Save Money with Business Name Registration, Australia

Save Money with Business Name Registration, Australia

Save Money with Business Name Registration, Australia

Save Money with Business Name Registration

You may be using a third party provider to keep your business name registrations up to date, but registering your business name directly through ASIC yourself may be the cheapest option and provide you with more certainty and control.

You can register for an ASIC Connect account, or you can use the ASIC business registration system.

If the website you are using to register a business name doesn’t include .gov.au in the domain name, then you will be paying extra to use the service. In 2022, you can register a business name directly with ASIC for just $39 per year, or $92 for 3 years. 

Once registered, provided you keep your contact details up to date, you will receive notice of renewal from ASIC before your registration expires. If you discover that your registration has expired, then you will still have 30 days after the registration date to apply to re-register that name before it becomes available to the public.   

If you receive letters from third party registration providers, they will usually be looking for annual fees that are more than what you would pay ASIC. Their additional fees cover the cost of their operations and their profits. ASIC publishes a list of what third party providers can and cannot do and you can complain to the provider if you have any concerns. 

You should definitely NOT be paying more than one third party provider for registration services of the same name, and NOT for registration of your own name. 

Do I Need An ABN To Register A Business Name?

Yes, you need an ABN to register a business name. 

An ABN is an Australian Business Number, and it is attached to whatever entity you use to conduct your business, whether that is as a sole trader, through a trust, or as a company or incorporated association. 

For people setting up private foundations who think they don’t need an ABN – check here

Do I Need To Register My Company Name As A Business Name?


If your company name is the same as the name of your business, then you don’t need to register them separately. 

If you register a business name, no one will be able to register a company with the exact same name, and when you register your company name, no one will be able to register exactly the same name as a business name. 

On the other hand, if you want to have separate business divisions with different names under the same company, then you can register multiple business names and, through your company ABN, they will be linked to your company, even though the company and the businesses have different names. 

Sole traders can register multiple business names consistent with the different areas of business they are involved in. Those business names will be linked to their sole trader ABN.

Be aware that some third party providers will write to you encouraging you to register your business name without checking to see if you have changed your business structure and set up a company with the same name. Their interest is in receiving your payment for registration, whether or not it is required. 

Do All Business Names Need To Be Registered?

Yes, and No. 

Under the Business Names Registration Act 2011 (Federal), it is an offence to carry on a business under a name that is not registered. The penalty is 30 penalty units, which in 2022 equates to about $6,660. Doesn’t seem worth risking when its only $39 per year to register, does it?

Did you know you can be fined $6,660 for carrying on business without registering your business name?

If you use your personal name as a business name with a description of what you do – eg. “Emma Lee Accounting”, or “Sanjay Singh Consultants”, then you don’t need to register it, as using your own personal name for your business is not an offence. The same goes for a company that uses the company name to operate a business.

How Do You Check If A Name Is Taken For A Business?

Business name availability is easy to check, and a quick check can save you lots of money in the future.

The first thing you should do is complete a quick Google or other browser search on your chosen name. If you find a competitor in the same country with the same or a very similar name – go back to the drawing board. It’s not worth the hassle and you create the risk of having someone send you nasty legal letters telling you to stop using that name. 

Secondly, complete a trade mark search. In Australia, you complete a trade mark search through IP Australia. If someone has a registered trade mark in broadly the same area of business as you, you risk getting a nasty legal letter telling you to stop using that name. The Onyx Legal team can help you assess whether or not you have any concerns about a registered trade mark, or would like to register your business name as a trade mark. Simply send us an email to advice@onyx.legal with “Trade Mark Registration enquiry” in the subject line and we will respond to your promptly. 

Thirdly, and now that you are reasonably certain no one else has a name the same or very similar to what you want to use, then do a name availability check on ASIC. Select “Organisation and Business Names” then complete some or all of the words you want to use in the “Name or Number” field and select “Go”. 

A list of Organisation and Business Names should appear. If there are more than 10 names, there will be multiple pages. You can change the settings to display up to 50 names at a time. When looking at names, anything that says “Registered” next to it in the “Status” column is not available to you. 

For example, we searched “forthright”, which produced 20 results. 10 of those results are registered. In the “type” column, you can identify whether they are business names or company names.


You won’t be able to register a business name if it is already being used by a company, and vice versa. Names that are identical or nearly identical to an existing registered business name are not allowed.

You can, however, add an additional word to the name – in this example some additions are “consulting”, “international” or “enterprises”, to register the same name.

Do I Have To Register My Business Name With ASIC?


Until 2012 business name registration was state based, but it has now moved to one national register managed through ASIC. 

Because your business name is linked to an ABN, your business name contact details will also be searchable through the ABN register. 

What Is The Difference Between A Trading Name And A Business Name?

