• Agenda items


    Australian Business Register Advisory Board agendas, minutes and related papers are not binding on the Australian Business Register, Tax Office or any of the other bodies referred to in these papers. While every effort is made to accurately record views expressed, the wording necessarily represents a summary of statements of general position only, and care should be taken in interpreting those statements. These papers reflect the position at the date of release (unless otherwise noted) and readers should note that the position on any issue may subsequently change.

    1. Introduction: Welcome

    Registrar, Chris Jordan AO opened the meeting by welcoming members and noting that all members were in attendance.

    The Registrar acknowledged the continued prominence by Government to red tape reduction and the importance of the Australian Business Register (ABR) program as a valuable enabler and resource for government.

    With increasing use of the ABR by government and the community the integrity of the information on the Register is vital.

    The Registrar also commented on recent press which echoed a perception by contractors that the entitlement rules were overly restrictive. The Registrar reinforced the importance of talking about the facts more to get the right messages to the community.

    The Registrar asked Deputy Registrar, Mark Jackson to manage the meeting on his behalf.

    2. Confirm minutes/previous action items

    Members reviewed the minutes of the ABR Advisory Board meeting held on 29 May 2014 and endorsed the minutes as previously provided.

    The Deputy Registrar provided the meeting with a brief update on the action items from the last meeting. All items were marked as complete.

    ABRAB/0514-01 – Complete

    The Deputy Registrar advised that advice from ABR Advisory Board members on the ABR Vision and Strategic Direction document had been taken on board and will be considered when the document is reviewed in the New Year.

    ABRAB/0514-02 – Complete

    An update on the progress of work to create a single business register will be discussed as part of agenda item 3 – The future of business registration.

    ABRAB/1013-03 – Complete

    An update on the progress of the convergence of authentication and authorisation for business and individuals will be addressed as part of agenda item 10 – AUSkey update and direction

    ABRAB/1013-04 – Complete

    The action item will be addressed at agenda item 10 – AUSkey Update and Direction.

    3. The Future of Business Registration

    The Deputy Registrar introduced Principal Advisor at the Treasury, Jenny Allen to members. Ms Allen is coordinating the work being led by Treasury to finalise the review of business registration “Deep Dive”.

    Ms Allen provided the meeting with a high level overview of the areas that the review focussed on. The Treasury, ASIC, Department of Industry and the ABR are all working together to finalise the review and look at next steps.

    The outcomes of the review will feed into a Cabinet Submission that will hopefully be considered later this year.

    The Deputy Registrar thanked Ms Allen for attending to present the update to the meeting.

    4. ABR Update

    Assistant Registrar (AR) Robert Drummond provided the meeting with an update on the operations of the ABR this financial year.

    Some of the highlights for the year include:

    • The new online registration process which was introduced in December 2013. The new process now captures more complete information including the geocoded address, branching information and associate details for new applicants.
    • Some 704,000 new ABNs were registered during the year. This represents an increase of 11% from 2012/13.
    • More than 540,000 ABNs were cancelled and the accuracy of information for 843,000 ABN holders was reviewed.

    The Assistant Registrar also mentioned the survey of partner agencies that was done to determine if the government agencies using ABR information are complying with the terms and conditions.

    A statistical sample of agencies were surveyed and all were seen to be compliant.

    There was considerable discussion among members about the original intent of the ABR and the rationale for making some fields publically available but not others.

    Action item:



    A paper be developed that sets out the history behind the decision to only have certain fields in the ABR publically available. The paper should also identify what regulation changes might be required as well as other issues that will need to be addressed in order to make the change.

    Due date:



    Assistant Registrar, Operations

    ABR Survey

    AR Drummond took the meeting through the high level results of ABR Survey 19. This year staff from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) were engaged to develop a survey methodology that would provide results that will include a valid sample of the non-respondents and extrapolate across the full results.

    The Deputy Registrar acknowledged the help of the ABS and thanked Mr Ewing for helping design a methodology which can now be used as a benchmark for future surveys and allow accurate comparisons.

    Some of the key findings include:

    • Just over 2 million ABNs are not in use and should be cancelled – this equates to 28% of the Register
    • 51% of respondents who have undated their detail said they found the process easy
    • 48% of respondents had used the ABN Lookup site to view their own entities details
    • While 56% said they had used ABN Lookup to search for other entities.

    AR Drummond also advised that there is a significant program of work to address the integrity issues identified through Survey 19. Further details will be presented at agenda item 5 – Integrity of the ABR.

    5. Improving the integrity of the Register

    AR Drummond provided the meeting with an update on the work underway to improve the integrity of the information held on the ABR.

    The Assistant Registrar advised that in the 2014-15 financial year there is work underway to:

    • Remove around 1 million ABNs from the register that are deemed to be redundant
    • Improve the business registration process which will, in turn, improve the accuracy of the information captured at the point of registration, and
    • Improve the accuracy of business details on the ABR.

    AR Drummond mentioned that third party data is also being considered for ABR records where there is no phone or address details listed on the Register.

    Ms Weston suggested that a message could also be put on the business.gov.au website as well as some other low cost options to remind ABN holders to update their details every time there is a change.

    Action item:



    ABR Advisory Board members to provide any advice on low cost avenues for promoting the need for business to update their ABR information.

    Due date:



    ABR Advisory Board members

    The Deputy Registrar reminded members of the importance to the community for the information on the ABR to be correct as the data is used more and more, particularly for emergency response and government infrastructure planning.

    6. Report of the Registrar

    The Deputy Registrar thanked members for the comments and feedback received on the draft Report of the Australian Business Registrar 2013-14.

