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Setting up your business

ABN, GST, TFN - setting up a business can be a minefield of acronyms. Essentially, there are 3 key steps to get you on your way.

1. Registering a business name

Unless you plan on trading under your own name, you’ll need to decide on a business or company name. Think about making it catchy, easy to recall, and logical to spell (so customers can Google you). Then:

  • Check the National Names Index to see if the business name you want is available.
  • Register your business name in each state or territory you intend to trade in (only for sole traders, partnerships and trusts; a registered company does not need to register a business name)
  • Register a domain name that’s the same or similar to your business name.


2. Applying for an ABN or ACN or TFN?


An Australian Business Number helps identify your business in public records and facilitates interactions with banks, the tax office (for GST registration), and other government departments.  Although it’s not mandatory for solo business owners to have an ABN, most businesses will need  one for invoicing or to create purchase orders.


Pty Ltd and ACN  and TFN

If you plan on operating as an incorporated entity, the company needs to be registered with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. ASIC issues an Australian Company Number (ACN) for use in all business transactions. You need this before applying for an ABN.

Additionally, partnerships, trusts and companies need a separate tax file number (TFN) to do business. (Sole traders use their personal TFN when dealing with any business tax matters).

Apply for an ABN and TFN through the  Australian Business Register.


3. Register for GST

If you think your business will earn $75,000 or more, you’ll need to register for GST (goods and services tax) through the  ATO . The 10% GST you levy on customers is offset against any GST you incur in doing business: any difference is then calculated when completing your business activity statement (BAS).

There are a few other reasons why businesses might register for GST. Check with your tax adviser about your particular situation.



Next steps: Watch Getting Started in Business webinar

  • Statutory obligationsStatutory obligations
  • Turning your vision into a planTurning your vision into a plan
  • Business structuresBusiness structures
  • Risk managementRisk management
  • Cash managementCash management

This webinar is produced by the Davidson Institute, Westpac's home of free financial education resources, building confidence today for a better financial future.


Read more

Starting a business

The first step towards starting your new business are often the biggest. We have guides and tools to help you get started.

How to write a business plan

A business plan is the building block that can help you reach your business goals.

Turn your vision into a plan

Starting a business is exciting but you need the right planning to get it off the ground.

Things you should know

Deposit Accounts for Business Customers Terms and Conditions (PDF 398KB)

To be eligible to apply for Business One – Low Plan, your business must be registered in Australia.

General advice: This information is general only and does not constitute any recommendation or advice. It is current at the time of publication, and is subject to change. It has been prepared without taking account of your objectives, financial situation or needs. Because of this you should, before acting on the information, consider its appropriateness, having regard to these matters. Consider obtaining personalised advice from a professional financial adviser and your accountant before making any financial decisions in relation to the matters discussed in this document, including when considering the finance options for your business.