The Registrar of the Australian Business Register reviews Australian business numbers (ABNs) where there is evidence an entity may no longer be entitled to an ABN or were never entitled to an ABN. Where it is found that the entity is not entitled to the ABN, the ABN will be cancelled.
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The Registrar of the Australian Business Register reviews ABNs where there is evidence an entity may no longer be entitled to an ABN or were never entitled to an ABN. Where it is found that the entity is not entitled to the ABN, the ABN will be cancelled.
We may determine you are not carrying on an enterprise if you:
If you receive a letter saying your ABN has been cancelled, it will include the reason.
If your ABN has been cancelled and you did not receive a letter, it could mean your contact details were not up-to-date.
If your circumstances have not changed since your ABN was cancelled, it is likely that you don’t need an ABN.
If your ABN is cancelled or your ABN application is refused, you will receive written notification of the effective date and the reason for the decision.
You can use this letter as a record of the Registrar’s decision. And you can object to this decision within 60 days.
If your ABN has been cancelled and you did not receive a letter, it could mean your contact details were not up-to-date. You can phone the ATO to obtain a copy of your ABN cancellation letter.
If your circumstances have not changed since your ABN was cancelled, it is likely that you are not entitled to an ABN and you do not need an ABN.
Most ABN applications are processed in real time. However, if you apply soon after your ABN is cancelled, the Registrar may manually intervene to discuss how your circumstances have changed in order to determine your entitlement. You may need to provide documentary evidence to support your ABN application.
If your ABN has been cancelled and you’re looking to return to business, ensure you’re not applying too early and that you can demonstrate you’ve taken real steps to start your business.
Starting your business doesn’t not always mean you’ve had your grand opening. Commencement activities could include:
If your ABN was recently cancelled due to the fact that you are not carrying on a business and you decide to reapply for an ABN under a different business structure such as a company, trust or partnership, you need to ensure the arrangement is not one of sham contracting.
Some employers require their workers to obtain ABNs to reduce their labour costs. In these circumstances the worker typically is underpaid and does not receive all their entitlements. Those employers engaging in sham contracting are exposing themselves to possible penalties from the ATO, State and Territory Revenue Offices and the Fair Work Ombudsman.
If your ABN was cancelled and you have not met income tax lodgement obligations you are still required to lodge all outstanding returns.
If you were/are registered with other tax roles (for example, PAYG, GST, PAYG withholding) you may have a reporting obligation to lodge business activity statements (BAS). Remember, the cancelling of your ABN does not mean you avoid the requirement to lodge your BAS during the period your ABN was active.
If your ABN is cancelled you are still required to lodge any outstanding BASs and remit any GST collected.
If your ABN is cancelled and you continue to perform your duties and receive cash from payers, your obligation to report income received in the relevant income tax return is the same as when your ABN was active.
Receiving cash for work performed is sometimes a way employers avoid meeting their obligations to you as an employee; such as receiving superannuation benefits, leave entitlements and the withholding of income tax.
If your ABN is cancelled and your employer offers a cash arrangement and you suspect the business is incorrectly treating an employee as a contractor it is important you let us know. You can report a business through the Tax Evasion Reporting CentreExternal Link.
It is an offence under the A New Tax System (Australian Business Number) Act 1999 (ABN Act) to quote an ABN that is not your own. The penalty for doing so can be two years imprisonment.
When an ABN is cancelled you cease to have an ABN and it cannot be used in quotes for work, or on invoices for the provision of services and/or making purchases, or receiving payment for work undertaken.
Purporting to have an active ABN when you do not is an offence under section 23 of the A New Tax System (Australian Business Number) Act 1999 (ABN Act). The penalty for doing so can be two years imprisonment.
You can check the status of your ABN or anyone else's ABN using ABN Lookup.
Your employer cannot continue to pay you under a cancelled ABN.
If you registered for an ABN because your employer told you to and the ABN was subsequently cancelled, you should consider the following:
There are many misconceptions about employee and contractor working arrangements.
Many job advertisements include the requirement of an ABN as a condition of employment. Just because the employer requires an ABN does not mean you are entitled to an ABN for the work you may do for that employer.
The details of a working arrangement are often not disclosed in the advertisement or job description so you should not apply for an ABN until you understand the relationship you may have with the employer.
Any ABN entitlement decision the Registrar makes applies to the individual circumstances of the ABN holder only. If you perform similar, or the same duties as a work colleague and your ABN is cancelled, it is likely that your colleague is also not entitled to an ABN. You are encouraged to discuss entitlement to an ABN in your workplace so that all workers are correctly engaged.
You can report a business that is incorrectly treating an employee as a contractor through the Tax Evasion Reporting CentreExternal Link.
If your ABN is cancelled and you intend to start your business sometime in the future you are welcome to apply again when your circumstances change. You will receive the same ABN back and the application process only takes 5-10 minutes.
An ABN is only required where an enterprise exists or you are taking real steps to start your business.
Taking steps to start your business requires more than an intention to carry on a business. Activities that evidence you are taking steps to start your business include:
You do not need to have undertaken all of these commencement activities. It would be expected, however, that you would have undertaken several of them in order to demonstrate your commitment to starting a business.
When your ABN is cancelled, the Registrar has made a decision that you were not carrying on a business and this may have impacts on how you previously reported income in income tax returns during the period your ABN was active.
For example, if you reported business income, and claimed income tax expenses as deductions for a period when you were in fact an employee, you may be required to report your income as salary and wages and reconsider your entitlement to claim those deductions. This may mean an amendment is required to a lodged return.
You are encouraged to seek income tax advice from a tax professional.
Certain suppliers are not required to quote an ABN to a payer. In these cases, the suppliers can use the form Statement by a supplierExternal Link to justify the payer not withholding from the payment to the supplier.
The reason your ABN was cancelled may determine whether the Statement by a supplier form is right for you. For example, if your ABN was cancelled because you are being engaged as an employee, then you cannot use a Statement by a supplier form with respect to the supplies you make as an employee in place of an ABN to receive payment.
There are specific circumstances that constitute who can and can’t complete a Statement by a supplier form.