August 2020

From the Deputy Registrar

Michelle Crosby

It is heartbreaking to see the ongoing impacts of recent events on our communities, businesses and economy, and it has really brought home to me the importance of the work we do at the Australian Business Register (ABR) and the positive impact we can make.

Ensuring businesses have a seamless experience when interacting with us is a key focus of our Modernising Business Registers (MBR) program and underpins everything we do. This has never been more important than in the current environment. Having systems that are intuitive, reliable and integrated will enable businesses to spend more time growing their business and focusing on the things that really matter to them. Maintaining data that is accurate means we can continue to support the people who need it most.

A good example of this is the work our registry and information teams contributed during the ATO’s bushfire response. By having the right data in place to support the emergency services and state and local government agencies, we were able to play a small role in ensuring that empathetic and valuable support was provided to the people and businesses that were affected.

I would also like to acknowledge the contributions our staff have made during the evolving COVID-19 situation. This includes supporting the implementation of the government’s stimulus measures, providing frontline support to the community, and ensuring other government agencies have access to accurate business data and information.

Finally, I’m pleased to share that we have reached an exciting milestone for the MBR program with the Commonwealth Registers Bill 2019 and four related bills receiving royal assent in June. This legislative package will facilitate a modernised government business registry service, the transition of the Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) registry functions to the ATO and the introduction of director identification numbers.

We are now working closely with our partners in ASIC to bring together ASIC’s registers and the ABR. We look forward to keeping you informed about progress.

Please continue to let us know if there are more topics you’d like to hear about, and feel free to let others know about this bulletin, which will be available on our website.

I wish you and your families all the best during this challenging time.


Supporting the community with ABR data

Australia suffered through a series of intense bushfires over the summer with devastating effects. With many government agencies and volunteers co-ordinating responses to the crisis, the ABR has provided a valuable means of information and support, including:

  • targeted ABR Explorer functionality to assist local and state government agencies to identify affected businesses or those at risk, along with local facilities that could be used to support response efforts
  • communications to all ABR Explorer users of the availability of Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements for local government areas
  • ongoing collaboration with the National Bushfire Recovery Agency, who are using ABR data to support bushfire-affected communities
  • assistance to Services NSW, who are using ABR data to administer grants in bushfire affected areas.

With the outbreak of COVID-19, government agencies have been proactively using ABR data to support businesses and local communities. For example:

  • the Treasury used ABR data for modelling to assess the impact of COVID-19 on businesses
  • the Department of Home Affairs used ABR data to identify hotels for the bulk isolation of Australians returning home from overseas
  • ABR data helped the SA Department of Treasury and Finance to validate applicants for the COVID-19 small business grant
  • Victoria’s State Revenue Office cross-checked ABR data with its own database before communicating its COVID-19 payroll tax relief initiative to businesses
  • the Cessnock City Council in NSW used ABR data to identify businesses that needed or could supply personal protective equipment
  • the City of Salisbury in SA used geospatial visualisations of Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC)-coded 'hotspots' to prioritise support and contact 5,000 impacted businesses.

Supporting the community with ABR data has highlighted the importance of the ABR as a valuable national data asset. A key Registrar responsibility is to ensure that Australian business number (ABN) data is current and of high quality. The integrity of ABR data is vital to ensure the community can trust business registry information, highlighting how important it is for people to keep their ABN details up to date.

Modernising Business Registers (MBR) program update

The MBR program reached a very exciting milestone on 12 June 2020, when the Senate passed the Commonwealth Registers Bill 2019 and four related bills. The legislative package, which will facilitate a modernised business registry service, the transition of ASIC registry functions to the ATO and the introduction of director identification numbers, received royal assent on 22 June 2020.

The MBR program is now entering the implementation phase with the establishment of the new registry platform [using a commercial off-the-shelf product called Catalyst (procured through Foster Moore)]. The new platform will host the 32 registers, supporting the growth of businesses in Australia and making it easier to interact with government.

Director identification numbers are a new initiative to confirm the identity of more than 2.7 million directors and issue them with a unique identifier for life. This will assist regulators to better detect and disrupt illegal phoenixing, improve the integrity of business data and promote fairness for all businesses.

Looking ahead, we’ll continue our close consultation with key stakeholders, including tax professionals, registered agents, business owners, company directors and digital service providers. We are working with community and association representatives through ad hoc consultation and formal working groups. If you’d like to know more, you can read about the MBR Advisory Group on the ATO website or contact the MBR Engagement mailbox.

Strengthening the ABN system

The ATO and the Treasury are working closely to progress implementation of the 2019–20 Budget measure to strengthen the integrity of the ABN system and improve the accuracy of ABR data. The measure introduces two new conditions for holding an ABN, requiring ABN holders to:

  • meet their existing tax return lodgment obligations from 1 July 2021, and
  • check their ABR details annually from 1 July 2022.

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

The ATO and Treasury held stakeholder consultation sessions in February, which focussed of how we can best support ABN holders prior to, during and after these changes take effect.

The findings from this consultation process will be used to further understand community perspectives as well as informing the administrative design of the new measures. Treasury have commenced the legislative drafting process for the measure, with further consultation on the draft legislation expected to commence in due course.

ATO engagement channels

The ATO decommissioned the Let’s Talk platform on 13 March 2020, which had been used for sharing information, publishing content, open and closed group consultation and Q&A style activities. Users attempting to access Let’s Talk are being redirected to the ATO home page.

There are a range of other options you can use instead of Let’s Talk, including ATO Community, the ATO website and ATO social media channels. In future you may be invited to join consultations on other platforms.

Review and update ABN details

Tax professionals can now more easily review, save and print a summary of current client ABN details via the ABR. This summary can be used to review ABN details and keep them up to date.

Last modified
20 Aug 2020