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Dictionary
Debitoor's accounting dictionary
Australian Business Number (ABN)

Australian Business Number (ABN) – What is an ABN?

An ABN, short for Australian Business Number, is a unique eleven-digit code that identifies businesses in Australia.

It's easy to issue invoices that contain your ABN with Debitoor invoicing software. Try Debitoor for free.

Businesses can have quite similar names, so Australian Business Numbers help identify different entities that might otherwise get mixed up.

Among other things, you use your ABN when you:

  • Place orders from other businesses
  • Send invoices to other companies
  • Claim credits for GST and energy grants
  • Set up a website and apply for an Australian domain name.

Who can get an ABN?

Australian Business Numbers are compulsory for many businesses (or entities), but to qualify for an ABN, your business must be structured as a:

You can run more than one ‘enterprise’ under the same ABN if they’re all part of the same ‘entity’. For example, if you run a wholesale bakery that also has a high-street shop, you could use the same ABN for both.

Employees (including apprentices, trade assistants, or labourers) are not entitled to Australian Business Numbers.

How to register for an ABN

You can register for an ABN through the Australian Business Register’s website. It’s free to apply.

When you register for an ABN, you will be asked for several pieces of information, including:

  • Your business structure
  • Your business name
  • Details of your business activities
  • Details of your business location
  • Proof of identity
  • The date your ABN is required.

How long does it take to register for an ABN?

If you provide all of the necessary information, your application will be processed automatically and you’ll receive your ABN instantly.

However, if you’re unable to provide all of the required information, your application will need to be processed manually, which can take up to 28 days.

How to check an ABN

Australian Business Numbers are publicly available on the Australian Business Register. You can check an entity’s ABN by going to ABN Lookup, which is a website that gives the public access to information on the ABR.

You can search by business name or by ABN, and you’ll be able to see current and historical details about the entity – including it’s business structure, whether it’s registered for GST, where it’s located, and how long it’s been active.

ABN vs. ACN

Like an ABN, an Australian Company Number (ACN) is a unique code that identifies business entities. However, there are a few important differences between Australian Business Numbers and Australian Company Numbers.

Firstly, all businesses (regardless of size or structure) need an ABN, whereas only companies need an ACN. Companies are distinct types of businesses in which the business is legally separate from its owner(s) and is managed by directors, and many business structures (e.g. sole traders and partnerships) do not qualify as companies.

Secondly, whereas Australian Business Numbers are issued by the ABR, which is run by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), Australian Company Numbers are issued by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).

Finally, an ABN is made up of 11 digits, whereas an ACN only consists of 9.

Australian Business Numbers in Debitoor

If you have an ABN, you need to display it on every invoice you issue, and this is easy with Debitoor invoicing software.

To add your ABN to your invoices, all you need to do is enter your ABN in your account settings. You can do this from either the web app or the mobile app, and once you’ve saved your ABN, it will appear on all of your future invoices.