Starting a company in Australia – the essential checklist

Did you know that Australia has one of the most vibrant startup ecosystems in the world, with over 2.2 million actively trading businesses? Whether you’re an aspiring entrepreneur or an established business owner looking to expand your operations, starting a company in Australia offers immense potential for growth and success.

However, navigating the process of establishing a company in a new country can be challenging. From understanding the legal requirements to securing funding and developing a marketing strategy, there are several crucial steps that need to be followed to ensure a smooth and successful start.

Key Takeaways:

  • Starting a company in Australia offers great opportunities for growth and success in a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem.
  • Navigating the process of establishing a company requires careful consideration of legal requirements, funding options, and marketing strategies.
  • By following the essential checklist outlined in this article, you can set yourself up for success and effectively navigate the Australian business landscape.
  • Be sure to stay updated with any changes in legislation and seek professional advice to protect your intellectual property and comply with legal and regulatory requirements.
  • Effective financial management, hiring and managing employees, and understanding tax obligations are crucial aspects of running a successful business in Australia.

Determine the business structure

Before starting a company in Australia, it is important to determine the appropriate business structure. The business structure you choose will have implications for your legal obligations, tax liabilities, and personal liability. Here are the different business structures available in Australia:

Sole Proprietorship:

A sole proprietorship is the simplest form of business structure where you operate as an individual and have full control over the business. You are personally liable for any debts or obligations of the business.


A partnership involves two or more individuals or entities who share the profits and losses of the business. Each partner contributes to the business and shares the responsibilities and liabilities.


A company is a separate legal entity from its owners. It provides limited liability to its shareholders, meaning their personal assets are generally protected from business debts. Companies are governed by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) and must comply with various reporting requirements.


A trust is a legal entity where a trustee holds assets on behalf of beneficiaries. The trustee manages the trust in accordance with the trust deed. Trusts offer flexibility in distributing income and protecting assets.

When determining the right business structure, there are several factors to consider:

  • The level of personal liability you are comfortable with.
  • The number of owners and how you want to share profits and responsibilities.
  • Your long-term business goals and expansion plans.
  • The complexity of your business activities and financial needs.
  • Tax considerations and potential tax benefits.

It is recommended to seek professional advice from an accountant or business advisor to help you make an informed decision based on your specific circumstances and goals.

Business Structure Description Advantages Disadvantages
Sole Proprietorship Owned and operated by an individual Easy to set up and manage Unlimited personal liability
Partnership Business owned and operated by two or more partners Shared responsibilities and resources Unlimited personal liability
Company Separate legal entity from its owners Limited personal liability Greater administrative requirements
Trusts Assets held by a trustee for the benefit of beneficiaries Flexible income distribution Complex legal and tax considerations

Register your business name

One of the first steps to starting a company in Australia is registering your business name. Registering your business name provides legal protection and helps establish your brand identity. This section will guide you through the requirements and process for registering a business name with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).

Requirements for Registering a Business Name

When choosing a business name, it is important to ensure that it complies with ASIC guidelines. Here are some key requirements to keep in mind:

  • The name should not be identical or too similar to an existing business name or trademark.
  • It should not contain any restricted words or phrases, such as “bank,” “university,” or “government.”
  • The name must accurately reflect the nature of your business.

By meeting these requirements, you can avoid potential legal issues and build a strong foundation for your business.

The Process of Registering a Business Name

To register your business name with ASIC, follow these steps:

  1. Check the availability of your desired business name on the ASIC website.
  2. Complete the application form provided by ASIC.
  3. Pay the registration fee, which is currently £35 for a one-year registration or £82 for a three-year registration.
  4. Provide any supporting documents required by ASIC, such as proof of identity.
  5. Submit your application online or by mail.

Once your application is approved, ASIC will issue you a unique business name registration number. You can then use this number for various business-related activities, such as opening a bank account or registering a domain name.

Choosing a Suitable Business Name

Choosing the right business name is crucial for creating a strong brand and attracting customers. Here are some tips to consider:

  • Make it memorable and easy to pronounce.
  • Ensure it aligns with your target market and industry.
  • Check for domain name availability to secure your online presence.
  • Avoid using trendy or dated terms that may become irrelevant over time.
  • Conduct a thorough search to ensure the name is not already in use.

By selecting a suitable and unique business name, you can differentiate yourself in the market and establish a strong brand identity.

Advantages of Registering a Business Name Disadvantages of Not Registering a Business Name
  • Legal protection for your business name.
  • Establishes credibility and professionalism.
  • No legal protection for your business name, leaving it open to duplication or misuse by others.
  • Risk of infringement on someone else’s registered business name or trademark.

