Frequently asked questions

What is an ABN?

The Australian Business Number (ABN) was introduced on 1-July-2000 to enable businesses in Australia to deal with a range of government departments and agencies using a single identification number. The ABN is a public number which does not replace your tax file number.

ABN registration details become part of the Australian Business Register (ABR), which the ATO maintains on behalf of the Commonwealth. You can access the publicly available information contained in the ABR through the ABN Lookup website.

How do I apply for an ABN?

The Australian Business Register (ABR) is responsible for the ABN application process. For more information please see Applying for an ABN External site on the ABR website.

As ABN Lookup does not have access to the ABN registration details please Contact the ABR External site if you require assistance with your application or have any queries about its progress.

What is the status of my ABN application?

The Australian Business Register (ABR) maintains the information available through ABN Lookup and is responsible for all aspects of the ABN registration. As ABN Lookup does not have access to registration details please Contact the ABR External site for all enquiries regarding the progress of your application.

Only when an ABN has been issued by the ABR will the public details about the ABN be available on ABN Lookup.

How long does it take to get an ABN?

Provided you supply all the information required, you will usually receive on-line notification of your ABN immediately upon completion of the ABN application.

If you omit information or it cannot be verified an ABN will not be allocated immediately. Under these circumstances your application will be processed manually and can take up to 28 days. To check the progress of your application please Contact the ABR External site.

How much does it cost to get an ABN?

The Australian Business Register (ABR) does not impose a fee for applying for an ABN online or by paper application. If you consult a tax agent to complete an application for you they may charge a fee for their services. Otherwise, there is no cost.

How do I update my ABN details?

The Australian Business Register (ABR) maintains the information available through ABN Lookup. For options on how to update your ABN details please visit Update your ABN details External site on the ABR web site.

Only when the details have been updated on the ABR will the changes appear on ABN Lookup.

You are required by law to ensure your ABN details are kept up to date. You must notify the ABR of changes to your business details within 28 days.

As ABN Lookup does not have access to update ABN details please Contact the ABR External site if you require further assistance.

How do I reactivate/cancel my ABN?

The Australian Business Register (ABR) maintains the information available through ABN Lookup and is responsible for cancelling and issuing ABNs.

  • To re-apply for (reactivate) your ABN:
    • If your ABN has been cancelled, you will need to re-apply for an ABN. Please refer to Keeping the ABR up-to-date External site on the ABR website for more information.
    • Only when you have been issued with an ABN, will it show as active on ABN Lookup.
  • To cancel your ABN
    • You must inform the Australian Business Register (ABR) if you have ceased trading or your business has been sold. Please refer to Cancel your ABN External site on the ABR website for more information.
    • Only when your ABN has been cancelled on the ABR will it show as cancelled on ABN Lookup.

As ABN Lookup cannot cancel or issue an ABN, please Contact the ABR External site for further assistance.

What is the difference between an 'active' ABN and a 'cancelled' ABN?

An ABN with a status of 'active' means that the registration is current.

An ABN with a status of 'cancelled' means that the ABN has been deactivated and is no longer current.

Can I use the same ABN for more than one business?

You can conduct any number of businesses/activities under the same ABN provided they all operate under the same business structure. If your second or subsequent business operates under a different structure you need to apply for a separate ABN for these new businesses.

What is an ACN or ARBN?

Australian Company Numbers (ACNs) and Australian Registered Body Numbers (ARBNs) are 9 digit numbers issued by Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC).

  • An ACN is issued to an entity when it registers as a company under corporations law.
  • An ARBN is issued to an entity when it registers with ASIC other than as a company, for example, foreign companies and registrable Australian bodies.

ACNs and ARBNs must conform to the Australian Company Number (ACN) check digit External site to be valid. For more information about companies and company structures please visit the ASIC website External site.

How often is ABN Lookup updated?

ABN Lookup receives updates from the Australian Business Register (ABR) every hour. However, the information provided from the ABR is dependent on the business entities updating their details when they change. Therefore we are unable to guarantee the information that is provided on the ABN Lookup website is accurate, up to date or complete.

If you have doubts over the currency of information provided on the ABN Lookup website, we recommend that you verify the information from other sources.

Can you provide me with contact details for a business?

Under tax legislation, ABN Lookup only contains the public information provided by a business when it registers for an ABN. The public information gives the postcode and state/territory in which the business is located, but does not include the address, email, telephone or other contact details.

Where can I find the details about a company?

The Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) is responsible for regulating companies and financial institutions. A search of the registers available on the ASIC website External site provides basic information about companies and people that ASIC register or licence. For more detailed information you may need to approach a business information broker. ASIC provides a list of information brokers on their website.

Can I obtain a copy of our certificate of incorporation?

The ABN Lookup database does not hold information on certificates of incorporation.

Each state and territory has legislation that allows various kinds of non-profit bodies to become bodies corporate. Bodies incorporated under these Acts are normally community, cultural, educational, sporting or charitable organisations. Please contact the Incorporated Association Register in your state/territory Office of Fair Trading or Consumer Affairs for more information.

What does it mean if the details of an ABN are suppressed?

A person can apply to have details relating to an entity in the Australian Business Register (ABR) suppressed. For example, where:

  • a person believes that, if the details appear on the public register, they may cause harm to them or those associated with them. For example, where domestic abuse and violence orders are in place
  • the public availability of ABR details may endanger a person who is employed in certain fields. For example, psychiatric doctors dealing with dangerous patients, or
  • the Registrar of the ABR determines that disclosing certain details are not in the public interest.

A written request for suppression of ABR details must be accompanied by a statutory declaration, giving the reasons for the suppression, and the relevant supporting documentation.

For more information, please see Suppress your ABN details External site on the ABR web site.

How do I register a business name?

The Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) introduced a new national business names register on 28 May 2012, replacing state and territory registers. All business name registrations are now managed by ASIC.

Please refer to the ASIC website External site for more information.

How do I update my trading name on ABN Lookup?

In accordance with the law, the Australian Business Register (ABR) no longer collects or updates trading names. You may need to register for a business name. To check if you need to register a business name visit the ASIC website External site.

What is the difference between business names and trading names?

Business names

The national business names registration service has replaced state and territory services, meaning you only need to register your business name once with a single national register.

The new service commenced on 28 May 2012 and is managed and administered by the Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC).

If your business does not operate under your own entity name (e.g. GLM Pty Limited or Jane Smith), you will need a registered business name.

To apply for a registered business name you will need to have (or be in the process of applying for) an Australian business number (ABN). This is to assist with the identification of the entity behind a business name.

If you have registered a new business name with ASIC after 28 May 2012, ASIC will automatically update the Australian Business Register (ABR) and ABN Lookup with this information.

To register for, update or cancel a business name, you will need to go to the ASIC website External site.

Trading names

In accordance with the law, as of 28 May 2012 the Australian Business Register (ABR) no longer collects or updates trading names.

Trading names that were collected prior to 28 May 2012 will continue to be displayed in ABN Lookup and the ABR until Nov-2018, but can no longer be updated. This is to allow time for the business community to adjust to the new business name system and to take steps to register a business name which may have previously been unregistered.

From Nov-2018, ABN Lookup will cease displaying all trading names and only display registered business names.

You are still able to maintain a trading name with the ATO for taxation purposes. However, updates to trading names will not be passed to the ABR or ABN Lookup and will not be available to the community.

Why doesn't my business name appear on ABN Lookup?

Business names registered before 28 May 2012 may not currently appear in ABN Lookup. However, you can update the ASIC register by adding the ABN to your business name record if you wish to. You can do this using ASIC's online service, ASIC Connect External site. Your updated business name record showing your ABN will appear on the ASIC Connect Search portal once your request has been processed, which may take several business days.

As you can no longer update your trading name with the Australian Business Register (ABR), adding your ABN to your business name record with ASIC is a way to show the link between your business and your ABN.

What information is available on ABN Lookup?

Only companies and businesses registered with an ABN will appear on ABN Lookup.

The ABN Lookup website holds only the publicly available information about a business, including:

  • Australian Business Number (ABN) and status
  • Entity names, business names and trading names
    • Note: trading names will be displayed on ABN Lookup until Nov-2018 after which they will be removed
  • State/territory and postcode of the main business location
  • Australian Company Number (ACN), Australian Registered Body Number (ARBN), or Australian Registered Scheme Number (ARSN)
  • Goods & Services Tax (GST) registration
  • Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) registration
  • Charitable tax concessions
  • Approved worker entitlement fund (AWEF) status
  • Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) registration

The ABN Lookup website does not hold non-public Australian Business Register (ABR) data such as:

  • Detailed contact information
  • Industry code

Why doesn't my ABN appear on ABN Lookup?

Your ABN will automatically appear on ABN Lookup on the day it becomes active. However, if you Contact ABN Lookup External site and advise us of your ABN, we can manually retrieve it from the Australian Business Register (ABR) prior to this date. It will then appear on the ABN Lookup website.

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