There are lots of things you need to do when starting a new business, including plenty of paperwork. It’s important to make sure you’re ticking all the boxes from a legal and tax perspective.
If you run a business in Australia, it’s likely that you’ll need an ABN. This stands for Australian Business Number. In short, it’s a unique number used by the government and the business community to identify your business.
But does it cost to get an ABN, and what’s the process for getting one? We’ll cover the answers to both of these key questions here in this guide.
And as well as getting an ABN, you’ll also need to get your finances sorted as a brand-new business. If you’re looking for a business account for your startup, Wise could be the ideal choice.
Open a free multi-currency Wise Business account and you can do business internationally with low fees and the real exchange rate.
But more on this later. Let’s focus on ABNs for now.
An Australian Business Number (ABN) is a unique, 11-digit number used to identify your specific business. It’s an important thing to have for many different reasons.
Crucially, it’s a legal requirement for all businesses with an annual goods and services (GST) turnover of $75,000 AUD to have an ABN¹.
But if your business is new or your annual turnover is less than this, you may still need to get an ABN. For example, you’ll need it to claim GST tax credits, as well as to get an Australian domain name for your website. Other uses include²:
- Claiming energy grants credits
- Avoiding pay as you go (PAYG) tax
- Identifying your business when invoicing – without an ABN, the supplier may have to withhold tax from their payment.
- Making it easier to keep track of transactions for tax purposes.
If you’re starting a business or are a Corporations Act company, it’s strongly recommended to get an ABN.
If you’re still not sure whether to get an ABN, here’s a little something to make it easier. It’s completely free to get an ABN – there’s no fee at all³.
You can apply and register for it through the Australian Government’s Business Registration Service and you won’t pay a cent. But remember that there may be a fee to pay if you use a tax practitioner or other service to complete the ABN application for you.
So, if you’re on the fence about getting an ABN, you might as well. It costs nothing and could be very useful (and even essential) in the future running of your business.
It should be quite straightforward to register for an ABN, but you’ll need to make sure you have all the required details and documentation to hand. This includes⁴:
- Proof of ID
- Details of your business structure and activities
- Information for each person involved in the business (i.e. colleagues, directors and associates)
- Tax agent number (if you’re using a tax agent).
If you find you’re missing something, don’t worry. You can always save your application, retrieve the information and pick back up where you left off.
Got everything ready? Simply follow these steps:
Select the registrations you require – you’re here to register for an ABN, but you can also do other things at the same time. For example, register a business name or for Goods and Services Tax (GST)⁵.
Follow all steps of the application process and supply all requested details.
Submit your application and receive your ABN.
That’s right, as long as you’ve provided all requested information, you should receive your ABN right away. But if there’s a problem (such as missing information or issues confirming your identity) your application will be reviewed by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). This could take up to 20 business days⁶.
You’ve got your ABN, so what’s next? This is the perfect time to start thinking about how you’ll manage your business finances.
This is where a Wise Business account comes in very handy, especially if you have big plans to trade overseas. Just like an ABN, it’s free to get, and there are no monthly fees to pay.
From your borderless account, you can send money to international suppliers for tiny, transparent fees and the real, mid-market exchange rate. You’ll find this is a much better rate than most banks offer, and it’s a whopping 19x cheaper than PayPal⁷ – which is what some small businesses use for international payments.
And if someone in another country needs to pay you in their own currency, you can receive it for free. You can hold the money in your account for future expenses, spend it using your linked Wise Platinum Business Mastercard, or convert back to your own currency for a small fee.
Additional features for businesses include integration with Xero accounting software, batch payments tool (perfect for payroll) and an open API. This means you can connect your account with other business tools.
In this guide, we’ve learned that doesn’t cost to get an ABN and it can be a vital thing for most businesses to have. It should also be relatively easy and quick to get one. So, probably best get your ABN application in now.
Sources checked on 19-October 2020.
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
Our essential guide on how to register a business name in Australia, from checking name availability to the fees involved.
Your essential guide to PayPal seller fees, for selling within Australia and internationally. Plus, alternatives that could save you money.
The essential guide on how to start a franchise, from the pros and cons to taking your first steps as a franchisee.
All you need to know to open a business account online, from the details you’ll need to which providers permit online applications.
A guide to how much tax small businesses pay in Australia, including the main taxes and exemptions you need to know about.
Everything you need to know about dropshipping, from getting set up and finding suppliers to sorting out the legal stuff.