Registering your business name not only provides legal protection but also helps build trust and credibility among customers.

Obtain necessary permits and licenses

When starting a company in Australia, it is essential to understand the permits and licenses required to operate legally. The specific permits and licenses you need will depend on the nature of your business and the industry you’re in. By complying with these requirements, you can ensure a smooth and lawful operation of your business.

Common permits and licenses

Here are some common permits and licenses that businesses may need:

  • Business registration: Before commencing operations, you’ll typically need to register your company with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC). This registration establishes your legal entity and provides you with an Australian Business Number (ABN).
  • Industry-specific licenses: Certain industries, such as construction, healthcare, food services, and liquor sales, have specific licensing requirements. These licenses ensure that businesses in these sectors meet regulatory standards and maintain the safety and well-being of their customers.
  • Environmental permits: If your business activities have an impact on the environment, you may need to obtain environmental permits or approvals. These permits ensure that your operations align with environmental regulations and minimize adverse effects on the surrounding ecosystem.
  • Trade permits: If your business involves importing or exporting goods, you may need to obtain trade permits, such as import permits or export licenses. These permits help facilitate international trade while ensuring compliance with customs regulations and trade agreements.

How to obtain permits and licenses

The process of obtaining permits and licenses may vary depending on the type and location of your business. Generally, you’ll need to:

  1. Research the requirements: Identify the specific permits and licenses applicable to your industry and business activities. Consult relevant government websites, industry associations, and legal advisors to ensure you have accurate and up-to-date information.
  2. Complete the application: Once you understand the requirements, fill out the necessary application forms provided by the respective regulatory bodies. Ensure that you provide accurate and comprehensive information to avoid any delays in the approval process.
  3. Pay the fees: Some permits and licenses may involve fees. Be prepared to pay the necessary fees as part of your application process. The fee structure will vary depending on the type and duration of the permit or license.
  4. Submit the application: Submit your completed application along with any required supporting documents to the appropriate regulatory authority. Make sure you follow the specified submission procedures to ensure your application is processed promptly.
  5. Review and approval: The regulatory authority will review your application and assess whether you meet the necessary requirements. This process may involve inspections or further documentation requests. Once approved, you will receive your permit or license.

It’s important to note that permit and license requirements can change over time. Stay updated with any regulatory changes in your industry to ensure ongoing compliance and avoid any potential penalties or disruptions to your business operations.

Set up your business finances

Effective financial management is crucial for the success and sustainability of any business. When starting a company in Australia, it is essential to establish a solid foundation for your business finances. This section provides valuable insights into the steps involved in setting up your business finances, including the following key aspects:

1. Open a business bank account

Opening a dedicated business bank account is essential for managing your company’s finances efficiently. It helps separate personal and business expenses, simplifies bookkeeping processes, and ensures accurate financial records. To open a business bank account, you will typically need the following documents:

  • Proof of business registration
  • Australian Business Number (ABN)
  • Identification documents of company directors
  • Proof of address for the business premises

2. Obtain an Australian Business Number (ABN)

An Australian Business Number (ABN) is a unique 11-digit identifier that every business in Australia must obtain. It allows you to interact with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), other businesses, and government agencies. You can apply for an ABN online through the ATO’s website. It is important to note that not all businesses are eligible for an ABN, and certain criteria must be met.

3. Understand tax obligations

Compliance with tax obligations is crucial for every business operating in Australia. Familiarize yourself with the tax requirements specific to your business structure and industry. Key tax obligations may include:

  • Goods and Services Tax (GST): Register for GST if your annual turnover exceeds AUD $75,000 (or AUD $150,000 for non-profit organizations). GST is a consumption tax of 10% added to the price of most goods and services in Australia.
  • Pay As You Go (PAYG) withholding: If you have employees, you’ll need to withhold and remit income tax from their salary or wages to the ATO.
  • Business Activity Statements (BAS): Lodge your BAS to report and pay your business’s GST, PAYG withholding, and other taxes to the ATO.

Understanding and fulfilling your tax obligations is essential to avoid penalties and maintain the financial health of your business.

Now that we’ve discussed the key steps in setting up your business finances, let’s illustrate these steps using a visually engaging table:

Steps to Set Up Your Business Finances Description
1. Open a business bank account Open a dedicated business bank account to separate personal and business finances.
2. Obtain an Australian Business Number (ABN) Apply for an ABN to interact with the ATO, other businesses, and government agencies.
3. Understand tax obligations Be aware of your tax requirements, including GST, PAYG withholding, and BAS.

