What you need to know about registering a business name

A business name, also known as a trading name, is simply a name or title under which a person, or other legal entity, trades.

Your business name not only identifies you to your customers, but also allows you to differentiate yourself from your competitors and enables your customers to make an emotional connection to your business and brand. For many businesses, the name is often the most valuable asset.

If you register a business name, it will be connected to your Australian Business Number (ABN).

When you must register

When setting up your business, if you choose to operate as a sole trader, partnership or a trust, and not as a company, you will have to register your business name with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).

If your business name is your, or your partner's, first name and surname, then there is no need to register.

For example:

  • Sally Miller has a jewellery business named 'Sally Miller'. As her business is trading under her own name, she does not need to register for a business name.
  • Jodie Hart has a floral business named 'Hart Flowers'. As her business is not trading under her own name, she will need to register the business name 'Hart Flowers'.

If you're trading as a company, you'll need to register a company name when you register your company.

How do I register for a business name?

All business name registrations are managed by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC). You can Register a business name through the ASIC website.

You will need to have an Australian Business Number (ABN), or be in the process of applying for an ABN and not have been refused. ABN registrations are free, and you can have multiple business names linked to your ABN.

Once you have an Australian Business Number (ABN), you can register a business name online. You can do this through the ABN application or through ASIC Connect.

To register for a business name:

  1. Decide on a name that's right for your business.
  2. See if the business name you want is available through the check name availability search on the ASIC website.
  3. Register for your business name online.

The National Business Names Registration System replaces previous state and territory registers. You now only need to register for a business name with ASIC once, and it's registered nationally

You can't register a business name that is identical or too similar to a business name registered to another Australian business or company. However, a business name does not give you legal rights to that name. This means that if someone else uses your business name for their business, you don't have any rights to stop them.

Cost of registering

The fees to register your business name with ASIC include:

  • $34 for 1 year
  • $80 for 3 years.

Find out more about the business name payments and fees for registering or renewing a business name, and how to pay your fees on the ASIC website.

How long does registration take?

A business name registration application should take you around 15 -20 minutes to complete online. If you have an ABN, have provided all the required documents, and paid the fee, you should get confirmation in:

  • two business days for payment by credit card
  • up to five business days for payment made by BPay, EFT or Bank Transfer.

ASIC will notify you two months before your business name is due for renewal.

Previous state or territory registrations

Registration of your business name applies nationally, so you do not need to register across different states and territories.

If you previously registered your business name in more than one state or territory, all your business names have been transferred to ASIC's national business names register. Any of these names can be used to carry on business nationally. You may choose to keep one business name record (e.g. the one with the latest registration expiry) and allow your remaining business names to lapse by not paying the renewal fee.

If your business had an identical name as another business operating in another state or territory, ASIC will provide additional information on the public register to differentiate affected businesses. This may be the state or territory your business name was first registered in. This identifier doesn't form part of your business name, but is used to allow people to distinguish between identical business names on the public register.

Multiple business names

If you have multiple different business names, or also have a registered company, you are now able to align the renewal dates for those registrations. If you have multiple principal places of business across Australia, ASIC will notify you of which address it intends to use as the principal place of business for sending documents. You may nominate an alternative address for service through ASIC.

Searching the business name register

Whether you need to find out when your business name is due for renewal or check a name's availability when starting your business, you can perform a quick, online search using the Australian Securities and Investments Commission's (ASIC) business names register.

The register can provide information on:

  • registered and cancelled business names
  • the entity behind the name
  • how the entity can be contacted.

Before working with other businesses, it can help to check they are a legitimate and registered business. Information found on the business names register is generally available for free, though some information is only available by purchasing an extract.

Renewing a business name

ASIC will notify you - usually within 28 days to two months of your renewal due date.

You can renew your registration through ASIC Connect. Renewal notices will be sent by mail to the address for service of documents for your business. You can check your business name details by searching ASIC Connect to see what address is recorded.

If you don't renew your business name registration on time there are no late fees; however the registration of the business name will be cancelled if the renewal fee is not paid by the due date on the invoice. No extensions will be granted.

If you don't want to renew your business name, you don't need to do anything when you receive your renewal notice. The business name will be cancelled after the renewal date if no action has been taken to renew the name. You can also cancel your business name at any time.

Business names certificate of registration

Did you know that you no longer need to display your certificate of registration for your business name?

In 2012 legislation was introduced that removed the need for businesses to display a certificate of registration.

However, if your business is prominently open to the public, such as a café, you'll still need to display your business name somewhere.

© Commonwealth of Australia 2016.

The article was first published on business.gov.au