20 July 2018
Media Release - #2018088, 2018

Government consults on reforms to Australian Business Number system

The Turnbull Government is taking action to strengthen and modernise the Australian Business Number (ABN) system.

The Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, the Hon Kelly O’Dwyer MP, has today released a consultation paper seeking views on designing a modern ABN system — one that provides improved confidence in the identity and legitimacy of Australian businesses, without adding unnecessary complexity or compliance costs.

“The ABN system is the backbone of business registration with around 7.7 million ABN registrations, and around 860,000 new ABNs issued in 2017-18. The ABN is increasingly acting as a business enabler, underpinning laws targeted at business, and signalling a business’s credentials. It is therefore timely to consider whether the ABN system remains fit to support the expanded range of purposes an ABN serves today,” Minister O'Dwyer said. 

The Government is acting on the Black Economy Taskforce findings that there is a significant disconnect between perceptions of what an ABN allows and how it actually operates, creating opportunities for fraud.

“The Taskforce highlighted that the ABN system is being used by some participants in the black economy to create a false sense of legitimacy to their business. This places businesses not prepared to do the right thing on the same footing as honest businesses. It increases the risk of people being misled and creates opportunities for tax avoidance. We will balance these priorities against the need to keep the system simple in its operation and free of undue regulatory processes. ”

The Turnbull Government is considering changes to the ABN system alongside a suite of other reforms that are part of the Digital Transformation Agenda. These reforms will improve business identity and verification through modernising business registers, implementing a digital identity framework and introducing director identification numbers.

The Government welcomes views on designing a modern ABN system. The consultation paper is available on the Treasury website and submissions close on 31 August 2018.

The Black Economy Taskforce Final Report and the Government's response are available on the Treasury website.