Not everyone is entitled to an ABN.
You're entitled to an ABN if you're:
- carrying on or starting an enterprise in Australia
- making supplies connected with Australia's indirect tax zone
- a Corporations Act company.
You may face prosecution or criminal charges if you apply for an ABN, register for GST and claim GST refunds when you’re not entitled.
An enterprise includes activities done in the form of a business, as well as some other activities, including:
- acting as the trustee of a super fund
- operating a charity
- renting or leasing property.
There is no single test to determine if you're carrying on a business. Features of a business include:
- the activity is a significant commercial activity, involving commercial sales of products or services, and is of a reasonable size and scale
- there is an intention to make a profit from the activity as demonstrated by a business plan – unlike with a hobby
- the activity is repeated
- the activity is systematic, organised and carried on in a business-like way and records are kept
- the activity is carried on in a similar way to that of other businesses in the same or similar industry
- the entity has relevant knowledge or skill.
For more information, see Section 9-20 A New Tax System (Goods And Services Tax) Act 1999.
If your business or other enterprise isn't yet underway, you'll need to have undertaken commencement activities such as:
- advertising, setting up a social media account or a website for the business
- purchasing business cards or stationery for the business
- obtaining business licences or insurance to operate (such as public liability and professional indemnity)
- leasing or purchasing premises, equipment or stock for the business
- issuing quotes or bidding for work
- consulting with financial, business or tax advisors
- applying for finance
- buying a business.
While you don't need to have undertaken all of these commencement activities, you would be expected to have undertaken at least some of them.
You're not entitled to an ABN for work that you carry out as an employee – including as an apprentice, trade assistant or labourer – even if you or your employer calls it contracting. An employer shouldn't ask you to get an ABN as a condition of employment.
For more information, see Employee or contractor on the ATO website.
While renting out an investment property may constitute an enterprise, renting out a residential property doesn't generally give rise to GST or pay as you go withholding obligations, so residential property investors may not need an ABN.
If your business or organisation is located outside Australia, you may be entitled to an ABN if you are carrying on an enterprise:
- in Australia, or
- that involves making supplies connected with Australia's indirect tax zone – defined as including Australia but not its external territories or certain offshore areas.
For more information, see:
- ABN for businesses outside Australia
- GSTR 2000/31 Goods and services tax: supplies connected with Australia – ATO Legal database
- GSTR 2006/9 Goods and services tax: supplies – ATO Legal database
Registering your superannuation entity
Before applying for an ABN, a superannuation entity (for example APRA regulated funds, ATO regulated self-managed super funds) must be set up correctly.
For more information, see: