Register your business the right way

It’s important to make sure you have the right registrations and licences for your business. The registrations and licences you need for your business will vary depending on which industry you’re in and the state or territory your business is located in.

Register your business name

Your business name (sometimes known as your ‘trading name’) is the name that your business operates as.

If your business name isn’t the same as your name, you’ll need to register for a business name. This will link your business name and ABN.

For example, John Smith won’t need to register a business name if he runs a business under the name John Smith. However, if he runs his business under any other name (e.g. John’s cars), he will need to register John’s Cars as his business name.

The Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) maintains a list of registered business names for you to check that your business name is available before you register.

It’s important to note that registering a business name with ASIC doesn’t protect your business name from being used by someone else. To protect your business name and brand, you will also need to register it as a trade mark with IP Australia.

Did you know?

If you're going to operate your business as a company, you can choose to register for a company name when you register your company. If you don’t register for a company name, your company name will be its Australian Company Number (ACN).

Find out more:

Find the licences and permits required for your business

The Australian Business Licence and Information Service (ABLIS) can help you find the government licences, permits, approvals, registrations, codes of practice, standards and guidelines you need for your business.

To use ABLIS, simply fill in a few details about your business, and you can download a personalised report which includes:

  • the state or territory, local and Australian government requirements relevant to your business
  • details on licence fees, how to apply, periods of cover and renewals
  • how to access application and renewal forms
  • where to go for more help and information.

You can also use the custom search to find information on a specific licence or other business related information.

Try ABLIS now

Tax registrations

You may need to register your business to meet a number of tax obligations. Common tax registrations that businesses need include:

Did you know?

  • If you’re registered for GST, you can also register for fuel tax credits.
  • There are other tax registrations you may need depending on your business.
  • It’s important to work out which registrations you need to meet your tax obligations. Remember that you may need to add or cancel registrations as your business grows and changes.

Goods and services tax (GST)

You must register for GST if your business’s GST turnover (gross income minus GST) is $75,000 or more.

It’s important to work out if you’ll exceed this amount each month, as you’ll need to register for GST within 21 days of reaching the threshold.

You must also register for GST (regardless of your turnover) if you:

  • want to claim GST credits
  • want to claim fuel tax credits for your business
  • provide taxi travel (including if you engage in ride-sourcing).

You can register for GST:

Find out more about Goods and Services Tax.

Pay your tax by instalments

Pay as you go instalments is one way to make regular payments towards your expected yearly tax bill. Using the PAYGI system is a good idea, because once you’re in business, it’s up to you to set aside enough money to pay your tax.

There are two ways to start paying instalments:

  • you can register voluntarily
  • the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) will automatically add you to the PAYGI system when your business or investment income reaches a certain level.

Voluntary entry

If you think you're going to make a profit on your business or investment income, you can choose to voluntarily enter the PAYG instalments system. This reduces the chances of having to pay a large amount for tax at the end of the year.

You can voluntarily enter into PAYGI:

  • online (via myGov) if you’re a sole trader (individual in business)
  • by phone on 13 28 66.

If you use a tax agent or BAS agent, make sure to discuss this option with them before using the myGov service.

Tip - You can also make voluntary pre-payments at any time towards an expected tax bill without entering the PAYG instalments system.

Automatic entry

The ATO will contact you after you lodge a tax return with your business and/or investment income if you need to start paying PAYG instalments. They will tell you about the options available to calculate your instalments and how often you need to pay.

Registrations you will need to employ staff and other workers

If you employ staff or other workers you will have additional tax and super responsibilities, including:

  • withholding tax from your employees’ pay
  • making super contributions to their nominated super fund.

Depending on how you pay your employees, you may also need to register for and pay fringe benefits tax.

Tip: For more information on hiring people, including who may be considered to be an employee and when you need to pay superannuation, read Hiring people.

Taking tax out of wages and other payments

When you make payments to employees, some contractors and other businesses, you need to withhold an amount from the payment and send it to the ATO. This is called PAYG withholding, and prevents workers from having a large amount of tax to pay at the end of the financial year.

You'll need to withhold tax from your payments if:

  • you have employees
  • you have other workers, such as contractors, and you enter into voluntary agreements to withhold amounts from your payments to them
  • you make payments to businesses that don't quote their Australian Business Number (ABN).

You need to be registered for PAYG withholding before you pay your workers, so that you can deduct the correct amount of tax and send it to the ATO.

Did you know?

If you have to pay super for your employees or other workers, there is no separate registration required. However you’ll need to set things up for super payments from the time they start. Check out Hiring People for more information.

Find out more

Fringe benefits tax (FBT)

If you provide your employees with non-cash benefits, these are known as fringe benefits. Some examples of fringe benefits are:

  • allowing an employee to use a work car for private purposes (which includes travelling to and from work)
  • providing car parking, even if the employee uses their own car to travel to work
  • paying directly for non-business expenses such as school fees, child care, club memberships.

If you provide your employees with fringe benefits you’ll need to register for and pay fringe benefits tax (FBT), a tax employers pay separate to income tax. You can register for FBT electronically by sending the form as an attachment through the ATO business portal.

Tip: If you are a director of a company or trust, benefits you receive may be subject to FBT.

Find out more

Other tax registrations

There might be other tax obligations you will need to register for depending on your industry and business activities.

  • You may be able to claim fuel tax credits for the fuel tax (excise or customs duty) included in the price of fuel you use in your business.
  • If you produce, store or manufacture alcohol, tobacco, fuel or petroleum products in Australia you need to have an excise licence and may need to pay excise duty.
  • If you make wine, import wine into Australia or sell it by wholesale, you'll generally have to account for Wine Equalisation Tax (WET).
  • Luxury car tax (LCT) is paid by businesses that sell or import luxury cars (dealers), and also by individuals who import luxury cars.

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