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4 key steps when setting up your business

3-minute read

ABN, GST, TFN - setting up a business can be a minefield of confusing acronyms. Here’s what they all mean, plus four key steps you should take to get you on your way.

Key take-outs
  • Register a business name if applicable
  • Apply for an ABN, plus ACN and TFN if applicable
  • Register for GST if applicable
  • Set up invoices


1. Registering a business name

Unless you plan to trade under your legal 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 you should:


  • 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. Apply for an ABN, and potentially an ACN and TFN


An Australian Business Number (ABN) helps identify your business in public records and facilitates interactions with banks, the tax office (for GST registration), and other government departments. If you’re required to be registered for GST (see below) you must have an ABN. But even if you don’t charge GST, you should still feature an ABN on purchase orders and invoices – otherwise those paying you may be obliged to withhold tax at the highest marginal rate.


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).


You can 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. GST matters can vary by business type but in broad terms, the 10% GST you levy on customers is generally offset against any GST you incur in doing business. Then any difference is 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.

4. Set up your invoices

Many small businesses use an Excel invoice template or cut and paste between Word documents. For a faster, more convenient solution you could use our handy Biz Invoice online invoicing tool.


Available with eligible Westpac accounts1 and managed in online banking, the tool lets you customise an invoice template, then create, send and manage invoices from your mobile or PC.


Please note that if linked to a foreign currency account, Biz Invoice will not calculate GST or any tax that may be required in your customer's country. 


Next steps: Watch our 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

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

Turning your business vision into a plan

Starting a business is exciting. For the best chance of success, you’ll need to think about writing a business plan and getting in the right mindset.

Things you should know

1. To be eligible for Biz Invoice you must hold a Westpac Business One Low Plan or High Plan transaction account or a foreign currency account (other than in Chinese Yuan RMB) and be registered for Westpac Live Online Banking. Terms, conditions and fees apply. Before making a decision, read the disclosure documents for your selected product or service, including the Product Disclosure Statement and T&Cs, by clicking the above links and consider if the product is right for you.


The information in this article is general in nature; does not take your objectives, financial situation or needs into account; and does not constitute financial or taxation advice. Consider its appropriateness to these factors; and we recommend you seek independent professional advice about your specific circumstances before making any decisions.