ABN registrations under scrutiny

ABN registrations under scrutiny

Have you run a small business that has ceased or paused operations? Or perhaps you’ve been hired as an ABN contractor? The ATO is cleaning up the Australian Business Register and is on the lookout for people who may not be entitled to hold an ABN.

This year, the ATO has been focused on improving the integrity of the Australian Business Register (ABR). You may have even heard that the ATO has been “bulk cancelling” a large number of ABNs. Only entities that “carry on an enterprise” are entitled to hold an ABN. An enterprise includes running a business, as well as other activities like leasing property or being the trustee of an SMSF. It does not include working as an employee.

The ATO is focused on identifying the following types of ABN holders who are not entitled to hold their ABN: businesses that are no longer active; businesses that hold multiple ABNs; and workers who are incorrectly classified as contractors rather than employees (discussed below).

The ATO is also concerned that some businesses are incorrectly classifying their workers as “independent contractors” when in fact they are likely to be “employees”. In such cases, the employer may ask the worker to obtain an ABN and call the arrangement “contracting”. Unfortunately, this illegal practice is sometimes done to avoid paying entitlements like award wages and superannuation contributions.

If you hold an ABN, you must update the register within 28 days of becoming aware of a relevant change. This includes things like your contact details (including your business address) and your main business activity and business category. You should cancel your ABN if your business has been sold or is no longer operating. Before cancelling your ABN you should make sure you’ve complied with all of your lodgment and reporting obligations. You may also need to cancel your ABN if you’re changing your business structure (eg from a sole trader to a company) and then apply for a new ABN. Of course, you should get professional advice before changing your business structure to make sure you understand the associated tax consequences.

Don’t stress over business administration – get help from the professionals. Whether you’re thinking of starting a new business or need help sorting out a registration issue, we can handle all of your ABN registration needs, as well as related registrations like GST, PAYG and business names.