How To Apply For An ABN: A Helpful Guide

How To Apply For An ABN A Helpful Guide

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How To Apply For An ABN For Free

Below is our step by step guide on how to apply for an ABN (Australian business number) for free. This process of applying for an ABN will not take too long and is relatively easy to follow.

To apply for an ABN for free, you will need to use the Australian governments business registration service. The non-government services will charge you for the process of application.

We have outlined this in more detail below.

Are you starting a business? Check out our step by step: How to set up a business guide.

What Is An ABN?

An ABN is an (Australian Business Number) you will need to apply for if you operate an Australian business. This is a unique number assigned to your business for federal identification purposes.

Applying for an ABN is free from the Australian government, and below we will guide you through the process in detail.

Do I Need An ABN?

If you are operating a business regardless of whether it is an SME or an owner-operator within Australia, you will need to apply for an ABN.

You will also need to apply for an ABN if you are still setting up your business or carrying out activities such as advertising, securing premises, etc.

An ABN will also be needed if you operate as a contractor or freelancer for a company or organisation.

For a more detailed understanding of the differences between contractors and employees, please visit the ATO website.

Applying For An ABN

1. Get All Your Details Ready

Now that you understand if you need to apply for an ABN, we can prepare for the application process.

When applying, you will need to have some personal and business documentation handy as you will be asked for it during the application. The information you will need is listed below.

Tax File Number: Your TFN will be needed in addition to the TFN or any business partners if applying for a partnership or trust.

Australian Company Number: An ACN if you are applying on behalf of a company, skip this step if you are a sole trader.

Tax Agent Details: You will be asked to provide your accountant’s details, Including any registration numbers.

Required ABN Start Date: This is when you will begin business activities, including setting up as mentioned above.

Business Details: these will be your basic details, such as an address, business name, and relevant contact details.

Business Activity: This will describe the type of business and the primary industry it will operate in.

Associates Involved: the details of any legal business partners and stakeholders within the business.

Location of Operation: The location where the business will operate, you will need details of all locations if you have more than one.

2. Navagate To The Government Website

You can now apply for an ABN on the official government site linked below with all your details at hand.

Navigate to the website using the link, as you will find hundreds of companies claiming to be legitimate websites for ABN applications.

These companies are, in fact, private organisations that will take care of the application process for you and charge you for their service.

If you are not sure whether or not you are on the right site, please refer to the image below for reference.

Remember that an ABN is FREE and provided by the Australian government, so if you are being asked to pay, you are not on the correct website.

applying for an ABN Homepage
The application page of the official Australian government website as of 2021.
Key Points
  • Have all your details ready from the section above.
  • The official ABN application website is by the Australian government.
  • You will never be asked for money if applying through the Gov site.
  • Beware of the many ads and private websites offering this service as they will charge you.
  • The link to the correct site: Government application.

Frequent Questions
  • Can I save my application if I get stuck or run out of time? Answer: Yes, you can save it as many times as you like.

3. Begin The Application

The next step when applying for an ABN is to click the yellow button on the previous screen, which will initiate the application.

You should now see a screen like the one below, and you are about to start the official application. Check the box to agree to the terms ( read them first if needed), and you can then hit the next button.

Start of ABN Applications
Key Points
  • Ensure you are completely truthful in the application.
  • Read the term and conditions before acknowledging them.
  • If you are unsure or get stuck you can save your application, so please do so and seek advice if needed.
  • Read the ABN application privacy policy.

Frequent Questions
  • Does an ABN expire? Answer: No, your ABN will stick with you for life until it has been actively cancelled.
  • Can I check if I have an ABN already? The answer, Yes buy using the ABN lookup tool found here: ABN lookup.

4. Choose How You Are Applying

When applying for an ABN, you must choose the legal entity you wish to apply as. This will be your business structure as outlined by the ATO.

If you are applying as a sole trader, then the ABN will be assigned to you personally, but if you apply as a company or trust, your ABN will be assigned to the company or trust itself.

If you know what entity you are applying as select the option on the screen.

Based on your selection, you will be asked a few further questions you will need to answer; the below image is an example of this.

Entity selection
Key Points
  • Select whether you are applying as a sole trader, Company/Trust, or superannuation entity.
  • Answer all the questions presented based on your selection.
  • For information on each question, click the blue question mark on the right-hand side of the particular question.
  • ATO entity structure definitions.

Frequent Questions
  • What do I apply as if I’m a contractor? Answer: As a contractor, you will be applying as a sole trader.

5. Review Your Information

Review the information from the previous application step. Before you continue to apply for an ABN, you must ensure the questions from the last section are all answered correctly.

Once you have confirmed this

Review application information
Key Points
  • Ensure your answers are correct to each question.
  • If correct you can click next and begin the next step of the application.
  • If you made a mistake you can restart the application.

Frequent Questions
  • How long is the rest of the ABN application? Answer: Approximately 20-25 min.

6. Applicant Details

The next step of how to apply for an ABN for free is your Applicant details. You will have gathered these details at the start of the process when preparing for the application.

