Checklist for Starting a Small Business in Australia

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As lawyers regularly advising small business here are a few practical tips for new businesses in Australia.

For participation in any national economy different kinds of legal structures are available and each have advantages and disadvantages. The considerations are different for participation in the International economy.


Take advice on the best structure for you – sole trader, partnership, trust, company

The advantages and disadvantages of one form of structure over another are determined by factors such as:

  • The size and nature of the anticipated operation (tax and duty considerations mitigate against “changing horses midstream”)
  • Transfer duty (stamp duty), CGT and GST could be involved on “changing horses”
  • The stage of life and personal aspirations of the participants
  • Asset protection of the promoters/participants
  • Tax efficiency
  • Succession planning considerations – some structures are easier to “exit” or “cash out” than others
  • The cost of initial legal and accounting structural advice is small compared with “changing horses” later

Tip – Get advice on this before you begin as changing later will usually cost you more in legal fees, accounting fees, stamp duty and capital gains tax.

Nina Flewell-Smith

Register your “Business Name”

  • State Legislative requirement – i.e. state-based is necessary except for trading in own name
  • All entities required to register
  • Doesn’t “protect” a trading name
  • Regulatory rather than protective, based on public need to know who is behind a name
  • Important item of intellectual property – see later


  • Check online for free to see if the name you want is available
  • If you register a company you can trade in the company name without registering a business name as well.

Nina Flewell-Smith

Register your Domain Name

Do this even if you are not planning to have a web site.

Tip – Check on the availability of the domain name you want before you register your business or company name.

A specialist Domain Name provider

Protect your name | Trade Mark


  • Registration of your name as a “Business Name” or “Company Name” may provide some administrative protection in that the various registration offices normally have a practice of not registering identical names.
  • The only sure way or preserving monopolistic rights in a name or a brand is by registering a Trade Mark.

Kathleen Stonehouse


Barry Klopper

TFN | ABN | ACN | GST … and more

  • Most Australian adult individuals already have TFN to participate in the PAYG Withholding Tax system
  • Other entities need to obtain TFN (Tax File Number) when commencing trading
  • Despite certain exemptions most business entities will require an ABN (Australian Business Number)
  • Entity holding an ABN will appear on the Australian Business Register (ABR)
  • ABN needed to register for GST (Goods and Services Tax)
  • GST registration required to claim input tax credits


  • You can do this online.
  • All trading entities appear on ABR (conducted by the ATO)
  • Australian Private Companies have an ACN and also appear on the ACR (conducted by ASIC)
  • A company has an ACN, an ABN and a TFN
  • An individual/sole trader would only have an ABN and a TFN
  • Eventually Australian Business Numbers will replace Australian Company Numbers

Your accountant

Open a bank account

Tip – Take the original of the Business Name Registration, Company documents or Trust Deed.

Your bank

Terms & Conditions – customers – document and communicate


  • Consider what the terms and conditions of your larger competitors are
  • What is your return, refund and exchange polices?
  • What is the process if your customer thinks they have received a defective product?

James Tan

Leasing Premises


Signing a “Letter of Intent” or “Agreement to Lease” is often, right then, a binding lease and you have lost any real bargaining power to negotiate the terms of the lease. Speak to us before signing such a document so that we can give you some words to make any agreement subject to a formal Lease Agreement on terms to your satisfaction being entered into.

Nina Flewell-Smith

Work Cover

  • It is an offence and also greatly unwise not to have compulsory work cover insurance if employing
  • Restrictions on cover for directors

More information: Qld

Work Cover

Other Insurance

  • Public liability insurance almost always required
  • Professional indemnity insurance may be required if others rely on your advice
  • Check with your broker on other insurances like “all risks” for building, plant and equipment, business interruption
  • Income protection
  • Life / Key Person
  • Weigh up requirements as insurance is also a product

Insurer / Insurance Broker

Intellectual Property

As well as your trading and domain name you may need to consider development and protection of other IP such as:

  • Copyright
  • Designs
  • Patents
  • Trade Marks (Product names or brands)
  • Confidential information
  • Software
  • Database

Eduardo Cruz


Kathleen Stonehouse


  • Your database is a valuable resource
  • Get your business software and data management policy working well from the start
  • Like changing business structures mentioned earlier, “changing horses” on software and systems is wasteful and debilitating

IT Consultants

Need help for your start-up small business? Contact us

Call our client engagement team or call us on (07) 3252 0011 to book an appointment with one of our Commercial Lawyers today.