Business names, Registration and ABNs and Tax
Source Queensland Government guide Registering your business name
Your social enterprise may need specific registrations, licences or permits. Which ones you need will depend on your business structure, its location, whether your business employs staff and the type of business you´re operating.
Licences and permits protect the health and safety of consumers and the environment, so penalties can be substantial for operating a business without them.
Because all 3 levels of government handle different registrations, licences and permits, finding out your requirements may seem confusing. The easiest way to obtain all Queensland, local and Australian government licensing information is to contact www.qld.gov.au/services
A business name is a trading name that helps customers recognise your business. If you are thinking of registering a business name then check to see if your chosen name is available.
There is a national names index which can be checked at http://www.search.asic.gov.au/gns001.html.
There are legal requirements that come with having a business name. You must register your business name with the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC). Applications to register a business name are made through ASIC Connect (http://www.asic.gov.au/asic/asic.nsf/byheadline/Introduction+to+ASIC+Connect?openDocument). However before you can apply to register your business nameyou need to have an Australian Business Number (ABN), or be in the process of applying for one and not have been refused. For details about an ABN number and how to apply go to: Source Queensland Government guide Registering your business name
Since ASIC assumed responsibility for the registration of business names in May 2012 you now only need to register for a business name once, instead of having to register your name in each state and territory you want to operate in. Once your name is registered, it's registered nationally. For more information go to: http://www.asic.gov.au/asic/asic.nsf/byheadline/Introduction+to+ASIC+Connect?openDocument
A business name is simply a name under which you can trade and is sometimes referred to as your trading name. The name itself does not give you any legal proprietary rights. Protecting your business name or product name is done through registration of a trademark.
You can search the trade marks database (http://www.ipaustralia.gov.au/trademarks/search_index.shtml) for a list of trademarks registered with IP Australia. However protecting your idea, name or product is a very complex legal area. You should consult a lawyer or a suitable professional for assistance. IP Australia has an index of professionals on their website at http://www.ipaustralia.gov.au/resources/professionals_index.shtml
If you want to operate your business as a company, you will first need to register with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) to receive your Australian company number (ACN) and registered company name. If you want your company to trade under even a slightly different name from your registered company name you will need to register this name with ASIC.
Sole traders, partnerships and trusts
If you plan to operate as a sole trader, partnership or trust - and not as a company - you will need to register your business name in the state or territory where you operate your business10. Queensland-based businesses need to register their business name with the Office of Fair Trading. You need to register a business name only if you trade under a name that isn´t your own.
You need to consider your tax requirements and register your business with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). Which taxes you pay will depend on the type of business you run and the number of employees you have.
Australian business number (ABN)
An ABN is a unique 11-digit number that identifies your business to the ATO and other areas of government. It lets you:
- lodge business activity statements
- confirm your business identity to others when ordering and invoicing
- claim GST credits
- claim energy grants credits
- register an Australian domain name.
ABN registration is not mandatory. Your business can trade without an ABN, but any businesses you deal with may withhold 46.5% of their payments to you (i.e. the current top marginal tax rate) and pay this amount to the ATO.
Register at: registering for an ABN on the ATO website.
Fringe benefits tax (FBT)
If you provide certain benefits to your employees or to people associated with your employees, you may be liable to pay FBT. If so, you must register for FBT with the ATO and lodge a return each year.
Learn more about fringe benefits tax on the ATO website
Goods and services tax (GST)
GST is a tax of 10% on most goods and services sold or consumed in Australia. You must register for GST if:
- your gross annual business turnover is $75,000 or more ($150,000 or more for a non-profit organisation)
- you provide taxi or limousine services - regardless of your gross annual turnover.
To register for GST, you need an ABN.
Learn more about GST essentials on the ATO website.
Pay as you go (PAYG)
PAYG is a system that allows you to pay your expected tax liability in instalments. The ATO will notify you of your PAYG obligations.
Learn more about PAYG, including your responsibilities as an employer, on the ATO website.
Queensland Government business guides
- Business licences and permits
- Registering your business for tax
- Registering your trademark
- Registering your domain name
Australian Government business guides
A number of ‘how to guides’ for business are located on the Australian Government business website: http://www.business.gov.au
For a full list of the guides go to:
Other useful resources
The Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies produces the Developing Your Organisation manual which provides information about running an organisation. This manual is available on the communitydoor website http:// www.communitydoor.org.au
Social Enterprises, a Sydney based organisation, has produced a Business Planning Guide for social enterprises entitled Putting the Pieces Together. This guide has been produced through the Parramatta Social Enterprise Hub program and was developed by Social Ventures Australia in conjunction with Parramatta City Council.
Social Traders is a social enterprise development agency located in Melbourne. Their website provides a wide range of developmental resources for new and established social enterprises. See www.socialtraders.com.au in particular for the Community Enterprise Workbook
developed and published in 2007 by the Brotherhood of St Laurence (Australia). This comprehensive workbook provides step-by-step directions on how to engage community and undertake a business planning process to develop a community enterprise. It can be downloaded from
9 Source Queensland Government guide Registering your business name