By following these steps, you can set up a solid foundation for your business finances in Australia.

Secure necessary funding

Starting a company in Australia often requires adequate funding. As an entrepreneur, it’s essential to explore different funding options to support your business venture. Here are some key funding sources to consider:

1. Loans

Loans from financial institutions and banks can provide the necessary capital to get your company off the ground. Consider researching various loan options and compare interest rates and repayment terms. Prepare a comprehensive business plan to present to lenders, showcasing how the funds will be used and your repayment strategy.

2. Grants

There are several government and private grants available to support Australian entrepreneurs. These grants are often provided for specific industries or projects and may require a thorough application process. Research grant opportunities relevant to your business and prepare a compelling proposal to increase your chances of securing funding.

3. Venture Capital

Venture capital firms specialize in providing funding to start-ups with high growth potential. Pitching your business idea to venture capitalists can lead to significant investment and expertise. However, securing venture capital funding can be competitive and requires a strong business plan, proof of concept, and a convincing value proposition.

When seeking funding for your business, it’s essential to keep the following tips in mind:

  • Thoroughly research and understand the funding options available to you
  • Prepare a detailed business plan that outlines your company’s vision, market analysis, financial projections, and growth strategy
  • Seek professional advice if needed, such as consulting with financial advisors, mentors, or industry experts
  • Prepare a compelling pitch or proposal that clearly demonstrates the value and potential of your business
  • Be prepared to provide thorough documentation, financial statements, and supporting evidence to support your funding request
  • Maintain open communication and build relationships with potential investors or lenders

By carefully considering your funding options and utilizing effective strategies, you can secure the necessary funding to start and grow your company in Australia.

Funding Source Description
Loans Financial assistance from banks and financial institutions
Grants Funding provided by government and private organizations
Venture Capital Funding from investment firms for high-growth start-ups

Develop a marketing strategy

A well-planned marketing strategy is essential for the success of any business. When starting a company in Australia, it is crucial to develop a comprehensive marketing strategy that aligns with your goals and target market. Here are some key considerations to keep in mind:

Identify Your Target Market

Before you start marketing your products or services, it’s important to identify your target market. Conduct market research to understand your potential customers, their needs, preferences, and behaviors. By defining your target market, you can tailor your marketing efforts to reach the right audience.

Conduct Market Research

Market research plays a vital role in shaping your marketing strategy. It allows you to gather insights about your industry, competitors, and customers. By understanding market trends, consumer demand, and competitor strategies, you can make informed decisions about your marketing tactics.

Choose the Right Marketing Channels

There are various marketing channels available to promote your business in Australia. These include digital marketing channels such as websites, social media platforms, email marketing, and search engine optimization. Traditional marketing channels like print media, radio, and television can also be effective depending on your target market. Analyze your target audience’s preferences and behaviors to determine the most suitable marketing channels for your business.

Optimize Your Online Presence

In today’s digital age, having a strong online presence is crucial for business success. Create a user-friendly website that showcases your products or services and provides valuable information to your customers. Optimize your website for search engines to improve its visibility in search results. Additionally, leverage social media platforms to engage with your audience, build brand awareness, and drive traffic to your website.

Measure and Evaluate Your Marketing Efforts

Regularly monitor and measure the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. Use analytics tools to track website traffic, social media engagement, and conversion rates. Analyze the data to identify areas for improvement and make data-driven decisions to optimize your marketing strategy.

Establish Clear Goals and Objectives

Set clear and measurable goals for your marketing strategy. Whether it’s increasing brand awareness, generating leads, or driving sales, having well-defined goals will help you stay focused and evaluate the success of your marketing efforts.

  1. Identify your target market
  2. Conduct market research
  3. Choose the right marketing channels
  4. Optimize your online presence
  5. Measure and evaluate your marketing efforts
  6. Establish clear goals and objectives
Benefits of a Strong Marketing Strategy Key Components of a Marketing Strategy
  • Increase brand awareness
  • Reach and attract your target audience
  • Generate leads and drive sales
  • Build customer loyalty and engagement
  • Stay ahead of your competitors
  • Market research
  • Target market identification
  • Marketing channels selection
  • Online presence optimization
  • Goal setting and measurement

Hire and manage employees

As your company grows, one of the crucial steps in starting a company in Australia is hiring and managing employees. This section provides an overview of the legal requirements and best practices for hiring and managing employees in Australia.

