Starting a business in Australia can be either simple or complex, depending on the way you choose to structure your enterprise.

Choosing The Right Structure For You

There are four basic structures that you can choose from –

• Sole Trader,

• Partnership,

• Company,

• Trust.

Most people commence in business as a Sole Trader or Partnership. As the business grows and takes on employees many people choose to restructure by forming a Company. Trusts are a less common form of legal entity and it is rare that a new business owner would set up a Trust in the early stages of their new business.

Regardless of the business structure you choose, the first thing you must do is to apply for an Australian Business Number, or ABN as it is more commonly known. Applying for an ABN is free and can be obtained in 10 minutes by visiting the Australian Securities and Investment Commission website.

If you wish to trade under a business name such as Jim Brown’s Pizza Palace you need to register this name with ASIC also. At the time of writing, this fee is $30 plus GST for one year or $70 plus GST for 3 years.

In Australia, if you don’t produce an ABN, other businesses will often refuse to trade with you. When applying for an ABN, you need to consider whether you need to be registered for GST. If your annual turnover is likely to exceed $75,000, GST registration is compulsory. If your turnover is under $75,000 registration, in most cases, is optional. Most new businesses choose to report and pay their GST on a quarterly basis.

GST: Exceptions To The Rule

• If you drive a taxi or a hire car, you must register for GST regardless of your turnover.

• If you operate a non-profit organisation, GST registration is not required until you have a turnover of $150,000 or more.

Getting The Right Business Advice

Before you start your business, it pays to get advice from a professional such as an accountant or financial advisor. However, this can sometimes be costly.

In Australia, free or low cost assistance is available from:

  • Business Enterprise Centres (found throughout the country)
  • The Australian Taxation Office (ATO)
  • Various State and Federal Departments eg. Regional Development, Ausindustry, Industry and Investment, Austrade, ACCC etc
  • Local business networks
  • Professional business networks such as your local Business Chamber
  • Industry Associations

Type of Business

Have you already got a business idea in mind? Will you buy an existing business or will it be a new start up business? Maybe you are setting up an online business. Have you considered the operating costs, the pricing structure, the staffing plans and the business hours? Will you operate from a shop, an office or home? Have you checked Local Council Regulations? Do you know what Insurance and Licences you will need? Have you done your research? Is there a market for your product or service?

Will you be starting part time or jumping straight in? Have you done a business plan? Is your business likely to be viable?

Don’t go into business until you have checked all these things out. Remember that business is a subject that needs to be studied, just like hairdressing, carpentry, accounting and web design. Do your due diligence.

The author, John Kirk, is a Small Business Trainer, Mentor, Public Speaker and former Financial Advisor. John teaches Micro Business Management at Illawarra ITeC, one of the largest Training Organisations south of Sydney, Australia. In addition, he regularly conducts workshops and seminars focusing on cashflow, budgeting, marketing, networking and the business mindset for small business owners.