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 verify a business’s ABN details in the ABR via the ABN Lookup website. It provides access to the publicly available information supplied by businesses when they register for an ABN such as ABN status, entity name, entity type, GST status, main business location, business and trading name(s) etc.

The maximum number of records returned for any search is 200, sorted with the closest match at the top of the list. However, you can register for the ABN Lookup web services. This allows you to easily incorporate ABN information and search capabilities into your own applications. The web services also provide greater functionality and more options than are available through the HTML interface. For example, the name search method allows you to control how many matching names are returned by the search. As there is no upper limit, you are not restricted to the top 200 matching names imposed through the HTML interface. Furthermore, additional search options are available through the web services such as retrieving ABNs for a selected postcode or for a particular entity type or are registered for GST etc.

When you make payments to suppliers for goods or services to the business, those suppliers generally need to quote an ABN. They can quote their ABN on an invoice or some other document that relates to the goods and services they provide. If a supplier does not provide its ABN, you may need to withhold 49% from the payment for that supply. This is referred to as ‘no ABN withholding’. In these cases, the suppliers can use a statement by a supplier form to justify you not withholding from the payment to the supplier. However, certain suppliers are not required to quote an ABN to a payer (eg. the payment does not exceed $75, excluding GST).

Furthermore, if an entity is NOT registered for the Goods and Services tax (GST) and not required to be registered, then it will not charge GST on its supply and consequently should NOT issue a “tax invoice”. In this case, an entity should provide an “invoice” which contains the reference that “No GST has been charged”.

If you would like further information on ABN’s or general business advice, please contact The Quinn Group. Our business accountants can help you with a range of matters. Call 02 9223 9166 or submit an online enquiry.