Starting a Business in Australia
You can start a business in Australia operating under (1) your own name, (2) under a Business Trading name or (3) as a Limited Company.
Trading under your Own name
Depending on your occupation you may need a licence to commence trading and that is covered under the page at Trade Licences.
You may also need to register for GST if your turnover exceeds the threshold $75,000. (as at July 2011 www.ato.gov.au)
However, you do NOT need to register, as a business name, if you are trading solely under your own name.
It may be worth registering for GST, even if your turnover is under the threshold, but you may wish to discuss that with an accountant, to check the benefits.
Business Trading name
Here are some useful links and information Extracts from: Business Entry Point
Registering a business name in Australia (Not a Limited Company – see below)
A business trades under its business name.
Registration of that name is compulsory in every state and territory from which your business operates and must be completed before you start trading.
Each State has its own office for business registration and these can be found at: http://www.business.gov.au.
If your business operates in more than one State, then you must register in each State that you operate from.
Registration identifies the legal owners of the business.
A common misunderstanding is that a registered business name provides some protection or ownership of that business name.
This is not the case – a business name registration serves only to identify your business from other businesses in your State and Territory, it will not provide you with legal protection.
In order to gain exclusive legal rights to your name throughout Australia, you will need to apply to register a trade mark.
Choosing a business name
Choosing the right name is very important to your business. ASIC’s Identical Names Check is a record of all company and business names registered in Australia, as well as some association names.
You can search the Names Check, free of charge, to see if your proposed business name already exists. www.search.asic.gov.auYou should also ensure that your proposed business name does not infringe any trade mark by checking with IP Australia.
Displaying your business and company name
A company must display its name prominently at every place at which the company carries on business and that is open to the public. A public company must also display its name and the words “registered office” prominently at its registered office.
Once your business name is registered it must be placed on public display at every place you do business. The Business Registration Certification must be displayed in the principal place of business (the place where most of your business is conducted) where it can be easily seen.
Your business name must be printed or written exactly as it is registered – on every business letter, invoice, receipt, or other document used by your business.
Registering a business trademark
A trademark is a letter, word, phrase, sound, smell, colour, shape, logo, picture, aspect of packaging, or any combination of these. It is used to distinguish your goods and services from the goods and services of other traders.
You can search IP Australia’s online databases for similar trade marks, basic trade mark details and an image of the trade mark if applicable.
Registering a domain name
If you intend to trade online, registering your website address (domain name) should be an early step in implementing your business plan. The e-business guide provides information on getting a website name. Visit the .au Domain Administration Ltd website, www.auda.org.au, for links to registrars and resellers, to confirm current fees and options.
Taxation implications of starting a business in Australia
Companies registered under the Corporations Law and business entities carrying on an enterprise in Australia are entitled to an ABN.
All businesses with an annual turnover of $50,000 or more must register for GST and will need an ABN to do this.
Organisations with a lower annual turnover may choose to register.
Application or enquiry for a tax file number – for individuals living outside Australia
Use the form on this ATO page to apply for or enquire about a tax file number for individuals living outside Australia.
Australian Business Register (ABR)
The ABR is the central collection, storage and verification system for basic business identity information from all entities with an ABN. ABRpublic is an online database that contains the publicly available information provided by businesses when they register for an ABN.
Goods and Services Tax (GST)
Goods and services tax (GST) is a broad-based tax of 10 per cent on the sale of most goods and services and other things in Australia.
You must register for GST if you are an entity carrying on an enterprise – if you are in business and not a hobby you will meet this requirement if your annual turnover is at or above the registration turnover threshold of $75,000 ($150,000 for non-profit organisations).
For more information see the
The Tax Office determines your residency status differently to the Department of Immigration & Multicultural & Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA).
Generally, the ATO considers you to be an Australian resident for tax purposes if you have:
- always lived in Australia
- come to Australia and live here permanently, or
- actually been in Australia for more than half of the financial year, unless your usual home is overseas and you do not intend to live in Australia.
Australian Business Number
If you’re in business you should register for an ABN. Your ABN is unique to your business and is important in your dealings with other businesses and government agencies.
Find out whether you need an ABN and how it affects your business.
You may also need to register for GST.
Forming a Limited Company
Australian Company Registration provides an applicant with an Australian Company Number (ACN) which, together with the name and the status of the company, serves to identify it.
Applicants may reserve a proposed company name for a period of two months.
A proprietary company must have at least one director, but need not have a secretary. The director and secretary (if any), must ordinarily reside in Australia.
The ASIC is obliged to reject the proposed name if it is identical to another company or business name or if the name is of a kind, declared by the regulations, to be unacceptable for registration.
If a company wishes to trade under a name other than in the registered company name, it will be necessary for the company to register that trading name as a business name in each state in which it plans to use it.
If you wish to use words in your name to identify your goods or services, consider applying for trade mark registration.
If you do not register a trade mark, another trader could register your business or company name as a trade mark for their goods or services and prevent you from using it.
Business name or company registration does not automatically allow applicants to use that name as a trade mark.
Australian Company Name Registration Fees (as at May 2008)
- Reservation fee: (optional) $40.00
- Registration fee: Company with share capital $400.00
- Registration fee: Company without share capital $330.00
These fees are GST exempt
Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) www.asic.gov.au
There are various companies that specialise in Company Registrations on your behalf, and they charge about $530 including GST, for the set up. (Price current at May 2008)
Operating a UK business from Australia
Some new migrants are in the position of still being able to carry out employment of various types in the UK, even whilst living in Australia.
This can have major benefits if it is set up correctly.
The easiest way is to simply trade under your own name, with no need for any business name registration, and invoice the UK income source.
Remember that the the invoice will be GST/VAT free, as it will be an invoice from one country to another.
However, you can register for GST here, and claim back certain GST expenses, where applicable.
To make it easier for the UK payer to submit funds to you, I feel it is best to retain a UK bank account, for them to pay into.
You then need to create a system, for sending funds over to your account here in Australia.
This can be done via bank transfer, one example being to have an HSBC bank account in both countries. However, I have heard that using one of the money transfer companies can be cheaper.
Another option, depending on the amount of income you receive, is to use your UK credit card here in Australia, and pay the bill monthly with the funds that are arriving in your UK bank account.
The important thing to remember is that after becoming Resident here, you MUST declare ALL worldwide income to the Australian Tax Office.
But, by invoicing from Australia, you do not need to declare it in the UK, so you only deal with one tax office.
- Australian Tax Office
- ABN Application
- Who is entitled to an ABN.
- Business Entry Point An ideal first entry point for starting a business in Australia.
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