What is an ABN?
by Tash Hughes
of Word Constructions (www.wordconstructions.com.au)
If you are
starting your own business one of the first things
suppliers, customers and the bank will need to know is
your ABN. But what is it? How do you get one? Do you
have to get one?
information is a summary and should not be taken in
place of a tax agent’s advice. For further information,
please check the
ABR FAQs and the
ABR Services, or talk with a registered tax agent.
What is an ABN?
stands for Australian Business Number. Like a Tax File
Number (TFN), it is a unique number that represents that
business to the tax office and other official bodies.
registering for an ABN, you also have the option of
registering for GST and PAYG (tax withdrawals for
Once you have
an ABN, this will be recorded on the Australian Business
Register (ABR) and some details will publicly viewable.
Some of the information can be suppressed upon request.
The ABN will
incorporate the ACN (Australian Company Number) issued
by ASIC when applicable. This allows companies to use
their ABN whenever the ACN or ABN may be required.
Do I need an ABN?
There is a
list of criteria for who is entitled to have an ABN
at the ATO.
In terms of you
running your own business, you are entitled to an ABN if
you have a business rather than a hobby and are not
carrying out the business tasks as an employee for
is the definition of business versus hobby that confuses
people. Essentially, if you are treating it as a
business with the serious intention to make money from
it, it is probably a business. Check with the
ATO if you are unsure of your status.
It is possible
to run a business without an ABN. However, other
businesses will be obliged to deduct 48.5% from all
payments to you for taxation purposes and you will be
unable to register for GST without an ABN. GST
registration is compulsory for businesses with an annual
turnover greater than $50,000.
How do I get an ABN?
There is no
cost to applying for or having an ABN. To apply for one,
either go to
ABN Application or it can be done off line through
forms available at the ATO or your tax agent.
In order to
complete the application, you will need to provide the
business name/trading name
your legal name
your postal address
business type – sole trader, partnership, company, etc
business function (i.e. the industry and type of work
contact details – for you and/or any person entitled
to make changes to ABR details
Australian company number (ACN) or Australian
Registered Body Number (ARBN) - if applicable
names of the public officer and trustee(s) (if
email address – optional unless you have a turnover
greater than $20 million
You may also
provide your TFN (tax file number), bank details and tax
online, you will receive your ABN as soon as your
application is sent, with paper confirmation being
mailed within 28 days. Other forms or application will
have to wait for the paper confirmation to come through.
many ABNs do I need?
how many functions are carried out by your business, it
can only have one ABN. For instance, business XYZ has a
shop, an e-commerce site and does consultancy work, but
it will still have one ABN.
If, on the
other hand, you run two distinct businesses doing
different functions, you may require two ABNs.
circumstances, you will be able to reactivate an old ABN
if you are recommencing the same business under the same
legal structure. See the
Reactivation Policy for details.
Tash Hughes is
the owner of
Word Constructions and is available to solve all
your business writing problems! From letters to
policies, newsletters to web content, Word Constructions
writes all business documents to your style and