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An Australian Business Number (ABN) may be cancelled for a number of reasons. As a business owner, you may wish to run your business again after your ABN has been cancelled. In this situation, you will need to know if you can reactivate the cancelled ABN or if you will need to register for a new ABN. 

This article will explain:

  • what an ABN is; 
  • when you need to update your ABN;
  • why your ABN might be cancelled;
  • what happens when your ABN is cancelled; and
  • when you can reactivate a cancelled ABN.

What Is an ABN?

An ABN is a unique number provided by the Australian Business Register (ABR) used to identify businesses. The ABR maintains a comprehensive database of registered business information. Customers, other businesses and government bodies can use the database to identify you and your business. 

You can apply for an ABN online through theABR website. If you want to register for an ABN, you must be entitled to one. You will be entitled to an ABN if you: 

Independent contractors will need to have an ABN when dealing with other businesses. An ABN will not be issued to you if you are an employee of somebody else’s business. 

If you operate your business through a company, your Australian Company Number (ACN) will be different to your ABN. An ACN is a unique number the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) gives to companies.

An ABN is also different to a registered business name. Your business name (or ‘trading name’) is registered with ASIC and should be renewed every one or three years. You do not need to renew your ABN when you renew your business name. 

Updating Your ABN Details

Once you have an ABN, it is your responsibility to keep your ABN details up to date on the ABR. Therefore, you must update the ABR of any changes within 28 days. You will need to update any changes to your:

  • business owner details;
  • physical address; 
  • email address;
  • phone number; and 
  • GST registration status. 

You can update your ABN details through the ABR website or by contacting the ABR via email or mail. 

Why Might Your ABN Be Cancelled?

You may cancel your ABN if:

  • you have sold your business;
  • your business has closed down and stopped trading;
  • you are a foreign business and are no longer operating in Australia or making supply connections with Australia; or
  • your business structure is changing.

You will need to cancel your ABN within 28 days if you have stopped operating your business. You can cancel your ABN online through the ABR website. Before cancelling your ABN, you must ensure that you meet any lodgement, reporting and payment requirements with the ABR or other government agencies. 

The ABR may cancel your ABN if:

  • you operate your business through a company and ASIC advises the ABR that the company has been deregistered;
  • your latest income tax return advised that business has ceased;
  • you stop reporting business income or expenses; or
  • you lodge a final tax return. 

What Happens When Your ABN is Cancelled?

Once your ABN has been cancelled, you should use the ABN lookup tool on the ABR website to check if the status has changed from active to cancelled.

You will need to ensure that you have adhered to any outstanding obligations. Also, you will need to cancel any Goods and Services Tax (GST) and Pay as you Go Withholding (PAYG) registrations linked to the cancelled ABN, as these do not cancel automatically. You should also lodge any outstanding income tax reports or business activity statements. 

Can I Reactivate a Cancelled ABN?

You can reactivate your cancelled ABN so long as you are entitled to have one. As for a new application, you must show that you are carrying on a business in Australia or you have a foreign business conducting business in Australia. When reactivating a cancelled ABN, you must reapply for the ABN through the ABR. You can list your previous ABN during the application for a new ABN. 

Reactivating a cancelled ABN requires no fee. However, you may incur a fee if you need to re-register your business name. Sometimes the ATO will conduct a manual review when you reactivate a cancelled ABN. Generally, this manual review can determine your eligibility and entitlement for an ABN. 

You can reapply for the same ABN if your business structure remains the same. If your business structure has changed, you will need to apply for a new ABN. 

For example, if you were a sole trader when you registered for your first ABN but are now operating your business through a company, you will need to apply for a new ABN.

Key Takeaways

An ABN is a unique number which: 

  • identifies businesses in Australia; and 
  • helps other businesses ensure they are dealing with the correct entity. 

Selling your business or stopping trading in Australia will lead to your ABN being cancelled by you or the ABR. Reactivating a cancelled ABN is a process. If you wish to do so, you must meet the entitlement requirements and your business structure is the same as before. 

If you require assistance with registering or reactivating an ABN, contact LegalVision’s business lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page. 


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