Legal requirements for hiring employees

When hiring employees in Australia, there are several legal requirements that you need to be aware of:

  1. Employment contracts: It is essential to have written employment contracts that outline the terms and conditions of employment, including job description, wages, working hours, and leave entitlements.
  2. Minimum wage laws: Australia has minimum wage laws that set the minimum amount employees must be paid. It’s important to ensure you comply with these laws and provide fair and competitive wages.
  3. Workplace health and safety regulations: Employers have a legal obligation to provide a safe working environment for their employees. This includes conducting risk assessments, implementing safety procedures, and providing appropriate training.

By adhering to these legal requirements, you can ensure a compliant and harmonious work environment.

Managing employees effectively

Effective employee management is crucial for the success of your company. Here are some key considerations:

  • Clear communication: Establish open and transparent communication channels to foster a positive work environment and ensure everyone is aligned with the company’s goals and expectations.
  • Performance management: Implement a performance management system to track employee performance, provide feedback, and recognize achievements. This helps motivate employees and enhance productivity.
  • Training and development: Invest in the training and development of your employees to enhance their skills and help them reach their full potential. This can include providing regular training sessions, mentoring programs, and career development opportunities.

By effectively managing your employees, you can create a motivated and productive workforce that contributes to the growth and success of your company.

Benefits of effective employee management Challenges of poor employee management
  • Increased employee satisfaction and engagement
  • Higher productivity and efficiency
  • Reduced turnover rates
  • Improved team collaboration
  • Enhanced company culture
  • Low morale and disengagement
  • Decreased productivity
  • Inefficient teamwork
  • Higher turnover rates
  • Negative impact on company culture
  • Potential legal issues

Understand tax obligations

When starting a company in Australia, it is important to understand the tax obligations that come with operating a business. Complying with these obligations ensures that your company operates legally and avoids any penalties or fines.

Goods and Services Tax (GST)

One of the main tax requirements for businesses in Australia is the Goods and Services Tax (GST). GST is a consumption tax that is applied to most goods and services sold or consumed within Australia. If your business has a GST turnover of AUD 75,000 or more, or if you provide taxi travel services, you are required to register for GST.

Registering for GST means that you will need to charge GST on your sales and remit the collected amount to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) on a regular basis. It is important to keep accurate records of your sales, GST collected, and GST paid so that you can meet your reporting obligations.

Pay As You Go (PAYG) Withholding

Another important tax obligation for businesses is the Pay As You Go (PAYG) withholding. PAYG withholding requires employers to withhold a certain amount from their employees’ wages and remit it to the ATO on their behalf. The withheld amount is used to cover the employee’s income tax liability.

If you have employees or engage contractors who provide their services on an ongoing basis, you will need to register for PAYG withholding. This registration allows you to fulfill your tax withholding obligations and meet the reporting requirements set by the ATO.

Business Activity Statements (BAS)

Business Activity Statements (BAS) are a key component of fulfilling your tax obligations in Australia. BAS is used to report various tax obligations, including GST, PAYG withholding, and other taxes such as fuel tax credits and luxury car tax.

Depending on the nature and size of your business, you may need to lodge your BAS on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis. It is crucial to maintain accurate records of your business income, expenses, and taxes paid or collected to complete your BAS accurately.

Meeting your tax obligations can be complex, and it is advisable to seek professional advice from a tax accountant or a registered tax agent. They can help you navigate the tax system, understand your obligations, and ensure compliance with the Australian tax laws.

Tax Obligations Overview
Goods and Services Tax (GST) A consumption tax applied to most goods and services sold or consumed within Australia.
Pay As You Go (PAYG) Withholding Requires employers to withhold a certain amount from employees’ wages and remit it to the ATO on their behalf.
Business Activity Statements (BAS) Used to report various tax obligations, including GST, PAYG withholding, and other taxes.

Protect your intellectual property

When starting a company in Australia, it is crucial to protect your intellectual property (IP). Intellectual property refers to the intangible assets that are created from your innovative ideas and products. Safeguarding your IP rights is essential for maintaining a competitive advantage and preventing others from using your creations without permission.

Understanding Intellectual Property Rights in Australia

Australia provides various forms of legal protection for intellectual property, including patents, trademarks, and copyrights. Here is an overview of each:

  1. Patents: Patents protect new inventions and provide exclusive rights to the inventor for a specified period. They prevent others from making, using, or selling the patented invention without permission.
  2. Trademarks: Trademarks protect brands, logos, and names that distinguish your products or services from others. Registering a trademark grants you exclusive rights to use and protect your brand identity.
  3. Copyrights: Copyrights protect original works of authorship, such as literary, artistic, or musical creations. They give the creator exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, and display their work.

