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When Will I Need to Register an Australian Business Name?

When Will I Need to Register an Australian Business Name?

Running a successful business often means having a memorable name, however you can't always automatically use a business name. Read about why here.

27th May 2019
Reading Time: 3 minutes

What’s in a (business) name?

One of the most valuable assets your business may end up having is its name. Your name will be on your emails, website, logo and perhaps even your products. However, depending on what business type you operate as, you may need to register a name. In this article, we’ll outline the circumstances where you will need to register a business name and the benefits it will have for your business.

Sole traders

If you’re running your business as a sole trader, you’ll be familiar with Australian Business Numbers (ABNs). ABNs are a number which is automatically allocated to you (upon application) and is used to identify your business on tax invoices and other business documents. However, when you register an ABN, your name is still recorded as your personal name. This means that if you want to run your business under a commercial name, you will need to apply for an Australian Business Name in order to change it.


Michael Hannigan works full time as a freelance writer. He runs his business as a sole trader and has an ABN. Michael wants to provide his services under the name ‘ML Publishing’, but his name under his ABN is currently Michael Hannigan. To change this name, he must apply for an Australian Business Name. He will then be granted use of the name if it is available.


Similar to sole traders, partnerships operate under an ABN. Partnerships also must apply for a separate Tax File Number (TFN) through the Australian Tax Office (ATO).

Different to sole traders, partnerships are not known by the name of an individual. They are referred to as the surname of each partner, followed by the initial of their first name.


Michael has befriended another freelance writer named Penelope Wilson, They have decided to start a partnership and want to trade under the name M & P Publishing. However, their name under this partnership will be Hannigan, M. & Wilson, P. In order to trade under the name M&P Publishing, they need to register it as an Australian Business Name.

How do I get my business name if I want to register a company?

One of the perks of registering a company is that you have the option to choose your name. When filling out the form to start your company, you can either choose to trade as a name of your choosing (with the Pty Ltd suffix). If you don’t have a name or are undecided, you can trade as your Australian Company Number (ACN). Your ACN will be allocated to you once you register your company, but you will still need to apply for an ABN.


Michael has decided to start his publishing business by registering a company instead of continuing to operate as a sole trader. When Michael registers his company, he can choose to trade under the name M & P Publishing Pty Ltd. In addition, his company will be treated as a separate legal entity. This means he will not be liable for any losses the company incurs.

Having a business with a memorable name makes all the difference when you’re trying to get your brand out there. Having the right name will allow you to market your product more effectively and kickstart your business’s success.

Don’t know where to start? Contact us on 1800 529 728 to learn more about customising legal documents and obtaining a fixed-fee quote from Australia’s largest lawyer marketplace.

Jackie Olling

Jackie is the Content Manager at Lawpath and manages the content team. She has a Law/Arts (Politics) degree from Macquarie University and is an admitted solicitor in the Supreme Court of NSW. She's interested in how technology can help shape the future legal landscape.