An Australian Business Number (ABN) is an eleven digit number that is unique to your business or organisation. The government, other businesses and organisations, and the general public use your ABN to identify your business.
ABNs are issued by the Australian Business Register (ABR) which is a branch of the Australian Tax Office (ATO). Although issued by a branch of the ATO, an ABN will not replace your Tax File Number (TFN); nor will it replace your Australian Company Number (ACN) if you have one.
Do You Need an Australian Business Number (ABN)?
If you are carrying on an enterprise in Australia, you are entitled to register for an ABN. If you are not carrying on an enterprise in Australia and you apply for an ABN, your application may be refused.
If your enterprise is a hobby, you do not need an ABN. If your enterprise is a business, you may benefit from obtaining an ABN. If the annual turnover of your business is $75,000 or more, you will be required to obtain an ABN so you can register for GST.
Additionally, if you want to do any of the following, you will need an ABN:
- Form a company
- Register a business name
- Register a trademark
- Register for Goods and Services Tax (GST)
- Claim GST credits
- Claim fuel tax credits
- Claim energy grant credits
- Register an Australian domain name
- Avoid some Pay As You Go (PAYG) tax on payments you receive
Are You Running a Business or a Hobby?
As you do not need an ABN if your activity is a hobby, it is important to first determine whether you are running a business or a hobby. There is no single, clear-cut rule for answering this question, however the ATO has determined that an activity may be regarded as a business if:
- The activity is of a reasonable, commercial size and scale
- There is an intention to make a profit from the activity
- The activity is repeated
- The activity is conducted in a systematic, business-like manner
- Records are kept
- The activity is run in a similar way to other businesses
- There is sufficient knowledge or skill required
As you can see, this is a grey area. To find out more about the rules for determining whether you are running a business or a hobby, visit the ABR website.
How To Apply for an ABN?
You can apply for an ABN for free by going to the Australian Business Register and submitting your details online. You should receive a reply within 14 days letting you know whether your application has been successful.