay a fee. A legal expert can help get your Business Name Registered and see to it that everything happens smoothly, without any mistakes. 

I’ve forgotten My ABN? How Do I Find My ABN? 

Hey, we get it. ABN’s are pretty long to memorise and sometimes, even the most important things can get lost on us. Don’t worry though, if you can’t find where you wrote down your ABN, then you can always find it again online. 

All you need to do is go to the ABN Lookup and type in your business name. From there, it should show your ABN, plus a few other details about your business. The ABN lookup is also a useful tool when working with other businesses, if you want to double check a few details or see if something is legit, then it’s always a good idea to do a quick search on the ABN Lookup.  

How Do I Cancel An ABN? 

When it’s time to close down business operations, then you will need to cancel your ABN. Much like getting an ABN, you can cancel your ABN online. You’ll just need to use your myGov login and follow the prompts to cancel your ABN. You can also do this by calling into the ABR or getting your tax agent to close it down for you. 

Remember once your ABN is cancelled, you must cease all business activities under that specific business. So, if you’re wrapping things  up, this is likely going to be one of your final steps. Make sure you’ve tied all your loose ends up before you decide to turn that ABN in. 

Do I Need An ABN To Register For Tax? 

Yes, you will need your ABN in order to register for taxes. Once you have gotten your ABN, you’ll be able to register for the taxes that will apply to your business from there on. Taxes like GST and income tax are necessary parts of owning a business, so it’s important to know which ones will apply to you and go from there. 

Next Steps 

An ABN is a simple yet significant factor for any business. If you’re a person in business, understanding what an ABN means for your business is crucial in getting a sound grasp of the legalities surrounding the Australian business landscape. To summarise what we’ve discussed: 

  • An ABN is an 11-digit unique identifier that all Australian businesses must have
  • It helps with government interactions, legal matters and distinguishing your business from others with similar names
  • Applying for an ABN is compulsory for all types of Australian businesses, including partnerships, sole traders, and companies
  • The application process involves visiting the Australian Business Register (ABR) website, answering a series of questions truthfully, providing business details, and declaring the accuracy of the information
  • Having all necessary details ready to go, such as a tax file number can help with the application process
  • Obtaining an ABN does not automatically register your business name, which is a separate process requiring additional details and a fee
  • Legal experts can assist in registering your business name accurately
  • If you forget your ABN, you can easily retrieve it online by using the ABN Lookup tool. Just type in your business name to access the information
  • When closing down your business, you must cancel your ABN, which can also be done online using your myGov login, through ABR phone support, or with the assistance of a tax agent
  • Ceasing all business activities under the specific ABN is necessary after cancellation
  • You need an ABN to register for taxes, including GST and income tax, which are essential for business operations
  • ABNs are a crucial aspect of the Australian business landscape, enabling businesses to operate legally and facilitate interactions with government agencies and other businesses

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

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