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Getting an ABN – then what?

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Last updated Apr 21, 2022

Getting an ABN

An Australian Business Number (ABN) is a unique 11 digit number that identifies your business to the government and community. If you’re starting a business in Australia you need to get an ABN. You need an ABN to get an Australian (i.e. “.com.au”) domain name. You need an ABN to register a business name.

An ABN doesn’t replace your tax file number, however you will need your tax file number as part of the application process for an ABN.

Getting an ABN is free. It’s is a relatively easy process – here’s the Australian Government’s website to get you started.

You’ll need to make a couple of decisions during the business name registration process, the three most notable ones being:

  1. Are you a hobby or a business
  2. Are you a sole trader or partnership
  3. Are you registering for GST

Hobby or Business

Ensure you understand the difference between a hobby and a business for tax, insurance and legal purposes. If your activities are a hobby, rather than a business, you don’t need an ABN.

Sole Trader or Partnership

As the name implies, sole trader is a business with one person at the helm where-as a partnership involves more than one person.

GST

You must be registered for GST if the annual income turnover is $75,000 or more. As this is unlikely to apply to small businesses in their start-up phase, you can skip this for now.

If you’re not registered for GST, you need to add a note onto your invoices along the lines of:
This business is not registered for GST with the Australian Tax Office and therefore no GST applies to this payment.

Two to three years into your business, when you are getting close to the $75,000 per year income, you can register for GST.

Getting an ABN – then what?

Getting an ABN is the first cab of the rank – but there’s three other items you need so secure on the same day.

  1. Business Name
  2. Domain Name
  3. Social Media Accounts

Business Name

Apply for the ABN first and as you do it will take you through the process of also registering your Business Name.

If you already have your ABN, and you are ready to register your business name, here is the direct link to the Australian Government Business website to register a business name. A business name registered directly with the Australian Government costs $37 for one year or $88 for three years.

You can register a business name with a non-government provider, eg. lawyer, accountant, or through one of the non-government ABN online websites. However it’s easy to do this online yourself directly through the government website.

The business name is important for legal reasons but it’s also important for marketing purposes.

Think about what people will remember, or what they might search for, in google. If you have a business name called ABC Consultancy it doesn’t really say much about what you do and it’s unlikely to be something people search for in google. Whereas if you have the business name Adelaide Plumbers, people may remember it, and even better, they’re likely to google it.

If you’re stuck for ideas, try these two online tools to help you.

  1. Namelix Business Name Generator (be sure to try the options of multiple words and rhyming words)
  2. Oberlo Business Name Generator

Domain Name

Even if you’re not ready for a website quite yet, secure the domain name.

For example, if you are successful in securing the business name Fleurieu Bikes only to find out the web address for that name is taken it will damage your ability to successfully market online. A domain name costs about $20/year. Well worth securing and holding onto for when you are ready to get a website up and running.

To get a “.au” domain name you need an ABN.

If you wish to have a .com only domain name (without the “.au”) you don’t need an ABN.  However a “.au” domain name is recommended as Australian’s tend to intuitively trust it more than a .com only.

Social Media Accounts

Even if you don’t intend to activate your Facebook page or Instagram account straight away, securing these channels is an important marketing consideration for your start-up.

Like the domain name, you want your business Facebook Page name to match your business name. Best to secure this one at the same time as getting an ABN and getting the business name sorted.

Logo

A logo is one of the first things you’re likely to want when you first start-up a business. It will identify you on social media, business cards, banners and your website. Setting up your business from the very start with a logo will enable this promotional material to be consistent across all channels. Here’s a useful article on how to make a logo.

Trademark

Trademark’s are the expensive part of the process and most starts-ups will shy away from the cost.

Never-the-less protecting your business name can be an important step.  Not infringing on someone else’s trademark is also an important consideration.  You can check out who’s got what trademark here.

You can always apply for a trademark later on when you feel your business can afford it and has signs of succeeding.

Further Reading and Resources

Australian Government Business Info – Starting a Business

The Australian government has a business phone help line from 8am – 8pm across Australia, Monday to Friday. Phone 13 28 46

ABN lookup

This website is the handy ABN lookup. The ABN lookup is useful if you want to check to see if your ABN is in the system. It’s also good for looking up a client ABN’s when you need to.

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