It is important to note that intellectual property rights are territorial, meaning they are only enforceable in the countries where they are registered. If you plan to expand your business beyond Australia, consider seeking protection in other jurisdictions as well.

Seeking Professional Advice

Protecting your intellectual property can be complex, and it is recommended to seek professional advice from IP lawyers or consultants. They can assess the uniqueness and eligibility of your creations for protection and guide you through the registration process.

Professional advice can help you:

  • Identify the most suitable IP protection strategies for your business
  • Conduct comprehensive searches to ensure your IP does not infringe on existing rights
  • File the necessary applications for patents, trademarks, or copyrights
  • Defend your IP rights against potential infringements or disputes

By working with professionals, you can navigate the complexities of intellectual property law and maximize the value of your creations.

Intellectual Property Protection Benefits
Patents Exclusive rights to your inventions for a specified period
Trademarks Distinctive brand identity and protection from infringement
Copyrights Protection for your creative works and control over their use

Comply with legal and regulatory requirements

Starting a company in Australia comes with its fair share of legal and regulatory requirements. To ensure your business operates legally and ethically, it is essential to understand and comply with these obligations.

One of the key areas to focus on is workplace health and safety. As an employer, you have a responsibility to provide a safe and healthy working environment for your employees. This includes conducting risk assessments, implementing safety procedures, and maintaining proper records.

Additionally, it is crucial to be aware of consumer protection laws. These regulations help protect your customers from misleading advertising, faulty products, and unfair contracts. By understanding and adhering to these requirements, you can build trust with your customers and establish a strong reputation.

Privacy laws are another important aspect to consider. As a business owner, you must handle personal information of your customers and employees with care. This includes obtaining consent, securely storing data, and having a clear privacy policy in place.


Q: What are the key steps to start a company in Australia?

A: The essential checklist for starting a company in Australia includes determining the business structure, registering your business name, obtaining necessary permits and licenses, setting up your business finances, securing necessary funding, developing a marketing strategy, hiring and managing employees, understanding tax obligations, protecting your intellectual property, and complying with legal and regulatory requirements.

Q: How do I determine the appropriate business structure for my company in Australia?

A: When starting a company in Australia, you need to consider different business structures like sole proprietorship, partnership, company, and trusts. Factors to consider include liability protection, taxation requirements, control and decision-making, and the complexity of administration.

Q: How do I register my business name in Australia?

A: To register your business name in Australia, you need to follow the requirements and process set by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC). They provide guidelines for choosing a suitable business name and offer online registration services.

Q: What permits and licenses do I need to operate a business in Australia?

A: The permits and licenses you need depend on the nature of your business. Common examples include a trade license, food license, liquor license, or specific industry-related permits. You can contact your local council or industry-specific regulatory bodies to determine the permits and licenses required for your business.

Q: What do I need to set up my business finances in Australia?

A: Setting up your business finances involves opening a business bank account, obtaining an Australian Business Number (ABN), and understanding your tax obligations. You may also need to register for Goods and Services Tax (GST) if your turnover exceeds the threshold set by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

Q: What funding options are available for starting a company in Australia?

A: Funding options in Australia include business loans from banks or financial institutions, grants from government and non-profit organizations, and seeking venture capital from investors. To secure funding, it is important to have a well-prepared business plan and a clear strategy.

Q: How do I develop a marketing strategy for my Australian company?

A: Developing a marketing strategy involves identifying your target market, conducting market research, and choosing the right marketing channels. It is important to understand your customers’ needs and preferences, as well as your unique selling points, to create effective marketing campaigns.

Q: What are the legal requirements for hiring employees in Australia?

A: When you hire employees in Australia, you need to comply with employment contracts, minimum wage laws, workplace health and safety regulations, and provide the necessary entitlements like annual leave, sick leave, and superannuation contributions.

Q: What tax obligations do I have as a business owner in Australia?

A: As a business owner in Australia, you have tax obligations such as Goods and Services Tax (GST), Pay As You Go (PAYG) withholding for employee taxes, and Business Activity Statements (BAS) reporting. It is important to understand these obligations and meet them within the designated timeframes.

Q: How can I protect my intellectual property in Australia?

A: To protect your intellectual property in Australia, you can register patents for inventions, trademarks for brand names and logos, and copyright for creative works. Seeking professional advice from an intellectual property lawyer or specialist is recommended to ensure proper protection.

Q: What legal and regulatory requirements do I need to comply with in Australia?

A: In Australia, businesses must comply with various legal and regulatory requirements such as workplace health and safety laws, consumer protection regulations, and privacy laws. It is important to stay updated with any changes in legislation that may affect your business and ensure compliance.

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