What is an ABN number?

An Australian Business Number (ABN) is issued by the Australian Business Register (ABR) and is crucial to operating a business regardless of what structure you choose. An ABN is an unique 11-digit number which is used as an identifier exclusive to your business. Being an ‘identifier’, your ABN allows for people to search your business via the ABN Lookup

Why do you need an ABN?

An ABN is not applicable to everyone and only those who apply and are entitled, receive one.

    An ABN allows you to:

  • Facilitate a single Business Activity Statement (BAS);
  • Avoid Pay as you go (PAYG) tax when you receive payments;
  • Claim credits such as Goods and Services Tax (GST) credits and energy grant credits;
  • Your business to be identified to others when processing orders and invoices;
  • Obtain an Australian domain name;

If you have an Existing ABN

If you believe that you already have an ABN but think it’s been cancelled, there are ways to check.

Reactivate or Update?

The first step is to check whether or not your previous ABN has been cancelled. To do this, simply look up your ABN number on the ABN Lookup. If your ABN appears then it is still active and merely requires you to update the details of your new venture within 28 days. The most effective way to do this is through your AUSkey . Alternative avenues are available through written form or by contacting the ABR also.

If your ABN does not appear on the ABN Lookup then your ABN has been cancelled. If this is the case and you wish to reactivate it, then you need to re-apply for it on the ABR website . The system will recover your previous ABN and once it has been authorised your ABN status will update to “Active” on the ABN Lookup.

If your ABN has been cancelled and you wish to use it you must reactivate it as it is an offence to use an invalid ABN.

How to register for an ABN

You can register an ABN as an; individual, company and a partnership.

    To qualify for an ABN you must meet the following criteria:

  • You are carrying on an enterprise in Australia;
  • You are in the course of carrying on an enterprise that make supplies connected with Australia;
  • You have completed sufficient activities to commence an enterprise;
  • You are able to establish that you have a business structure in place;

Please note that if you are applying for your ABN as a company you must first register for an Australian Company Number (ACN). Once you have completed your ACN registration, you may then apply for an new company ABN.

Click here to register for an ABN through LawPath.

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Nina Marie Bishay

Nina is a Paralegal working in our content team, which aims to provide free legal guides to facilitate public access to legal resources. With a passion for copyright law, her research focuses on small businesses, and how they can navigate convoluted legal procedures.