How to actually start a small business in Australia
You’ve had your million-dollar idea. You’ve studied the landscape, tested feasibility, sussed out suppliers, locked in your finances, and written down a business plan. It’s looking more like a two-hundred-thousand-dollar idea (at least in the first year) – but now what?
Incorporating is the next logical step for any self-starter. With it, comes tax benefits, the ability to employ people, and legal protection for you and your business.
With more than 60% of Aussie SMBs closing shop within their first 3 years (Huffington Post), it pays to know how to best set yourself up for success. The specifics change from state to state in Australia, but the below will give you a rough guide to go by.
Choose your business structure
Your course of action is largely determined by the business structure and type you go with – Sole Trader, Partnership, Company or Trust.
Each has its own advantages and disadvantages to research, but the main decision is the degree to which your business has a separate legal existence to you.
For sole traders, you are your business. For a partnership, people who start a business together can legally share profits, risk and losses between them, as set out in an agreement. A company is an entirely separate legal entity run by a director, and a trust gives control of a business to another party (the trustee), to run your business to benefit its members (beneficiaries).
Get your numbers
To conduct business in Australia, you’ll need an Australian Business Number (ABN). Applying for an ABN is a free, simple and straightforward process, done through the Australian Business Register.
Here, partnerships, companies and trusts can also register for their Tax File Number (TFN) (sole traders don’t need a separate TFN – their personal one will do) and the Goods and Services Tax (GST) (only if you expect a GST turnover of $75,000 or more).
Claim your name
The next step is to give your number a name. Creating a business name is essentially a task in talking to your customers, so check no one else has the name you want using the ABN Lookup or ASIC Online Services, and think it through (you may consider using a naming or identity agency).
Before you lock it in, check that a com.au website domain and social media handles are available for your desired business name.
Register for licences and taxes
As a newly formed enterprise, there’s a checklist of things you may or may not need to register for. These include PAYG Withholding, Fuel Tax credits, an Australian Business Account, Standard Business Reporting, as well as any licences or permits you may require to trade. These can be checked at the ABLIS website.
Get across your taxation obligations too – know the register you need to apply for, your record keeping requirements, and any additional taxes you may need to pay (e.g. GST, Capital Gains Tax, Fringe Benefits Tax, Super contributions for employees etc.).
Finding a home
At this point you may need to decide whether yours will be a home-based business, an online business, or if you want to lease a business premises. Whichever option you go with, ensure it is properly insured and registered.
Employing your first team member
All aboard! When employing for the first time, the best resource for you is the Fair Work Ombudsman. Know what a fair rate is, and whether you need to collect your employee’s details (such as TFN and super) for any payroll taxes or super contributions.
Go for it
With that, you’re pretty much set! If you’re looking for more depth and detail on how to achieve each of these milestones, The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science has an extensive literature to help you get your business going.