Register my business
So you’ve prepared, planned and decided on the best structure for your business, now it’s time to register your business.
Some registrations are compulsory while others will depend on your type of business, business structure and likely turnover.
Register my business structure
The steps you need to take to register your business will vary depending on the business structure you have chosen.
Register a company
Most company registrations are done online via a third party. To find a provider search for ‘shelf company services’ and ‘Australian company registration’.
Once ASIC has received your application and the correct fee, they will register the company (including the company name), provide an Australian Company Number, and issue a Certificate of Registration.
Register as a sole trader
If you already have a Tax File Number you can start to operate as a sole trader. However, it is also recommended that you apply for an Australian Business Number (ABN) and if you will be using a name that is different to your own, you will need to register a business name.
Register as a partnership
To register your business as a partnership the first step is to register for an ABN.
Register as a trust
To register your business as a trust the first step is to register for an ABN.
Apply for an ABN
An Australian Business Number (ABN) is a unique 11 digit number that identifies your business to the government and the community.
You need an ABN if your business will be a partnership or trust, you want to register a business name, employ staff or if your business will have a turnover above $75,000. Otherwise, registering for an ABN for your business is optional, but highly recommended. It is free to register, it helps other businesses and customers confirm the identity of your business and enables to you get an Australian domain name (.com.au).
Another good reason to get an ABN is for tax purposes. If you don’t have an ABN or don’t quote it on invoices, businesses need to withhold Pay As You Go (PAYG) tax from payments to your business and, instead, pay this to the ATO. In general, the PAYG tax they need to withhold is 49% of the invoice amount. Although you can claim this back when you do your tax return, it may seriously hurt your cash flow in the meantime.
You can register online for an ABN at the Australian Business Register website.
Register your business name
A business name is the name under which your business operates. Choosing the right name will help you create the right image for your business and stand out from your competitors.
Do I need to register a business name?
- Sole trader - you will need to register a business name if you will operate under a name that is different to your own. For example, if your name is John Smith you can operate your business as John Smith without registering it, but if you want to operate as John Smith Photography you will need to register the name.
- Partnership or Trust - you will need to register a business name.
- Company - you will need to register a business name if your company will operate under a name that is different to your company name.
You should check the availability of the name you want to use on ASIC’s Check Name Availability and IP Australia’s TM Check.
- The Check Name Availability search checks if your proposed company or business name is similar or the same as a name already registered or reserved.
- TM Check is designed to help you identify if your proposed company or business name may infringe on a filed or registered Australian trade mark.
You can register for a business name at the same time as applying for an ABN at the Australian Business Register website.
You can also register a business name on the ASIC website.
Please note, if you have applied for an ABN, but it has not yet been registered you will be able to reserve a business name but not register it until you have an ABN.
Register your trade mark
Unlike a business name, a registered trade mark can provide legal protection for your business name and brand, and enable you to stop others from trading with it.
A trade mark is a way of identifying your business and the goods or services you provide. It gives you exclusive rights to use that trade mark. A trade mark can be a wide range of things, including a letter, number, work, phrase, sound, smell, shape, logo, picture and/or aspect of packaging.
Search for a trade mark
Before applying for a trade mark or registering a business name you should check if it is similar to an existing registered trade mark. You can check this using the Australian Trade Mark Online Search System.
Apply for a trade mark
To register a trade mark you will need to apply to IP Australia. In your application you must specify what you are trade marking and the goods or services it will be associated with.
For more information and to register a trade mark, visit the IP Australia website.
Register your website address
A website address, also known as a domain name, is an important way for customers and clients to find out about your business and the goods or services you offer.
It is a great way to drive traffic to your business as people are more likely to look for a business using Google than the telephone directory.
Information about planning and creating your business website is available on the Digital Business website.
Who can have a .au website address?
Only businesses with an Australian Company Number or Australian Business Number can register a .com.au or .net.au domain name.
How do I register my website address?
The .au Domain Administration Ltd website has a list of organisations that provide services to people who want to register a .au domain name.
Register for tax
There are a number of taxes you may need to register for, for example:
- Business Tax File Number (TFN). If you operate a partnership, company or trust, your business will need a TFN. You can register for a TFN when you apply for an ABN. Sole traders use their individual TFN and do not need a separate business TFN.
- Goods and Services Tax (GST). You need to register for GST if your business has a turnover of $75,000 or provides taxi services.
- Pay As You Go (PAYG) withholding. If you have employees or make payments to businesses that don’t quote their ABN you need to register for PAYG withholding.
- Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT). Fringe benefits are non-cash benefits you provide employees, for example salary sacrificing, car, loan or entertainment. If you provide fringe benefits to your employees you should register for FBT.
What licences do I need?
When you’re starting a new business it’s important to find out what registrations and licences apply to your business. This can be complex as there are registration and licensing requirements at the local, state, territory and federal levels of government.
The Australian Business Licence and Information Service (ABLIS) helps you find the government licences, permits, approvals, registrations, codes of practice, standards and guidelines you need to know about to meet your compliance responsibilities.
Register for insurance
Some types of insurance are mandatory for Australian businesses in certain situations:
- If you employ people, you must take out workers compensation insurance to protect your employees in the event of an accident or sickness.
- If you own a motor vehicle, you must pay for third party personal injury insurance, which is often included in your vehicle registration fee.
- Certain types of companies are required to take out public liability insurance.
Although it’s not compulsory, you might like to consider insuring your assets, revenue, and liabilities to protect your business against potential risks.
For further information talk to your business advisor or speak to an insurance broker for advice. Search for your nearest government-funded business advisor using Advisory Services.
You will need to decide where you will conduct your business and in what type of premises.
The location of your business can be an important factor in its success. Looking at data for locations, such as age and income, and speaking with the local council, can help you to identify the best place to locate your business.
There are a number of things to consider when working out the right building for your business such as how much space your business will need and if there are any licences or permits you will need to operate or fit out your business.
It is a good idea to seek professional advice before you decide whether to buy a commercial property or enter into a commercial lease.
If you decide to lease, it is very important that you fully understand and agree to the terms and conditions in the lease agreement before you sign. Leases are legal documents and come with rights and responsibilities that you and the landlord must meet. Find out more about commercial leasing.