A trading name refers to a name a business might use that is not currently registered. If you are using a trading name, or have used a trading name in the past and you want to continue using that name, then you should now register than name as your business name. 

ABN Lookup will continue to display trading names until 31 October 2023. From 1 November 2023, ABN Lookup will not display trading names and will only display registered business names. What this means for your business is that anyone who checks ABN Lookup to ensure your business is legitimate is unlikely to find you unless you have a registered business name. 

Business Name Registration Renewal

You don’t have to renew your business name registration every year. If you register through ASIC, you can register the business name for three years. 

Provided you keep your contact details up to date, you will receive notice of renewal from ASIC before your registration expires. If you discover that your registration has expired, then you will still have 30 days after the registration date to apply to re-register that name before it becomes available to the public.

Business Name Registration Qld, NSW, Vic etc

Business name registration moved from a state based system to a national system back in 2012. If you had previously registered under the state system, your registration should have been migrated to the national ASIC register. Some registrations were lost in that process because people did not keep their details up to date. 

If you lost your registration and someone else is now using that name, you may need to adjust your business name in order to get it registered again. 

You don’t have any ownership rights in a business name. The purpose of registration is to identify who is behind a business and demonstrate the credibility of a business. 

What Happens If My Business Name Is Not Registered?

Failing to register your business name, or to keep your registration up to date, can mean that someone else can register that business name and use it instead of you. If you allow your registration to lapse and someone else registers the same name, you have lost it and don’t have any automatic legal right to demand it back from the new business. 

There may be a legal argument as to why they should hand it over, but to prove that right and get the order for them to handover the name, you would have to go through a court process. Court is costly, time consuming, stressful and provides no guarantee of success.

Can Someone Else Use My Business Name?

There are various legal arguments why someone else cannot use your business name without your permission. Whether you have an argument depends on all the circumstances, and we would need to have a discussion with you about your situation before advising. 

Do I Own My Business Name?

Business name registration does not give you ownership rights. If you want the right to stop other people from using your business name, or something similar to your business name, then you may be better to register that name as a trade mark. Be aware that not all names are capable of achieving trade mark registration.

How can Onyx Legal help you?

Need help understanding your business name situation, or want to register your business name as a trade mark? Make an appointment with one of our team

What Happens When Business Founders Want to Split Up?

What Happens When Business Founders Want to Split Up?

What Happens When Business Founders Want to Split Up?

Business Break-ups Can Be Messy!

Unless the founders had something clear in writing beforehand, there is no end to the variety of things that can happen when founders want to go separate ways.

If there is nothing in writing and the split is not amicable, all sorts of time consuming, distracting and stressful things can happen. 

Here are some of the worst-case scenarios we have seen in practice, all where there was nothing in writing to start:

1. A Founder Dies Unexpectedly  

Whilst tragic at a personal level, it can also be very difficult for a business where one of the founders passes unexpectedly. Sometimes the family is aware of their business involvement, and sometimes they are not. In this case the family wanted the company to buy out the deceased founder’s interest in the business immediately and had some unrealistic expectations of what that interest was worth. 

Animosity was growing between the parties due poor communications. We were able to present a strategy which allowed for the progressive buy out of the deceased founder over a two year period, without interference by the family in the business, and at an amount set by a ‘desk top’ valuation completed by the company’s accountant. The family of the deceased founder were offered the opportunity to get an independent valuation, but at their cost, and the $11,000 price tag put them off.

2. One Founder Is Stealing Money From The Business, And Another Finds Out

Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon scenario. 

We’ve seen this occur in a variety of businesses from software to building and construction, and it is rarely pretty, and usually a long and slow process of separation if nothing was agreed in writing when the business was founded. 

Too many people think “we don’t need a shareholder agreement, we will be fine” when they are all excited about getting started, and then when things go wrong, they have no protection.  

In one example with a tech company, there were four sets of lawyers involved and the end result was a comprehensive deed of release covering the transfer of shares, forgiveness of debts, payment of money, and indemnities from the exiting partner. There were no admissions of liability in the deed. The deed took more than 15 months to negotiate and some shareholders meetings to approve decisions. 

As long as the negotiations remain between the parties and their lawyers, law enforcement need not be involved. There is nothing that legally requires you to incriminate yourself or anyone else in the business. When fraud or theft is discovered and reported, it is usually through a third party.

3. A Founder Walks Away Without Notice, Making Demands

Things happen in people’s lives (like death, illness, an amazing job offer etc), and they can suddenly want out. This can be very hard on the people who want to continue with the business and a shock if not contemplated before one partner leaves. Business break ups are often referred to as like going through a divorce by the people affected. 