    This year’s report is a shorter document which highlights the main issues.

    The report will be released in the coming weeks and members will receive a copy as soon as it is available.

    7. Employee range update

    Senior Director, Mano Georgopoulos joined the meeting to present a brief update on the work to include an employee range indicator on the ABR.

    Mr Georgopoulos advised that at the October 2013 ABR Advisory Board meeting the Board agreed that including employee range information to the Register would be a valuable addition.

    While it was technically and legally possible to include the information on the Register the work was not approved to progress at the time.

    It has since been established that by manual manipulation of data, the employee range information can be extracted and provided to ABR Partner Agencies in the normal way. This development has also lead to an opportunity to include two other fields in the data provided to agencies – business turnover ranges and a rental income only indicator.

    There was strong support from the members for the following indicators being included in the information provided to ABR Partner agencies:

    • Employee range
    • Business turnover, and
    • Rental income only

    Ms Geddes also thanked ABR staff for the assistance provided with the NSW Small Business Commissioner’s 30 Days to Pay initiative. Ms Geddes commented that it was “a problem they didn’t know how to solve until they spoke with ABR staff.”

    The Deputy Registrar thanked Mr Georgopoulos for attending and providing the update to members.

    8. ABN use in GST checking

    Assistant Registrar, John McAlister joined the meeting to present the item on a new function which has been built into accounting software packages by one of Australia’s leading software developers.

    The new function automatically checks and validates the ABN and GST status of a supplier/service provider when a business is claiming input tax credits. The function will also recheck the status of an ABN each time the ‘cart’ is opened. There is no need for the user to check each time.

    The new function will save time for small business as well as supporting tax compliance through improving the accuracy of GST claims.

    ABR staff are working with industry associations and areas within the ATO as well as software developers to explore expanding the function into other accounting software packages.

    AR McAlister also reinforced how vital the integrity of the information held on the ABR is to this work as well as how the function may also provide a means for self-cleansing of the data.

    ABR staff are working with the Department of Industry on the ongoing availability of the ABN Lookup service. Work is also underway to update the disclaimer on the ABN Lookup website to provide users with confidence on the reliability of the information accessed through the site.

    The changes to the disclaimer were also discussed further at agenda item 9.

    The Deputy Registrar thanked AR McAlister for sharing details of the work underway in this area with the Board.

    9. Board of Taxation review and recommendations

    Assistant Registrar Drummond presented the item providing members with a brief update on the Board of Taxation Review of Tax Impediments Facing Small Business.

    While the review conducted in May 2014 focused on short and medium term priorities for the taxation system, there were also two recommendations relating to the Registrar expected out of the review.

    The first recommendation sought a revision of “Miscellaneous Taxation Ruling MT 2006/01 and other guidance material to include activities which will evidence that an applicant is intending to carry on an enterprise and is therefore eligible for an ABN.”

    AR Drummond advised that changes to the application process due to be released in December/January as part of the Reducing Business Costs (RBC) Federal Budget initiative will address this recommendation.

    The Deputy Registrar took members through the new entitlement questions which will, once available, mean that around 80% of ABN applications will be finalised online (up from 59% currently).

    The Registrar noted that the ATO was undertaking a review of correspondence and asked that ABR staff work with the review team to consider the wording of the new entitlement questions.

    Action item:



    RBC staff to work with the ATO team conducting a review of correspondence to ensure that the wording of the ABR entitlement questions are plain English and easy to understand.

    Due date:



    Assistant Registrar McAlister

    The second recommendation suggested that a ‘hotline’ be established so that where an application hasn’t issued where the applicant requires their ABN urgently they are able to contact the ATO for assistance.

    AR Drummond advised that in September 2014 a new number for ABR related application and cancellation enquiries was established. The number (139 ABN) is currently receiving 3,300 calls per week.

    While not a formal recommendation, the Board of Taxation also asked that the disclaimer on the ABN Lookup site be reviewed to provide more certainty for people using the service that they can rely on the accuracy of the information at the time it is accessed.

    This issue is being worked through to ensure the Registrar is able to provide protection from liability in certain circumstances and once finalised the disclaimer will be updated.

    Deputy Secretary Weston advised that she would arrange for changes to be made to the ABR Lookup site as soon as a decision was made by the Registrar.

    10. AUSkey update and direction

    The Deputy Registrar provided the meeting with a brief update on the AUSkey authentication system.

    The meeting noted that the original design for AUSkey was for it to be used on a desk top computer. With changing technology including mobile platforms, different operating systems and the use of the cloud there is a need for how the AUSkey is able to be used to be reviewed.

    The meeting discussed the work underway through in the Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet and through forum such as the Authentication Governance Committee (AGC) and whether it would be appropriate for the use of pin/password to be revisited.

    The Registrar stressed how vital portability of the AUSkey was.

    Action item:



    The work undertaken to introduce a pin and password or two factor as a means of authentication, be revisited.

    ABR Advisory Board members to be provided with an update on the feasibility of this work out of session.

    Due date:



    Assistant Registrar Joyce

    11. Other business

    The Registrar thanked members for attending the meeting.

    The next Advisory Board Meeting is scheduled for May 2015. The preferred dates are:

    • Thursday 14 May 2015
    • Wednesday 20 May 2015
    • Thursday 21 May 2015

    Details: 1pm to 4pm

    Venue: McKay Boardroom, Level 10, 26 Narellan Street, Canberra, ACT

    There being no further business the meeting closed at 3:30pm

      Last modified: 28 Jul 2016QC 48881