August 2019

From the Deputy Registrar

Michelle Crosby

Since our last edition, there has been a federal budget followed by an election. The returned government used its first sitting days after the election to introduce the low and middle income tax offset, which has now been implemented by the ATO.

During this time, the Commonwealth Business Registry Service has focussed on:

  • working on the implementation of the ‘Strengthening the Australian business number (ABN) System’ measure announced in the federal budget on 2 April
  • reinstating the Australian Business Register (ABR) Board, which has now been renamed as the Business Registry Strategic Advisory Council (BRSAC)
  • continuing to provide a high level of service to our ABN holders and maintaining the integrity of the data on the ABR.

This year is also the 20th anniversary of the introduction of the ABN system, which you can read about below.

These are exciting times for us, and we look forward to working with all of you to bring about valuable change.

Please let me know if you have any particular topics you’d like to hear more on. Your feedback continues to help us improve so I encourage you to contact us.

Happy reading!

201920 Budget

Decorative banner

In the 201920 Budget, the government announced funding for the ABN system and e-invoicing.

Strengthening the ABN system

The Black Economy Taskforce made recommendations about strengthening the integrity of the ABN system for the benefit of business and the community.

The Australian Government will strengthen the ABN system to disrupt black economy behaviour by requiring ABN holders:

  • with an income tax obligation to lodge their income tax return (from July 1, 2021)
  • to confirm the accuracy of their details on the ABR annually (from July 1, 2022).

The new conditions will make ABN holders more accountable for meeting their obligations, while minimising the regulatory impact on businesses doing the right thing.

Strengthening the ABN system (PDF, 455KB) can be found on page 13 of Part 1 of the Budget papers.

Modernising Business Registers (MBR) Program & Director Identification Numbers (DINs)

The Australian Government remains committed to modernising business registers and the introductions of DINs and is expected to consider funding in the 201920 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) context.

Over the coming months, consultation on MBR and DINs will continue and we will:

  • consult on data standards and disclosure frameworks for both MBR and DINs as outlined in draft legislation
  • consult on options for how people could apply for and link a DIN to a company
  • test how a whole-of-government IT registry platform would work and engage with digital service providers
  • consult on the in-progress review of ASIC‘s registry fees.

As previously announced, the Australian Government’s intention is for a modernised business registry service and DINs to be administered by the ATO.

Happy 20th birthday to the ABN!

The year is 1999. John Howard is the Prime Minister, the GST bill is passed through the Senate, Michael Carmody is Commissioner of Taxation, Kate Carnell is the Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory and people are dreading the potential impact of Y2K on our computer systems.

In July, the ‘A New Tax System (Australian Business Number) Act 1999‘ introduces a single business identifier – the ABN. In the ATO, the Business Registration Services (BRS) area is working hard printing off partially prefilled ABN applications, mailing them to over a million people.

On a farm in Coonabarabran, Robbie Sefton fills out one of those forms and mails it back to the ATO. Robbie may not have known at the time, but she was about to make history as the recipient of the first ABN.

Back at the ATO, the 550 BRS staff found out rather quickly that the estimation of applications is being exceeded and more staff were urgently needed to scan and process the millions of applications being received.

Fast forward to 2019, and we’ve come a long way!

We are the custodians of trusted business information. We look after approximately 8 million ABN‘s, facilitate over a billion searches of the ABR a year and have more than 570 agencies using our data to support the community.

We know that registering a business often starts the tax and super journey, so it’s vitally important to us that we continue to collaborate with business and government to make sure that we can provide the best registration experience possible.

Happy Birthday ABN, and may there be many more!

Celebrating 20 years of ABNs

The ABR Board is transforming…

In late 2018, the ABR Board decided to look at its governance arrangements in light of an expanding program of work, and a review was carried out. Consultants interviewed members and advisors of the Board, and found that they were eager and willing to be involved at a deeper level. As a result of those discussions, there were four recommendations:

  • renaming the ABR Board to the Business Registries Strategic Advisory Council, with its role being defined as trusted advisors to the Registrar
  • roles and responsibilities to be redefined through the Terms of Reference
  • operating mechanics to be refined and improved
  • members to be involved in the creation of a roadmap for the delivery of the Registrar’s 2024 vision.

The recommendations were discussed at the last ABR Board meeting, which then led to a workshop held in Canberra on 30 July. A working group was formed to develop a roadmap for implementing the Registrar’s 2024 vision.

The next meeting of the Business Registries Strategic Advisory Council will be in September.

ABN - fact and fiction

To help you understand ABNs better, we’ve put together a short video series to help you determine fact from fiction.

There are lots of stories about ABNs that regularly circulate, so we hope this series will dispel some myths, but also help people better understand their obligations as an ABN holder.

The videos cover tax-free thresholds, ABN entitlement, whether you have an ABN for life and other topics.

You can access the video series on our website – we’d love it if you could share them with your networks so we can get the messages out to as many people as possible.

ABR data is valuable

Our staff and Assistant Commissioner Naomi Westwood recently attended the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) National General Assembly in Canberra.

Naomi Westwood at the ALGA National General Assembly
Assistant Commissioner Naomi Westwood

Our staff manned a very impressive booth and talked to delegates about ABR Explorer, the benefits of using ABR data and shared examples of how other councils are using our data.

Naomi presented to the ALGA General Assembly on the different ways that local government can access and use ABR data.

“The conference was a fabulous opportunity to share the many and varied ways that councils are using ABR data to deliver services to businesses in their community and to also let them know how ABR data can help them during the lifecycle of preparing for and responding to natural disasters”, Naomi said.

“There was a lot of interest from councils on how they can use ABR Explorer 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for free!”.

One of our staff, Anne-Maree, also noted the value of networking and engaging with people about real-life examples that demonstrate the economic and social value of ABR data.

“To me, the ALGA General Assembly is not just about promoting ABR data. It is also about the characters I meet whilst I’m there – people serving their community, trying to do the best they can for it. We get to hear some great stories about what’s happening in their region…for example, the council in North‑West Queensland that is still suffering badly from drought and stock losses. Or the mayor with the biggest smile telling me his town had received a good government grant, which would inject funds and provide further employment in his community.”

If you wish to subscribe to this bulletin via email or would like further information about any of our stories, please email CBRS Strategic Engagement.

Last modified
29 Aug 2019