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ABN 101: What it is and how to register for an ABN

Every business needs an Australian Business Number (ABN). Our guide will tell you what an ABN is and how to apply for one (psst, it's really easy!).

What is an Australian Business Number?

An Australian Business Number (ABN) is a unique 11-digit number that identifies your specific business to the government and appears on the ABN database. The database allows people to quickly and easily search for registered ABNs. It also provides information including whether an ABN is active or cancelled and the suburb in which the business operates.

An ABN is used together with a tax file number (TFN)

When dealing with the ATO, you'll need both an ABN and TFN and should be listed on any invoices or receipts you give clients and customers. An ABN is only required if you're carrying out activities with the aim of making a profit, as this legally defines you as a business. The ABN is required to track all of the activity you make as a business. You should also apply for an ABN if you're planning on starting an enterprise.

An enterprise includes activities performed in the form of a business, as well as activities that include:

  • acting as the trustee of a super fund

  • operating a charity

  • renting or leasing property

An ABN is used to confirm the identity of your business to others. It's also needed for:

  • ordering and invoicing

  • avoiding pay as you go (PAYG) tax on payments received

  • claiming back good and service tax (GST) credits

  • claiming energy grant credits

  • obtaining an Australian domain name

For information it might be a good idea to speak to an accountant, visit the Australian Tax Office website.

How to register for an ABN?

You should apply for an ABN before you start receiving business-related income or expenses. It's important to remember that business expenses will likely come before income, so an ABN should be applied for sooner rather than later. Expenses may include:

  • Working on social media accounts or websites

  • Purchasing stationery, stock or equipment

  • Applying for finance and obtaining insurance or licences

What you'll need to apply

  • Your tax file number and those of relevant business associates

  • The legal name of your business

  • The details of any business associates

  • Any authorised contacts (those authorised to make changes or update information on behalf of the business)

  • All business contact details (the address, postal address, email address and telephone number of the business)

  • The activity of your business (and the industry it's in)

  • All business premises and locations

  • The date your ABN is required (this is the date that you expect to commence business-related activities)

  • Tax agent registration number (optional)

  • Professional advisor number (optional)

  • A previously held ABN (if relevant)

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

When you're ready to apply, go to the Australian Business Register website. 

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