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In this article, we answer some frequently asked questions about ABNs and explain how to apply for one.

Do I Need an ABN?

You require an ABN if you are running a business or other enterprise in Australia.  You may also require a number of other registrations as a business. As most businesses derive income, it is typical to register for both an ABN and tax file number (TFN) at the same time. You also need to register an ABN before applying for goods and services tax (GST) or pay-as-you-go (PAYG).

Am I Eligible for an ABN?

Not everyone is entitled to an ABN. You must be carrying on a business or other enterprise to be eligible for an ABN. You also need to provide evidence that you have a business structure, and that you’re carrying on a business or other enterprise in Australia.

How Do I Apply for an ABN?

You can apply for an ABN for free, online through or The registration process will first ask you questions to determine whether you are eligible to apply for an ABN. Once you determine that you are eligible, you will need to make some declarations, and provide identifying information. You will need to provide:

  • the applicant’s and the business’ details (note that it is important to consider what entity will be applying for the ABN, and to complete the application under the correct entity’s name); and
  • proof of identity information.

If your application is successful, you will receive your ABN immediately, and your details will be added to the Australian Business Register. You will then receive a confirmation within 14 days.

If your application is unsuccessful, you’ll receive a refusal number and a letter within 14 days setting out the reasons for the refusal and your options. If you receive a reference number, it may mean that there were issues with verifying your identity or you may need to provide more information. Your application and details will be reviewed, and you may be contacted to provide further information. The review typically occurs within 20 business days.

I’m a Foreign Business, How Do I Apply for an ABN?

If you are not an Australian resident, you may still be eligible to apply for an ABN. To be eligible as a non-resident, you must either be:

  1. carrying on an enterprise in Australia; or
  2. making sales in connection with Australia.

As a foreign business, you will need to provide either your Australian TFN or proof of your identity and a statement of your business activities in Australia.

Do I Need to Apply for a New ABN if I Was a Sole Trader and Am Now a Company?

A company will need to apply for a separate ABN. If you were previously operating as a sole trader and now operate as a company, you should cancel your old ABN. You cannot transfer your sole trader ABN to your company.  For a company to successfully apply for an ABN, the company’s directors will need to supply their personal information.

Key Takeaways

If you are running a business or other enterprise in Australia, you may need to apply for an ABN. You can apply for an ABN online through the Australian Business Register website. It is essential to ensure that the entity doing business, is the same entity that is in the application. If your business is no longer operating in Australia or has closed down, you should cancel your ABN. If you have any questions about ABNs or applying for one, get in touch with one of LegalVision’s business lawyers on 1300 544 755.

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