Starting a Business in Australia: a 5-step How To Guide

Starting a business in Australia is a sound option if you are looking for a commercial presence with easy access to Asia or the South Pacific, or simply wish to tap into the prosperous local market. Business formation in Australia is also a relatively straightforward process that can be completed in five key steps. If you are interested in doing business in Australia, the following how to guide for company incorporation in the country could prove useful.

Aerial view of Sydney, representing a city where most investors considering starting a business in Australia go.
Starting a Business: Australia’s economy is 80% service-based

Australia has enjoyed more than two decades of consistent economic growth and is now ranked 14th out of 190 countries for ease of doing business, according to the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report. The South Pacific country is also well known for having some of the highest scores in the Rule of Law Index, also issued by the World Bank.

With a gross domestic product (GDP) of $1.39 trillion (all figures in USD) and foreign direct investment inflows (FDI) of $40 billion in 2019, the country’s dynamic economy is 80% service-based and has a highly-developed mining sector and a strong agricultural industry that benefits from heavy demand in Asia. Australia is also a promoter of global free trade, and has a range of free trade agreements (FTAs) in place, including with the likes of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), China, Japan, South Korea, and the United States.

Some of Australia’s main export commodities include coal briquettes, iron ore, petroleum gas, gold, and aluminum oxide. Its key export destinations include China, India, Japan, South Korea, and the United States.

Read on to learn about starting a business in Australia in five key steps, or go ahead and contact us now to discuss your market entry options.

5 steps for starting a business in Australia

Starting a business in Australia is a relatively straightforward process that can be completed in just a few days. When incorporating a company in Australia, you will need to complete the following five steps:

Step 1: Choose your business structure

Before entering the Australian market, you must choose a business structure that best suits your company’s needs. The four most common types of business structures in the country are:

  • Sole trader 
  • Company 
  • Partnership 
  • Trust 

To make this decision, it is important you pay attention to the key factors that govern each business structure, such as the licenses you require, the taxes you must pay, your possible personal liability, and the control you will have over your business once established.

Step 2: Request an Australian business number (ABN) and register your company name

A screenshot of the website where an ABN is applied for, which is a key step in starting a business in Australia
Starting a Business: You can apply for the ABN online

An Australian business number (ABN) is a unique 11 digit number that identifies your business. An ABN can be used to:

  • Recognize your business to others when ordering and invoicing
  • Claim goods and services tax (GST) credits
  • Get an Australian domain name

In addition, when starting a business in Australia, you must choose a business name that identifies your company to your customers and allows them to differentiate you from your competitors. You can apply for an ABN and register your business name through the Business Registration Service.

Step 3: Apply for a tax file number (TFN) when starting a business

Regardless of the type of company you want to incorporate, you must have a tax file number (TFN) which is a unique number issued by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) to individuals and organizations. Note that the type of TFN your business requires depends on your business structure.

Once you have your TFN, you will need to understand the different types of taxes that could apply to your business. In Australia, some of the different taxes include:

  • Income tax for business
  • Capital gains tax (CGT)
  • Pay as you go (PAYG) withholding
  • Pay as you go (PAYG) installments
  • Goods and services tax (GST)
  • Payroll tax

Your tax obligations will vary according to your business type, number of employees and the fringe benefits you offer your employees.

Step 4: Set up record keeping and accounting systems

Two people handling paperwork, representing two people handling accounting records
Starting a Business: Accounting records can be paper or electronic

When starting a business in Australia, the ATO requires that:

  • An income tax return is filed each year to report your business income and claim deductions. Additionally, you may also need to file other annual reports or returns if you are registered for other types of taxes. Most companies in Australia are also required to submit declarations of business activity.
  • Keep most records for five years and if required be able to show the ATO your records 
  • Records must be in English or able to be easily converted to English

Note that records can be kept electronically or in paper form.

Step 5: Manage your business insurance

When starting a business in Australia, be aware of the types of insurance that are compulsory for most companies in the country, those are:

  • Workers’ compensation insurance: this type of insurance is obligatory if your company has one or more employees.
  • Public liability insurance: this type of insurance covers your business from third party death or injury and is mandatory for only certain types of companies.
  • Third-party personal injury insurance: this insurance is compulsory if your business owns a motor vehicle and it is often part of your vehicle registration fee.

Biz Latin Hub can help you starting a business in Australia

While starting a business in Australia is relatively straightforward, it pays to have professional support to guarantee the smooth running of the process. At Biz Latin Hub, our team of multilingual company formation specialists has extensive experience supporting foreign investors expanding into Australia and New Zealand. With our full suite of corporate legal, recruitment, and tax advisory services, we can be your single point of contact to ensure the success of your commercial operations in the South Pacific, as well as in Latin America and the Caribbean. 

Reach out to us now or personalized assistance or a free quote.

Learn more about our team and expert authors.

Market entry and back office services offered at Biz Latin Hub.
Market entry and back office services offered at Biz Latin Hub

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