Starting a new business is an exciting time. But with so much to do and consider, it can also be a little bit overwhelming. From writing a business plan, figuring out finances, securing a website domain, creating the site – the list just goes on. 

But one thing you shouldn’t forget and should be on top of your list when starting a business in Australia is to register a business name. It can have a massive impact on how your future customers see you. 

You may already have a name in mind, or you may still need time to figure out a name that satisfies you and all the stakeholders. 

Either way, registering and making it the official trading name of your business is still the most important part. With that, you’ve come to the right place.  

Do I need to Register a Business Name?

Unless you are conducting business under your own name, you must register a business name with the Australian Securities & Investment Commission (ASIC). 

What You Need to Know Before Registering a Business Name

Choose your business structure

During business registration, you need to choose a structure. The four most common business structures used in Australia are: 

  • Sole Trader – A sole trader is an individual operating a business on their own. The sole trader is legally responsible for every part of the business and typically makes all the decisions about running it. 
  • Partnership – Two or more people going into business together and distributing the profit or losses between them. The most common partnership for small businesses is a general partnership where all partners participate in the day-to-day running of the business.
  • Company – A company is a separate legal entity that can be either private (also referred to as proprietary) or public. A company’s shareholders can limit their personal liability and generally are not responsible for any company debts. A registered company requires at least one director (public entities also require a company secretary) responsible for managing business activities. As well as registering with the ASIC a company must also be incorporated under the Corporations Act 2001.
  • Trust – This is a structure where a trustee operates the business on behalf of trust members. The trustee can be either an individual or a company and is responsible for debts incurred. Setting up a trust requires a trust deed. The two main types are discretionary (trustee has discretion when distributing funds) or unit trusts (interest is divided into units and distributed based on how many units each member holds). 

Apply for an Australian Business Number (ABN)

Apply for an Australian Business Number (ABN)_

An ABN is an 11-digit number unique to your company. ABN’s have multiple uses, including: 

  • Identifying your business, in particular when ordering or invoicing. 
  • Registering an Australian website domain (.com.au, etc.). 
  • Tax purposes such as avoiding Pay As You Go (PAYG) tax on payments or Goods and Services Tax (GST) requirements. 
  • Claiming credits from the EGCS (Energy Grants Credits Scheme). 

When registering your business name, you must provide an ABN. You can apply for an ABN here 

If you have applied for an ABN, but the Australian Business Register (ABR) has not yet approved your application, you can register a business name using an ABN reference number. In this instance, the ASIC will hold your business name without registering it until the ABR confirms your ABN application. If you experience problems using an ABN reference number or the application remains pending for longer than 28 days, contact the ABR. 

Choose your business name and check its availability

Choose your business name and check its availability_

There is a lot to consider when choosing a business name. 

  • How do you want to separate your business from competitors?
  • What do you want your customers to think when they hear the name of your company?
  • Is it commonly used, similar to other business names, or trademarked?
  • Is there a relevant domain name available for it? 

Once you’ve come up with a business name, you can check to see if it is available using the ASIC business name availability tool. 

Should I trademark a business name Australia?

Should I trademark a business name Australia_

It’s important to remember that registering your business name with the ASIC doesn’t mean you have exclusive rights to it. Therefore, if you want to protect your business name and stop others from using it, you may want to consider trademarking it. 

A trademark is a way of uniquely identifying a product or service, such as a business name or logo. When you trademark a business name in Australia, you have exclusive rights, and no one else in the country can commercially use it for the same services. 

Trademarking a business name can be a time-consuming process and may cost a lot. The exact cost will depend on how many classes you are registering in and your registration method. In addition, once approved, a trademark has to be renewed every ten years for a fee. 

To learn more about how to trademark a business name in Australia, visit IP Australia. 

How much does it cost to register a business name?

How much does it cost to register a business name__ 

It costs $37 to register a business name for one year or $88 for three years. The prices are the same when renewing your business name. 

Here’s additional information about the registration fees: 

  • You can update your business name details or cancel a business name at no cost. 
  • Transferring a business name does not require a fee, but the person receiving the business name has to pay a fee to register the business under their name. Again, the cost is $37 for one year and $88 for three years. 

The ASIC must receive the payment within ten business days of your registration to approve your application. You can pay for your business name registration via credit card or BPAY. If you request an invoice, you can pay in person at any post office in Australia. 

Private service providers

If any of this sounds too time-consuming or all this information is getting too much, you can instead register/renew your business name using a private service provider (PSP). They could be an accountant, solicitor or a different business that provides online services for the ASIC. 

The PSP will likely charge a fee for services in addition to the cost of the business name registration. 

How To Register a Business Name in Australia

How To Register a Business Name in Australia_

1. Log in to the ASIC Connect

You will need an ASIC Connect account to register a business name in Australia. If you don’t have one, you can follow the link on this page. Once logged in, select the “Licences and Registrations” tab, found at the top of the page and choose “Business Name” from the drop-down box. 

2. Enter your ABN and proposed business name

Carefully read the information and tick the boxes relevant to your business before selecting “Get Started”. Enter your ABN without spaces and select “Next”. Enter your chosen business name, double-check, and ensure it is how you want it to appear (business names are case sensitive). 

3. Choose the registration period

You can choose between a registration period of one year ($37) or three years ($88).  

4. Enter business holder’s details, address of the business, and confirm eligibility

You will have to enter basic information about the business holder, including name and date of birth. You can learn the required information for different business structures here. 

Enter the address or addresses of the business and confirm the holder’s eligibility. The business holder cannot be disqualified from running a business in Australia or have a criminal offence conviction outlined in the Business Names Registration Act 2011. 

5. Review your application and make a payment 

Review all the information entered for your application and complete the declarations confirming you are authorised to submit the application. Then finally, make the payment for the business name registration. 

Before you go…

As you can tell, there’s a lot to consider when registering a business name in Australia. But it’s a necessary step on the path to success. 

Don’t let all your efforts go to waste. Trademark your business name and make sure you find the perfect domain name for it before anyone else does.