Does your organisation need an ABN?

How will an ABN help your organisation?

The Australian business number (ABN) is a single identifier used to deal with the ATO and other government departments and agencies.

To access various concessions and comply with your organisation's tax obligations, your organisation may need to register for an ABN.

A not-for-profit (NFP) organisation can use its ABN to:

  • register for GST and claim GST credits
  • register for pay as you go (PAYG) withholding
  • deal with investment bodies
  • apply for registration as a charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC)
  • apply to us for endorsement as a deductible gift recipient or tax concession charity
  • get an AUSkey to transact online with government agencies
  • register a business name with the Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC)
  • interact with other government departments, agencies and authorities
  • interact with us on other taxes, such as fringe benefits tax (FBT).

Your organisation's ABN registration details become part of the Australian Business Register (ABR). The publicly available information on this register allows people to find out whether the entities they are dealing with:

  • have an ABN
  • are registered for GST
  • are endorsed charities and/or are endorsed as deductible gift recipients.

Who is entitled to an ABN?

To be entitled to an ABN, your organisation must be one or more of the following:

  • a company registered under the Corporations Act 2001
  • an entity carrying on an enterprise in Australia
  • an entity that, in the course or furtherance of carrying on an enterprise, makes supplies that are connected with Australia
  • a government entity
  • a non-profit sub-entity – for GST purposes
  • a superannuation fund.

Entities can include charities, NFP clubs, societies and associations.

An enterprise includes an activity or series of activities performed by either:

  • a charity
  • a gift deductible entity.

Does your organisation need an ABN for endorsement?

Your organisation must have an ABN if it is seeking endorsement as one or both of the following:

  • a tax concession charity
  • a deductible gift recipient.

Does your organisation need an ABN for each of its enterprises?

For the purposes of ABN registration, an entity includes a corporation, unincorporated association or a trust.

If your organisation is a single entity, it should register for one ABN, regardless of the number of enterprises that it carries on.

With the exception of a partnership arrangement, if your club or charity is a collection of separate entities carrying on one or more enterprises, each entity in your organisation should register for a separate ABN.

Example – ABN registration for a company operating three branches

Helpful Charity is a company limited by guarantee and operates three branches – a drop-in centre, a sheltered workshop and an opportunity shop. It applies for one ABN that covers all these activities.

However, if one of the above activities is conducted through a separate trust the trustee of the trust applies for an ABN in that capacity. If Helpful Charity was the trustee, Helpful Charity still applies for an ABN for the trust, but in its capacity as trustee of the trust.

End of example

If your organisation is a subsidiary of a governing body, we advise that you discuss ABN registration with your governing body.

Next steps:

If your organisation is considering registering a non-profit sub-entity for GST purposes, see Registering as a non-profit sub-entity.

How do you apply for an ABN

You need to apply for an ABN. When you apply for your ABN you will be asked to identify your organisation’s entity and organisation type. Selecting the correct entity or organisation type is important. if you select the incorrect option on your application, you may need to apply for a new ABN for your organisation.

See also:

ABN registration – selecting your entity and organisation type

Next steps:


  • electronically through the Australian Business RegisterExternal Link
  • on a paper form – ABN registration for companies, partnerships, trusts and other organisations (NAT 2939) – which is available by phoning 13 92 26.

Information available to the public on the ABR

Information about your organisation on the ABR that is available to the public includes:

  • your ABN
  • your ABN status – the date of effect of your ABN registration
  • your legal name
  • your registered business name
  • your trading name
  • your entity type – such as company, sole trader, trust
  • your state – from the address provided as the main business address
  • your postcode – from the address provided as the main business address
  • your Australian Company Number or Australian Registered Body Number – if applicable
  • your GST registration – status and date of effect
  • your registration with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) and date of effect – if applicable
  • your tax concession status and date or dates of effect – if applicable
  • your deductible gift recipient status and date of effect – if applicable
  • the date of an ABN change – if the registrar has changed the entity's ABN
  • the date of ABN cancellation – if the registrar has cancelled the entity's registration in the ABR.

Historical details for many of the above attributes are also publicly available, for example, previous legal or trading names.

Information not available to the public on the ABR

Information about your organisation on the ABR that is not available to the public includes:

  • the name and contact details of authorised contact persons
  • officer bearer information
  • your tax file number
  • your phone numbers
  • all business activity details – such as staffing and ownership details
  • all tax information – such as financial institution account details for ATO refunds and other GST details, including annual turnover
  • details of individuals and organisations associated with your organisation.

While this information will not be available to the public, it is available to government agencies that are entitled by law to receive it.

Next steps:

For a list of the government agencies that regularly receive information from the ABR:

Last modified: 20 Jul 2015QC 33601