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Doing Business in Australia


Forms of business organisation in Australia include:

• sole traders;
• trusts;
• private limited companies;
• public limited liability companies;
• unlimited companies; partnerships;
• branches and representative offices;
• charitable or not-for-profit organisations, generally registered as public companies limited by guarantee;
• special purpose vehicles, particularly superannuation trustee companies; and
• public authorities.

If the business structure chosen is as a sole trader, a partnership or a trust (i.e. not as a company), the business name must be registered in the state or territory in which it will operate. A business name does not need to be registered if the business is to be conducted under the first name and surname of a person, or their partner.

If it is planned to set up a business in more than one state, the business name must be registered separately in each state.

A business name has no legal status. Registration of a business name does not create a legal entity.

An Australian business number (ABN) and tax file number (TFN) should be obtained from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). The business must register for goods and services tax (GST) if turnover is above a certain threshold, and for pay-as-you-go (PAYG) withholding if the business has employees.

Forms of Organisation

Private Limited Liability Company

A limited company in Australia is normally a 'proprietary company' or 'Pty'; these are divided between the Large Pty and the Small Pty. It must register with the Australian Securities & Investment Commission (ASIC) and obtain a nine-digit Australian Company Number (ACN). It can then pursue its chosen activity throughout Australia, without needing to register in individual states.

There is no minimum share capital. There is no necessity to specify authorised and paid-up share capital.

A Pty must have at least one director, who must ordinarily reside in Australia. There is no requirement for a board of directors, or a supervisory council.

A Large Pty is a limited company that cannot satisfy at least two of the following conditions:

• the consolidated revenue of the company is less than A$25 million;
• the value of the consolidated gross assets of the company is less than A$12.5 million; and
• the company and its subsidiaries together have fewer than 50 employees at the end of the financial year.

In the case of a Large Pty or a Small Pty controlled by foreign entities, the Pty must provide an auditor’s report to the ASIC, together with their written financial statements and directors’ report, for each financial year.

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