5:19 PM, 27 Apr 2020

Every company has a unique 11-digit identification number which makes it identifiable to the community and relevant government authorities. This is called an ABN. Follow this link to apply or reapply for an ABN. More information about ABNs can be found in the video below: 


The application process will be quicker if you make sure that you provide us with all the information required to identify you (for example, your tax file number). You can start to make your application even if you do not yet have the required information to hand. You can save your application and come back to it later, but bear in mind that this will likely slow down the processing of issuing the ABN. 


Once your application has been approved: 

  • your 11-digit ABN will be sent to you straight away
  • you will need to save your ABN and print your ABN information
  • you will be able to apply other business registrations (like GST) straight away
  • your information will be entered into the Australian Business Register (ABR) (If you are worried about privacy, you may request to keep certain details undisclosed)
  • you are responsible for ensuring that your details are up-to-date.

If further information is required from you, or some details are missing, you will receive a reference number. Applications should be reviewed within 20 days, and if more information is required you will be contacted directly. You may use the ABN Lookup tool to check the status of your ABN application. You will receive a letter containing your ABN and relevant ABN information within 14 days if your application is successful. 


In cases of unsuccessful applications, a refusal number will be sent to you. Within 14 days, you will be sent a letter that confirms the refusal of your application. It will explain the reasons for which your application was refused, as well as detailing the options that are still available to you. Your rights to a review will also be explained. Please bear in mind that not everyone is eligible to receive an ABN.

More information can be found here about:
ABN entitlement
What you need for your ABN application
ABN for businesses outside Australia
Your business information on the ABR
Updating or cancelling your ABN


Not everyone is eligible to receive an ABN. To be eligible for an ABN, you must be:

•    a Corporations Act Company
•    starting up or carrying on a business in Australia
•    purchasing supplies from Australia's indirect tax zone.


As well as business-related affairs, other activities may be also involved in running a business. These include:
•    being a super-fund trustee
•    running a charity
•    renting or leasing property.

There aren’t any specific tests that can be conducted to determine whether you are carrying on a business. However, for reference, the key characteristics of a business are as follows:
•    The entity involves engagement in significant commercial activity, such as the commercial sales of products or services.
•    The entity is of an acceptable size and scale.
•    The purpose of activities is to make a profit, and this is generally detailed in a business plan (thus making it different from a hobby). 
•    Activities are repetitive.
•    Tasks and activities are systematically organised and conducted in a business-like manner.
•    Records are kept.
•    Activities are performed similarly to those of other companies operating in the same sector.
•    Specific knowledge and/or skills are required to operate the entity.


If you are starting up a business, you will have to carry out several commencement activities including:
•    advertising
•    creating a website and social media accounts for the company
•    designing and printing business cards and company stationery
•    acquiring the licences or insurance required to commence operations (for example, public liability and professional indemnity insurance)
•    buying or leasing property, equipment or stock for the company
•    providing quotes or bidding for work
•    speaking to financial, tax and business advisers 
•    making applications for the necessary financing
•    purchasing the business.

It is not necessary to carry out all of the commencement activities listed above. However, you should make sure that you have completed some of them. 


You will not be eligible for an ABN for any activities that you perform as an employee. This includes working as an apprentice, trade assistant or labourer, and applies even if your employer refers to it as ‘contracting’. An ABN should not be requested by an employer when hiring you.


Sole traders who are carrying on businesses are eligible for an ABN. This type of company structure is both the easiest and the cheapest to maintain.

A sole trader is an individual who:
•    is the only company owner
•    has legal responsibility for all business-related affairs (including debts).

A sole trader may hire employees, but cannot employ themselves. It is a sole traders responsibility to arrange and manage a super fund, both for themselves and any other hired employees. You will not be eligible to receive an ABN for any activities that you carry out as an employee. 

See also:
Sole trader– ATO website
Sole trader– business.gov.au


Corporations Act Companies

All companies registered with the Australian Securities and Investments (ASIC) are eligible to receive an ABN.


Cooperatives who are carrying on a business have the right to apply for an ABN, as long as they are registered by the authorities in their state or territory.

Incorporated Entities

If carrying on a business, the following incorporated entities are eligible to apply for an ABN:
•    A body corporate set-up under a parliamentary act or common law. 
•    A corporation sole set-up under a parliamentary act or common law. 
•    A foreign company that has an Australian Registered Body Number (ARBN) and is registered with ASIC under the Corporations Act. 
•    A foreign company who purchases supplies from Australia's indirect tax zone.
•    An incorporated association that is recognised and registered by the authorities in the relevant state. This includes a strata title.

Other Entities
Several other entities may be eligible for an ABN when carrying on a business. These include: 
•    unincorporated associations or entities made up of many individuals possessing a shared interest (such as sports or social clubs) that do not have a legally-recognised structure
•    a strata corporation (a legal entity set up specifically to assign strata titles)
•    a non-profit (NFP) organisation.

See also:
Company– ATO website
Company– business.gov.au
Registering a company
Starting an NFP


A partnership is made up of at least two parties who manage the business and share the company income and/or losses.
Examples of partnerships include:
•    family partnerships – all partners are related to each other
•    limited partnerships – one or multiple partners have limited liability for debts and obligations
•    'other' partnership – all partners have equal and shared responsibility for the business, and joint, unlimited liability for all company debts and obligations. This is often referred to as a general law partnership.

See also:
Partnership- ATO website
Partnership– business.gov.au


For a business to be eligible to receive an ABN, a superannuation entity is required to be implemented. This must be conducted according to superannuation legislation. The following superannuation entities are entitled to apply for an ABN:
•    ATO-regulated self-managed super funds (SMSF)
•    Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) regulated super funds
•    Non-regulated super funds
•    Pooled super trusts
•    Approved deposit funds.


Before applying for an ABN, it is essential that your SMSF is implemented correctly. To do this, a qualified and licensed professional will most likely be required. It is also strongly advised that, before setting up an SMSF, you partake in a trustee education course. During the fund registration process with the ATO, you may apply for your ABN and a tax file number (TFN). Once your fund is ATO-registered, you may be entitled to tax concessions, as well as other contributions and rollovers.

See also:
Approved education courses
Thinking about self-managed super
Setting up an SMSF
SMSF checklists


For a super fund to be regulated by the APRA, a trustee possessing a registrable superannuation entity license is required.


Super funds that have not been regulated by the ATO or APRA are referred to as non-regulated super funds.  To become regulated, an application must be made to SMSF or APRA.


A pooled super trust is a resident unit trust that is created with the intention of investing super fund assets, approved deposit funds and can include life insurance companies. A pooled super trust must: 

•    have a constitutional corporation trustee 
•    be APRA-regulated 
•    declare its desire to be considered a pooled super-trust to the APRA in written form.


An approved deposit fund is a fund that is kept for approved use by a constitutional corporation Registrable Superannuation Entity licensee. The fund can be kept indefinitely. These funds are allowed to receive, keep and invest specific rollovers until the funds are withdrawn or a release condition is met.


Trusts that are responsible for running a company are eligible for an ABN.
A trust refers to an individual or entity (trustee) who is given the obligation to keep property or assets if it is in the best interests of others (beneficiaries). From a legal perspective, trustees have full responsibility for running and managing the trust.

See also:
Trust– ATO website
Trust– business.gov.au