ABN – What is it and Where Do I Find It?

If you’re the owner or operator of an Australian small business, you’ll need an ABN and have it on hand for reference – here’s how to get it.

Your Australian Business Number is your one-stop identifier for your business, acting as an 11-digit identifier to a variety of government departments and agencies. It’s generally good practice to keep it on hand, but if you’ve misplaced it the good news is the Government offers a quick and easy ABN lookup service.

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What is an ABN for?

Your Australian Business Number (ABN) is a unique numbered code the government and tax office use to keep track of your business – it’s needed for things like GST and PAYG (pay as you go) tax withholding. Not having one can result in nasty tax implications for you and your business.

If you make a sale to another business and do not quote an ABN to them, they may be obliged to withhold 47% of their payment to you as tax as part of the PAYG system.

Who is entitled to an ABN?

An entity is entitled to an ABN if it is:

  • carrying on or starting an enterprise in Australia, or
  • carrying on or starting an enterprise that makes supplies connected with Australia or its indirect tax zone
  • a company registered under the Corporations Act 2001

An entity doesn’t just mean a company – it can take the form of an individual, a trust, a body corporate, and many more. An SMSF can also be eligible for an ABN.

If you are managing your own business, it could be a good time to ensure your superannuation fund is performing to your expectations. The following table contains details of the superannuation funds rated by Canstar based on someone aged 30-39. This table has been sorted by three-year performance (highest to lowest).

Please note that the performance information shown in the table is for the investment option used by Canstar in rating of the superannuation product.

To view the past performance of all super funds, rated by Canstar, use our comparison tool:

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I need an ABN – how do I get one?

You can apply for an ABN through the Australian Business Register (ABR), free of charge. If you provide all the necessary information and the ABR can verify your identity from the details you give them, you will be issued an ABN immediately.

The ABR warns if they cannot immediately verify your identity, your application may take up to 20 days to be approved.

An application for an ABN may also be denied, in which case you’ll receive a refusal number and a letter will be mailed to you within 14 days outlining why your application was refused, along with the options available to you.

How do I find my ABN?

Finding your ABN can be easy – just visit the ABR and use the ABN lookup tool. You can search by Australian Company Number (ACN), trading name or business name. Similarly, you can use an ABN to find a business’ ACN, trading name or business name.

Can I use the same ABN for more than one business?

The ABR notes that a single ABN can be used by any number of different businesses, as long as they’re all working under the same business structure. If you’re running more than one business and said businesses are operating under different business structures, each one will require a separate ABN.

If you’re running your own business it’s important you make sure to look after your own super fund – but looking after your super starts with finding the best fund for you. Compare funds today with Canstar.

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