May 12, 2017

3 useful tips for residents and non residents setting up an Australian company_ABR

3 useful tips for residents and non residents setting up an Australian company

Updated: 8 December 2019

Are you considering setting up an Australian company ?

Congratulations! Starting out is exciting and it does not have to be complicated or stressful.

In this article, I am going to share some tips to help you set up your Australian company.

In a hurry? Jump ahead. 


1. Your company name

Australian company name options

It’s a good idea to have a few options for your company name prepared. 

Options are especially important if you are setting up your company through a lawyer or accountant.

I recommend (3) in case some of your options are no longer available. Your company name needs to be unique.

The correct order of registration is to set up the Australian Company Number (ACN) before the Australian Business Number (ABN).

Setting up your business name

Your ‘trading-as’ name otherwise known as the ‘doing-business-as’ name if you are based in or familiar with the USA terminology, can be different to your company name. This may take some of the pressure off finding the perfect company name. That is, you can set up your company as ABC Pty Ltd and then set up your trading name later on.

Simply put, your trading name will appear on your blog, your shop front window or the branding of your tangible products.

Business name inspiration

Feeling stuck ? you can always find some online inspiration for your business name.

Be sure to check out this article “How to choose the best name for your business”

You will not be able to use an existing ‘trading as’ name.

The most basic search a lawyer will perform to see if your chosen company name is available, is a search on the Australian Investments and Securities Commission (ASIC) website.

Your lawyer may also check other resources for your domain name availability.

They may also check if there are other international operators using your name and their industry and let you know about these and any risks.

Business name resources 

Namechk is one of many services available to help you check your name availability before you give your company name list to a lawyer.

You enter your chosen company name up top and then Namechk runs searches for your company name.

Here’s what the main namechk screen looks like:

3 useful tips for residents and non residents setting up an Australian company

Namechk search screen

Here's ASIC's guide for registering your business name.

A company is a separate legal entity that can sue and be sued.

On the other hand, a business name is just that; a business name that you use when you are operating your business for example on your branding etc.

Before you register your business name, it's a good idea to:

  • Get your Australian Business Number (ABN) first; and 
  • Check that you have the licences you need to trade; and
  • Check that your preferred domain name is available.

Importantly, you will need your ABN to buy a dot domain name and the addresses of your proposed business name and an email address.

You can register your business name either for 1 or 3 years, a different fee applies for each term.

Australian business register

As soon as your business name appears on the Australian Business Register you can start to trade.

You can search either by Australian Business Number, Australian Company Number or business name as shown in the screen shot below. 

3 useful tips for residents and non residents setting up an Australian company

2. Your company officeholders

An important step is for you to nominate office holders for your company.

Company officeholders include company directors and secretaries.

For a private company, you will need a minimum of one director and that director must live in Australia, be at least 18 years old and have provided written consent to be a director - you will need to keep their consent on file. 

What if you live overseas and want to set up an Australian company ?

That’s ok, you can still set up the company as long as you appoint another director that lives in Australia.

You can make use of an agency that can help you to find an Australian resident director for a fee. Healy Consultants Group is one of those organisations. 

If one of your directors is unavailable, you can appoint a director to act as an alternate director for a set period of time.

  • Have you been offered a director role ?

The Australian Institute of Company Directors has some useful educational resources for directors.

Does your company need a secretary ?

A private company does not need a secretary, but if you have one, then then they must also live in Australia.

It’s important that you meet the minimum number of office holders to avoid any ASIC penalties which can involve a penalty notice and the company being prosecuted.

3. Other information you will need to set up your company

In addition to your company name and business name, you will also need to have the information below handy to set up your company:

  • Date of birth; and
  • Place of birth; and
  • Email address; and
  • Former name (if any); and
  • Residential address; and
  • Tax file number

If you provide a tax file number, proof identity documents are not required. 

If you are a non-resident and do not have a tax file number, you will need to provide proof of identity documents. The Australian Business Register has more information on the proof of identity required. 

Do you have any questions or experiences to share about setting up your company ? Be sure to share them in the comments below.

About the author 

Vivian Michael

As founder and lawyer at Michael Law Group, Vivian advises Australia's top entrepreneurs on business and employment matters. Clients benefit from Vivian's commercially focussed and pragmatic legal advice, business experience, and commitment to deliver the best quality business legal services to her clients.

  • Hi
    I am not a resident. Can I register my business name?
    does it have any requirements apart from ABN & TFN?

    • Hi

      You can register a business name, but first you will need to apply for an ABN.
      Here are the steps to register a business name:

      Feel free to get in touch if you have any other questions.


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