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How to register for an Australian Business Number (ABN)

So, you’ve thought about starting your own small business and now it’s time to take the leap. First things first. You need to register for an Australian Business Number (ABN).

But if you’re not too sure on how to get your hands on one or where to even start, never fear. At CGU, we’ve been backing ambitious Aussies for over 165 years. So, to help you reach your ambition of starting a business, we’ve got a step-by-step guide on how to register for an ABN to get you started.

What’s an ABN and why do I need one? 

An ABN is a unique 11-digit number that identifies your business or organisation to the government and wider community. If you plan on making a profit from your business, you’re going to need one. 

Although it is possible to run a business without an ABN, it’s highly recommended and beneficial that you have one. This is because it will make running your business a smoother process, particularly if you have to register for Goods and Services Tax (GST) or other taxes.

For example, if your business is likely to make a profit of $75,000 or more in a single financial year, you’ll need to register for GST. You won’t be able to register for GST until you have a registered ABN first. Without an ABN, other businesses must withhold 49% from payments they make to you for tax purposes.

You need an ABN if you are carrying on or starting an enterprise in Australia, if you’re a Corporations Act company, are supplying goods and services to Australia, or if you’re planning to set up a regulated super fund. More information on ABN eligibility is available at the Australian Business Register.

What will I need to apply for an ABN?

You need a Tax File Number (TFN) to apply. If you don’t have a TFN, apply for one before you attempt to register for an ABN.

Keep in mind, if you’re starting a company, you need an Australian Company Number (ACN) and not an ABN.

In order to apply for an ABN, you will need certain information.

Below is a list of requirements you’ll need handy in order to register for an ABN:

For all applications:

• Tax file number (TFN)

• Tax agent registration number

• Professional advisor number (if applicable)

• Authorised contacts (the applicant or tax agent)

• Date your ABN is required

• Business activity

• Business location/s

• Previously held ABN (if applicable)

For company applications:

• TFNs of any associates – partners, directors and trustees

• Australian company number (ACN) or Australian registered body number (ARBN)

• Associates’ details

If you don't have all the information readily available to you, you can still start your application and save it as you go but you won’t receive your ABN until all requisite information is supplied.

How do I register for an ABN?

Getting an ABN is free and can make running your business easier in the future. Apply for an ABN online in a few simple steps on the Australian Government’s certified Australian Business Register or Business Registration Service websites. Be cautious though, there are a few dodgy sites offering ABN applications, so make sure you only apply for an ABN through the official Australian Government pages.

Once you secure an ABN you can register a business name, register for GST and invoice clients. In some cases, some companies won’t pay you for your work unless you have an ABN.

If your application is successful, you’ll receive your 11-digit ABN immediately. You will also receive a confirmation letter within 14 days that includes your Australian Business Register (ABR) details and explains your responsibilities.

If your application is unsuccessful, you'll receive a refusal number. You'll also receive a letter within 14 days confirming that your application has been refused, the reasons for the refusal and the options available to you, which include your review rights.

Once you’ve sorted out your ABN, don’t forget all the other small business essentials such as GST, legal and accounting advice, and small business insurance. It’s easy to find out what type of cover you’ll need with CGU. Simply get a quick business insurance quote online or talk to one of our helpful insurance specialists on 13 24 81.