Apply for an ABN with the ATO: A Step-by-Step Guide

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Step-by-Step Guide on How to Apply for an ABN with the ATO

If you’re starting a business in Australia, one of the first and most crucial steps is to obtain an Australian Business Number (ABN) with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the process of how to apply for an ABN with the ATO, ensuring a smooth and successful application.

What Is an ABN?

An ABN is a unique 11-digit number that identifies your business to the government and community. It’s essential for many business activities, including registering for Goods and Services Tax (GST), claiming tax credits and avoiding pay-as-you-go (PAYG) tax complications.

How to Get an ABN Number in Australia

Below is the step-by-step guide on how to obtain your ABN details:

Step 1: Determine Your Eligibility

Before applying for an ABN, you must ensure your business meets the ATO’s eligibility criteria. Generally, you can apply for an ABN if:

  • You are starting a new business or taking over an existing one
  • You are a company, trust, partnership or sole trader
  • Your business has an Australian presence (e.g., an office or a website accessible in Australia)
  • You are a non-profit organisation or charity

If you’re unsure about your eligibility, the ATO website provides detailed information and resources to help you determine if you qualify for an ABN.

Step 2: Gather the Required Information

When applying for an ABN, you must provide certain information about your business and its structure. Here’s what you’ll need to have on hand:

  • Your personal details (name, date of birth and contact information)
  • Business details (name, address and contact information)
  • Business structure (sole trader, partnership, company, trust or other)
  • Associates’ details (if applicable, such as partners or directors)
  • Tax file number (TFN) or proof of identity documents
  • Planned business activity and industry codes
  • Date of commencement or planned commencement of business activities

Gathering all the necessary information ahead of time will make the application process smoother and faster.

Step 3: Choose Your Application Method

The ATO offers three convenient options for applying for an ABN:

  1. Online application: This is the quickest and most recommended method. You can apply for an ABN online through the Australian Business Register (ABR) website.
  1. Phone application: You can call the ATO’s Business Registration Service line and complete the application over the phone. This option is suitable for those who prefer a more personal approach or have limited internet access.
  1. Paper application: If you prefer a physical application form, you can download the “Application to register a business name” (NAT 2939) form from the ATO website, complete it and mail it to the ATO.

Step 4: Complete the Application

Whichever application method you choose, you’ll need to provide the information you gathered in Step 2. The online and phone applications are usually the fastest, as they allow for real-time verification and processing.

During the application process, you’ll be asked about the nature of your business, including the industry code(s) that best describe your activities. It’s essential to select the correct code(s) as they determine the tax obligations and concessions your business may be eligible for.

Step 5: Submit Supporting Documents (if required)

In some cases, the ATO may require additional supporting documents to verify your business identity or details. These can include:

  • Proof of identity documents (e.g., driver’s license, passport or birth certificate)
  • Trust deeds or partnership agreements
  • Business registrations or incorporation documents
  • Evidence of business ownership or association

If you’re applying online or by phone, you may be able to submit digital copies of these documents. For paper applications, you’ll need to include certified copies of your form.

Step 6: Wait for Your ABN Registration

After submitting your application, the ATO will review it and verify the provided information. If everything is in order, you’ll receive your ABN within a few days (for online and phone applications) or a few weeks (for paper applications).

The ATO will send you an ABN registration confirmation, which includes your ABN and other important details. Make sure to keep this document safe, as you’ll need to provide your ABN to customers, suppliers and other businesses.

Step 7: Register for Additional Services (if applicable)

Once you have your ABN, you may need to register for additional services or obligations, depending on your business activities. These can include:

  • Goods and Services Tax (GST) registration
  • Pay As You Go (PAYG) withholding registration
  • Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) registration
  • Fuel tax credit registration
  • Luxury Car Tax (LCT) registration

The ATO will guide you through these additional tax registrations based on the information provided in your ABN application.

Step 8: Keep Your Information Up-to-Date

After successfully obtaining your ABN, it’s crucial to keep your business information up-to-date with the ATO. This includes notifying them of any changes to your business structure, address, associates or activities. Failing to update your information can lead to penalties and complications down the line.


Applying for an ABN with the ATO is a straightforward process, but it’s essential to follow the steps carefully and provide accurate information. By gathering the required documents, choosing the right application method and keeping your information up-to-date, you’ll ensure a smooth and successful ABN application process.

With your ABN in hand, you’ll be able to legally operate your registered business in Australia, access various government services and take advantage of the benefits and tax concessions available to registered companies.

Ready to register? Reach out to us to learn more about customising legal documents, obtaining a fixed-fee quote from their network of expert lawyers or getting answers to your legal questions.


How much does it cost to apply for an ABN?

Applying for an Australian Business Number (ABN) is free. You can apply for an ABN online through the Australian Business Register (ABR) website at no charge.

What ABN requirements do I need to prepare?

To apply for an ABN, you typically need to provide details such as your business structure, business activities, personal details and tax obligations. The exact requirements may vary depending on your specific circumstances, such as whether you’re a sole trader, partnership, company or trust.

When do I need an ABN in Australia?

You generally need an ABN if you are carrying on a business in Australia or if you are involved in other specified activities, such as selling goods and services, regardless of your business structure. Additionally, having an ABN may be necessary for certain tax-related purposes, such as claiming Goods and Services Tax (GST) credits.

How long does ABN registration take?

ABN registration typically takes around 20 minutes if you apply online and accurately provide all the required information. Once submitted, you’ll receive your ABN instantly in most cases.

Are ABN and Tax File Numbers the same?

ABN and Tax File Numbers (TFN) are not the same. An ABN is used for business-related dealings with the Australian government and other businesses. In contrast, a TFN is used for personal tax matters, such as filing your income tax return. However, in some cases, you may need both an ABN and a TFN, depending on your business structure and activities.

Why was my ABN application unsuccessful?

There could be various reasons why your ABN application was unsuccessful. Common reasons include providing incorrect information, not meeting the eligibility criteria or failing to demonstrate that you are carrying on a business or other eligible activities in Australia. If your application was unsuccessful, you should receive a notification explaining the reason(s) for the rejection.

Can I use the same ABN for different businesses?

Generally, you can use the same ABN for multiple businesses if they are all operated under the same legal entity. However, if you have separate legal entities (e.g., separate companies or trusts), each entity would typically need its own ABN. It’s essential to ensure that your ABN is only used for the activities and entities for which it was registered.

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