Sometimes people want out, and they want their money, whether or not there is any owed to them at the time. Many people exiting a business think in terms of the future value of the business, rather than where it is as they exit, and vastly overestimate both what it is worth and the capacity of the other parties, or the business to pay for the exit. 

If shares are to be transferred to existing business partners, then those individuals need to have the money to purchase the shares at the agreed value. In a start up phase, this is likely to be $1 a share and not onerous, but if the business has been running for a while and has some value, the remaining shareholders might not have thousands of dollars required to purchase those shares.

If the shareholder is exiting and the company is making a distribution or buying back the shares (not a simple process) then there needs to be sufficient funds in the company to pay out the exiting party. 

As long as you have clarity around ownership of assets, intellectual property and a realistic value of the business, then its just a process to be undertaken when someone leaves suddenly. If there is nothing in place, then it is a process of negotiation and often heartache before a resolution can be agreed. 

4. A Shareholder Stops Contributing

 In situations where you have people with different skills coming together to build a business, not everyone necessarily has the same energy to keep the business on track. We’ve come across several businesses where a lot of effort was required of one party in the initial set up (for example someone building an App or a Website) and then their contribution become maintenance only. Another person in the business might be responsible for promotion, and there work is constant, requires review and reinvention, and never lets up. 

An example we have is a digital business where the person responsible for service delivery got fed up with the lack of interest of the developer who originally built the website for the business. Their ongoing contribution was minimal and yet their deductions from the business stayed the same and the service deliver person felt like they were working to support two families, without any recognition.  

Differing levels of effort over time could have been written into a shareholder agreement and appropriately dealt with, with the service delivery person gaining a greater interest in the distributions over time. Unfortunately, they had nothing documented. Fortunately, the exiting party, being the person who initially built the site, was prepared to accept an independent valuation of the business and to be paid out over six months rather than an immediate exit. 

In another tech company, the exiting person was someone who thought that they were indispensable to the business, but kept upsetting customers to the extent they left. Again, and independent valuation was agreed and they accepted payment over time, but the process of getting to that point took 4 months and was disruptive to the business.  

5. A Founding Partner No Longer Gets On with Anyone Else In The Business

This was a strange scenario and there was no shareholder agreement. One of the founders had moved into the position of CEO of the business but was no longer on speaking terms with anyone in the business, whether other founders or staff. There were six founders, four of whom no longer had any involvement in the day-to-day operations of the business, but all were looking for a financial exit. 

The company did have prospects, but a sale was not going to be possible whilst the CEO still had voting power to stop it.  There was not enough cash in the business to buy out the CEO without adversely affecting cashflow. 

Through a succession of negotiations including an independent business advisor, we were able to get the CEO’s agreement to retire and stop being involved in the day-to-day operations, as well as converting his shares to a preference share which would be paid first in the event of any declaration of dividends or sale. The preference share had no voting rights. Tax consequences for the business and the individual were also examined before the transaction went through. 

Business operations were a lot smoother without the former CEO’s involvement and a sale was achieved within 12 months, with all founders getting paid. 

It is always easier to think through future scenarios and what is fair when everyone is excited about the business and getting started, and still friends. It is significantly harder, and more costly, to attempt to resolve an acrimonious split a couple of years down the track. 

We provide clients with questionnaires to help identify potential needs in the business, and how people might exit to get you thinking about what might become important when you get started, whether setting up a joint venture or a shareholder or unitholder situation. There a lots of options available.

How can Onyx Legal help you?

If you are or plan to go into business with someone else and you’d like to secure the future of your business, make an appointment with us to talk through your options. 

Best Business Structure for Online Business

Best Business Structure for Online Business

Best Business Structure for Online Business

Starting your online business

Starting your online business can be very exciting. One of the many things to think about is your business structure. It’s a great idea to think about these points to help you decide which structure best suits your needs.

  • why you are setting up your business
  • where the money is coming from
  • your long term goals for the business
  • the advantages and disadvantages of different business structures

Common business structures in Australia

It doesn’t matter where you are in the country now, the rules around your business structure will be very consistent across all the states and territories of Australia. The four most common business structures used by small businesses in Australia are:

Sole trader: You operate as the sole person legally responsible for all aspects of the business. As a sole trader you can still employ other people to help you run your business.

Company: A company is not you, it is a separate legal entity owned by its shareholders.

Partnership: Partnerships are formed by agreement rather than registration and are an association of people or entities running a business together. It is different to registering as a company.

Trust: A trust is usually formed by a Deed, but can be ‘bare’ or not documented. There are different laws that apply depending on where you are. The trust holds property or income for the benefit of others and is managed by a trustee.

**IMPORTANT NOTE: A registered business name, or even an unregistered trading name, is not a business structure. It is just a name. That business name might be used by you as a sole trader, your company, a trust you have set up, or a partnership. It is not a legal entity and provides no protection or separation between the person or entity that registers the business name, and the liabilities of the business.