The questions asked will depend on your selection regarding the entity you are applying for.

Your first question should be pre-selected from a previous step; the others will need selecting.

Answer more abn questions
Key Points
  • If you are unsure about having a previous ABN number use the ABN lookup tool to search and check.
  • If you did have a previous cancelled ABN then you will need to reapply.
  • Ensure you don’t apply for a new tax file number if you already have one, if you’re not sure, save the application and check with the ATO.

Frequent Questions
  • How do I find my tax file number? Answer: You can find your TFN in your My Gov account, an old notice of assessment, or by calling the ATO.

7. Tax Agent Details

If you have an authorised tax agent who will be handling things for you, you can provide their details in this step. When you apply for an ABN, you will also need to show you are a resident for tax purposes.

Answer the question, provide the tax agent information and click next to begin the next step.

Tax agent number
Key Points
  • You can provide your tax agent details at a later date if you do not have them at hand.
  • If you do not use a tax agent you can leave this blank.
  • If you are not an Australian for tax purposes, please seek professional advice as applying for an ABN can affect your current arrangements.
Frequent Questions
  • Do I need to register as a resident if I was born here? Answer: If you are Australian born, or have an Australian Citizenship or PR then you are already registered.

8. Applicant Information

This step in the process of applying for an ABN will be filling in your details. As the applicant, you will be required to fill in all sections on the page.

Please ensure the details are correct, as this can delay the approval process.

If you have your tax file number handy, fill it in to save you time later. If you do not have your TFN, you can add it at a later date.

Applicant Information
Key Points
  • Ensure your details are accurate.
  • Filling the TFN now will save you time and headache in the future.

Frequent Questions
  • What if I have two names due to being born outside Australia? Answer: You will need to use your legal name, the one listed on your passport and drivers license.

9. Business Details

Once you have filled in the applicant details above, you will be asked to fill in your business details. When applying for an ABN, you will need to indicate from which date the ABN will be required.

If you plan to operate a business for less than 90 days, you will also need to input your proposed end date.

When it comes to GST, we advise speaking with a tax professional about how this may impact you and your business.

Generally speaking, you will not be required to register for GST until your turnover exceeds $75,000 pa.

Once you have answered the questions, you can click next and move to the following page.

Business details
Key Points
  • GST registration is not mandatory unless you earn over $75k
  • If you operate an agricultural property please ensure you read the criteria carefully by clicking the blue question mark.

Frequent Questions
  • My business has many core services, how do I answer? Answer: If you have multiple core services please explain only the one that delivers the most revenue.

10. Business Contact Details

Your business contact details will be the next step in the application. If you are a sole trader or a contractor, these details may be the same as your contact details.

Remember that the email you provide will be used for government communications, so you may want to use your personal email if your business email will be accessible by others.

Once you have provided your details, you can move to the next application step.

Business Contact details

Key Points

  • Use an email address that you are comfortable receiving sensitive information to.
  • The number you provide will only be accessible by government departments, this is not the number your customers will necessarily see.

Frequent Questions

  • My business does not have a phone number, what do Ido? Answer: Provide your personal mobile number.

11. Authorised Contact Details

When applying for an ABN, this step will ask you to provide the details of an authorised contact.

Your authorised contact will be a person that you give permission to deal with the government departments on behalf of the business.

If you are the sole operator of the business, leave your details in the input fields, These details should already be pre-populated from the above steps, so only change them if you wish to nominate someone else.

Check that these details are correct and move to the next step.

Review business details
Key Points
  • The details you provide will be for an authorised business contact who will be able to deal with the Australian government.
  • You can add more than one contact if you wish in this section.

Frequent Questions
  • What if it’s only me in the business? Answer: Then you will leave your details in the fields.

12. Why Are You Applying?

One of the final steps in how to apply for an ABN for free is to indicate the reason for the application. Select the dropdown box and choose the option that is relevant to your situation.

The options presented to you will also be based on your earlier answers in the application process.

Once you have made your selection, you may be asked some further questions such as, “Is this your first business?” ensure you answer these questions also.

why are you applying
Key Points
  • Select the relevant option, you can always make changes at a later date.
  • Seek advice from a professional if you are unsure.

Frequent Questions
  • I’m not sure why I’m applying, I was asked to apply for a job? Answer: If you were asked to apply for a job you are going to start then you will most likely need to apply as a contractor. We recommend saving your application and seek advice to clarify.

13. Application Declaration

The declaration is the final step you will need to complete. This is to signify that all the information provided is correct and that you are authorised to be making the application.

Completed your details, and you can then submit the application form.

Key Points
  • Make sure any details you have provided through the application are correct before submitting.
  • If you make a mistake it may delay the application process.

Frequent Questions
  • What if I made a mistake earlier on? Answer: You can go back and amend any details using the navigation timeline as shown at the top of the photo.

Final Words

You have now completed your ABN application and the Australian government will review and then contact you via the details you have provided.

Generally, after applying for an ABN you should receive it within two weeks, however, if there is something wrong with the application this may be delayed.

Remember that if you are unsure of anything throughout the process to seek professional advice.

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