Company Registration Australia: The difference between ACN and ABN


If you are a foreigner looking to register a company in Australia or intend to sell products digitally in Australia under a foreign parent company, it's important to understand the difference between an Australian Business Number (ABN) and an Australian Company Number (ACN).

What is an Australian Business Number (ABN)?

An ABN is a unique 11-digit identifier that is used to identify your business to the Australian government and to other businesses. You must obtain an ABN in order to undertake any type of business in Australia. All businesses in Australia are required to have an ABN.

What is an Australian Company Number (ACN)?

An ACN is only applicable to a “company” in Australia.  An ACN is a unique 9-digit identifier that is used to identify your Company as a legal entity in Australia. It is issued by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) when you register your company. All companies in Australia will have an ACN.

While an ABN and an ACN are both necessary for running a business in Australia via a Company structure, they serve different purposes. An ABN is used to identify and monitor a business for tax purposes, while an ACN is used to identify and monitor a business for a variety of company-specific purposes.

Related: Starting a Business in Australia Checklist – Before and After!

Here are a few examples of when a non-Australian company is required to register for an ABN:

ABN registration will be required if a non-Australian company is looking to do business in Australia.

Entities generally have the option to incorporate a subsidiary company in Australia. However, if a non-Australian company is engaging in limited business and they do not intend to have a permanent establishment, they need to apply for an ABN and register for Goods and Sales Tax (GST) only. GST is a broad-based tax of 10% on most goods and services sold or consumed in Australia.

A permanent establishment includes a fixed place of business through which an enterprise either wholly or partially carries on its business. Generally, a website that is hosted by an independent internet service provider is not regarded in itself as constituting a permanent establishment in Australia.

In addition, some Australian online marketplaces may require non-Australian businesses to have an ABN in order to sell goods or services through their platform. For example, Amazon requires all sellers to have an ABN or an Australian Business Registration (ABR) in order to register for an Amazon seller account.

It's important for non-Australian companies engaging in activities in Australia to understand their obligations under Australian tax law and to comply with any requirements for ABN registration and reporting. Failure to comply with these requirements can result in penalties and other legal consequences.

What are the requirements for Company Registration in Australia? 

The process of Company Registration in Australia can be quite complex, which is why Azure Group’s international team has developed a roadmap to help you understand the steps involved in starting a company in Australia.

Our experienced team can help you identify which option is right for you and walk you through the process, whether you need to apply for an ABN or an ACN.


As a leading international accounting firm, we have built a strong reputation for assisting offshore clients set up operations in Australia. Using our extensive experience and knowledge of Australian Corporations Law and other compliance and regulatory requirements, we can provide you with a comprehensive range of services, from incorporating your business to managing complex compliance obligations.

Talk to our International Team today to see how we can help you register for an ABN number or an ACN.

Related: Why do you need an Australian Resident Director when registering a company in Australia?

Have you noticed our #FridayExpertTips... here's one that relates to #International 

"Entering a new market often requires a unique Business Plan and Strategy. This is due to different cultural needs, competitor landscapes, business operating costs, etc. It may be worthwhile hiring an expert when expanding globally."

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Azure Group
Azure Group

Azure Group is the leading Chartered Accounting, Business Advisory and Strategic Advisory firm supporting the growth & success of fast growing entrepreneurial businesses.

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