Different Considerations for Business Structures

Things to think about before choosing a business structure for your online business include:

  • Are you making any money yet?
  • Cost to set up and maintain.
  • Do you have personal assets you’d like to protect and keep separate from business liabilities?
  • Are you looking for income sharing opportunities?
  • Do you want to attract outside investors into your business?
  • Would you like to be able to sell all or part of the business in the future?
  • Tax and other duties.
  • Are there future potential tax savings that could affect your choice?
  • The reporting and compliance obligations of the business structure you choose.

Different people have different priorities, so there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to choosing your business structure. For example, if you are not making any money, your risk is likely to be low and it will be easier to operate as a sole trader. Once you are making more money than you can afford to lose, you might consider setting up a trust or a company to operate your business.


Is it better to get my accountant or my lawyer to help me set up my business structure?

In every profession there are people with different levels of skills and experience, so it really depends upon the qualifications and experience of your advisers. Some accountants are great in their area, and some lawyers are too. Know what your goals are and ask your adviser how they can best help you to achieve your goals.

Don’t be afraid to ask if a proposed structure can be simpler! I’ve seen business structures that might have made sense at the time, but become burdensome later on and are impossible to unravel without huge cost.

Can I register a business name if I am a sole trader?

Yes! As a sole trader you can chose to operate under your own name with an ABN, like “Jeanette Jifkins, Solicitor” or you can chose to operate using a business name, like “Onyx Online Law”. You can register the business name against your sole trader ABN and then use that name in your small business. If you do use a business name, you need to register it.

Why should I register a business name for my online business?

It is an offence to operate a business under a trading name (other than your own name) if it is not registered. You can be fined up to around $5,400. You will need an ABN (Australian Business Number) before you can register a business name. Who ever has registered the ABN will be the person or entity behind the business name.

Business name registration is now managed by ASIC. You will need to set up an ASIC Connect account and login before you will be able to find a link to register a business name.

Is my domain name the same as my business name?

Your domain name might be your business name, and it might not. Probably the easiest way to work this out is to think about what name will be on the invoices you business issues. If the name on your invoices is the same as the domain name, then it will also be your business name. You will still need to register your business name, or establish a company with that name, even it is the same as your domain name.

If I have registered a domain name, do I have to register a business name?

Yes. Domain name registration has nothing to do with business name registration. You register a domain name with a domain registrar. You register a business name with ASIC.

Do I have to register my business name if it is the same as my company name?

No. Once you register a company name, no one will be able to register the same business name and you don’t need to register the same name as a business name. They might still be able to register a similar name by adding something like (Australia) to the name.

How do I find out if I can register my business name?

If you are worried about similar business or company names that are already registered, try reserving a company name through ASIC (it costs about $44). When you reserve the name it will be checked and you will be told whether or not you can have it, or if you need to pick another name.

What does ATF mean?

ATF means ‘as trustee for’ and is used when you name the trustee of a trust. The trustee is the legal ‘face’ of the trust. You can have a person or a company as trustee. In legal contracts and on financial documents you will need to use the full legal name of the trust. For example – Small Business Pty Ltd aff Online Business Ventures Trust.

You might also have registered a business name, in which case the full legal title of your online business might be – Small Business Pty Ltd aff Online Business Ventures Trust trading as Software Kings.

Do I have to write ‘trading as’ or ‘t/as’ on my website?

‘t/as’ means ‘trading as’. You do not have to put the full legal name of your business on your website. Provided you have a registered business name and an ABN, that is all you need to use. So from the example above, instead of writing Small Business Pty Ltd aff Online Business Ventures Trust trading as Software Kings ABN 00 123 456 789 you can simply put Software Kings ABN 00 123 456 789 on your website.

It is a lot simpler to simply use your trading name and ABN than your full legal name and avoids the problem of messing it up. People who don’t understand their business structure will sometimes mix up what entity is ‘trading as’ and which one is a trustee.

Can I register more than one business name to my company?

Yes you can. If you want to operate a variety of sub-divisions or small business units within your company, you simply register a business name for each unit using your company ABN. You can then trade with the different trading names, but each trading name will have the same ABN.

Can a trustee company run a business?

When you establish a company for the purpose of being a corporate trustee, that should be the company’s sole purpose. If you also want to trade through a company, you should establish a separate company to do that.

As a corporate trustee, a company is responsible for managing the business or assets of the trust for the benefit of the beneficiaries of that trust. The trustee does not own the trust property, and the trustee can be changed.

How can Onyx Legal help you?

if you would like one of our team to help you make sense of your current business structure, or set up a business structure to suit your needs.