You show your driver’s licence to identify yourself to banks, energy companies, property rentals, car hire places, police and the like. 

You also show your passport when travelling overseas to identify yourself in foreign countries (please, let’s not mention the unflattering photos!).

An ABN is like your driver’s licence and passport but is used to identify your business in Australia.

What is an ABN?

An Australian Business Number (ABN) is a unique identifier for your business.

It is an 11-digit number that is assigned to your business by the Australian Business Register (ABR).  It is operated by the Australian Taxation Office.

Once your business has completed its ABN registration, that’s it!  You don’t have to apply again.  It stays with your business as long as your business is running.

You can cancel your ABN if you close your business.

Do I need an ABN?

If you are conducting business in Australia – selling products and services to customers – you will need to apply for an ABN.

Every business, regardless of its structure – sole trader, company, partnership or trust – must get an ABN.

How to apply for an ABN?

You will need to apply for an ABN as one of the first things you do when setting up a business.

You can apply for an ABN through ABR yourself or Sleek can make it even easier.  

See below the information you will need for ABN registration –

  • Your business structure – will your business be a sole trader, company or trust?  

Our blog – Pros and cons of company registration vs ABN sole trader – will help you decide which business structure will suit your business, now and in the future.

  • Proof of identity – here’s where you’ll need your personal tax file number (TFN) to prove who you are, and the TFN of any other shareholders or directors of your business.
  • Legal business name
  • Business contact details
  • Authorised contacts – such as your tax accountant or BAS agent

Details about your business and associates – what products or services your business will be selling and who else will be involved in the business as shareholders or directors (if any).

How long does it take to apply for an ABN?

It’s quick!  As long as you provide all the information listed above and your identity can be verified.  Within minutes, you will be notified online of the success of your application.

If the ATO has trouble identifying you or they need more information, they will respond within 20 business days.

What information is included on my ABN registration?

Once you receive your ABN, your ABN registration can be found on the Australian Business Register.  Anyone can find information about your business at ABN Lookup.

This online service will show the correct name of your business and the entity type (whether it is sole-trader, company, partnership or trust), the date your business started, if your business is registered to charge GST and the postcode of the business.

When do I need to use my ABN?

You may have seen some businesses have their ABN certificate framed on their wall.  This is not necessary as details are available online, but feel free to do so!

You will, however, need to quote your ABN when dealing with different entities:

Government agencies and your business community

May use your ABN to check your business registration is current and if you are required to charge GST


You may need to provide your ABN to your customers to verify you are a lawful business in Australia and currently registered with the appropriate government agency.


your ABN will be used to identify your business in order to pay your business taxes and lodge your BAS statements.


banks will need your ABN when setting up new bank accounts, as a form of identification for your business.

Great news: it is free to apply for an ABN, however, an ABN registration is only one part of setting up your business.  Here at Sleek, we can get your business up and running in 3 hours – before you know it, your business paperwork is in order and you’re talking to customers.

Are you ready for business incorporation?

Start a business in less than 3 hours with us. Talk to our experts today.

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