As you probably already know, an Australian Business Number (ABN) is a unique 11 digit number that identifies businesses to the government and the community.

Why an ABN is important

You are also probably aware that although the Australian Tax Office ultimately owns and manages all of the data on the Australian Business Register (ABR), that the ABN does not replace the tax file number as a taxation identifier, but rather is used by the Australian Business Registrar to make available certain information about businesses readily accessible to the public and government on the ABR.

The whole idea behind the ABN and the ABR is that they will provide both the community and government with an accurate and complete source of entity-specific business information to assist with overall business efficiency and productivity.

How to look up an ABN

There is an easy and quick way that you or anyone else can look up the publicly available information provided by businesses when they register for an ABN. It is called ABN Lookup and can be found here

The ABN Lookup and services are hosted not by the ATO, but by the Department of Industry and Science (DIS). It is important to note that new registrations and updates have to have first appeared in the ABR and the data migrated over to DIS before they can appear in ABN Lookup, but in our experience the whole system works pretty smoothly. It is not perfect, but then what register or database of this size and scale ever is?

Using the ABN and ABN Lookup, you can usually check out quickly and accurately whether the name you have been given as the legal name of your customer’s or supplier’s business entity is actually correct, so you can draw up the contract correctly.

While people you are dealing with will often (quite genuinely) give you their trading name as the name to use in the contract, from your point of view there is no point in having a contract with a trading name, or even a registered business name, as these are not legal entities.


So it’s well worth taking the 60 seconds or so it will take you to check it out. On the other hand, if you want us to do the checking and the paperwork for you, our business lawyers are always delighted to assist. Get in touch with LegalVision today on 1300 544 755!

Catherine Logan
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