You can download a printable version of the year in review 2009-10 report (1.7MB) in portable document format (PDF).
The Australian Business Register (ABR) is an extensive database of identity information provided by businesses when they register for an Australian business number (ABN).
The ABR makes it easier for businesses and all levels of government to interact using a unique identifier the ABN.
To assist businesses in their interactions with Australian government. We do this by:
To streamline government and business interactions and provide an accurate and comprehensive record of businesses to meet the needs of the community and government. We do this by positioning:
To achieve our business intent, we:
In maintaining the register, we:
Our values are:
The ABR helps streamline online dealings between businesses and all levels of government. The ABN acts as the unique identifier enabling these interactions.
Our significant achievements in 2009–10 include:
I am pleased to present the Australian Business Register year in review report, covering the financial year 1 July 2009 to 30 June 2010.
It outlines for our partner agencies and stakeholders what we have done to make it easier for businesses and all levels of government to interact.
It also provides information on the growth of the ABR and on the approaches we have taken to ensure that the information in the register is current and accurate.
Michael D'Ascenzo AORegistrar of the Australian Business Register and Commissioner of Taxation
The year ahead will be a significant year for the ABR as we switch our focus from planning and preparation to deployment of various projects.
We will maintain our focus on the new and emerging needs of our growing number of ABR partners and the community. We will continue to respond to challenges and opportunities, and turn our minds to the next suite of products and services that will deliver value to our partners.
With this in mind, we will focus on the following five key strategies for the year ahead.
Progress major projects and service refinement opportunities with government agencies and other stakeholders to build confidence in the ABR
Refining our services and progressing key projects will help to further establish the ABR as the government’s business register. In support of this priority in 2010–11 we will:
Increase agency understanding and encourage further engagement and use of our services
Enhancing the ABR’s role as a whole of government resource requires further growth in agency use and reliance on the register and its services. To increase uptake of the ABN and ABR services (including AUSkey) by government agencies we will:
Strengthen our governance and reporting processes
Creating understanding and instilling confidence in our custodianship of the register will support adoption of the ABR, ABN and AUSkey. We will continue to refine our governance and reporting processes to ensure the work we do is more transparent, independent of the work of the ATO and takes into account the needs of business and government. This year we will:
Improve the integrity of ABR data
To ensure that the ABR provides a trusted source of business identity information to business and government, we will:
Support and assist achievement of acceptable service standards
We will maintain Australian business number and AUSkey registrations by:
Progress major projects and service refinement opportunities with government agencies and other stakeholders to build confidence in the ABR
In 2009-10, we worked with key stakeholders to deliver and implement AUSkey, the new multi-agency authentication solution providing business with a single key for secure business-to-government online interactions. The absence of a multi-agency security credential has been a significant inhibitor to take-up of online service delivery channels provided by government to business.
AUSkey was developed as a key component of the Standard Business Reporting (SBR) program, which aims to reduce the reporting burden for businesses in Australia. It was deployed on 17 May 2010.
In developing AUSkey, we worked with key stakeholders to ensure the authentication solution strikes the right balance between usability and security, in order to facilitate take-up of government online services.
AUSkey is an important step in our goal to make it easier for businesses to deal with government online. Businesses can now register for the new credential at abr.gov.au/auskeyExternal Link In addition to using AUSkey for dealing with the ABR and the ATO, businesses can use it to report securely online to participating government agencies through Standard Business Reporting (SBR)-enabled financial, accounting or payroll software.
The ABN Business Names Registration project is a collaboration between the ABR, the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research (DIISR), the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) and other agencies. It will allow a new business to register for an ABN and Business Name in a seamless, online transaction through the ABR.
We are also rebuilding the ABR and upgrading its underlying technology platform, allowing us to offer business registration services on behalf of other government agencies in the future.
The first release of the upgraded ABR:
This year we focused on the design of our new systems. We collaborated with tax professionals and businesses of all sizes to ensure that new transactional screens were suitable for users of our services. These new systems will provide businesses and their representatives with a faster and easier online registration experience and allow them to begin using their AUSkey almost immediately.
With local government agencies making up approximately half of all ABR partners, it has become increasingly important to deliver services that support these agencies in their use of ABR. Agencies asked for tools and services that would:
To meet these needs, the ABR developed two key products – the ABR data query tool and a new postcode filter. The ABR data query tool is a database developed for partner agencies. To ensure that the new tool meets their needs, we piloted it with a number of our partners. Based on feedback, we made improvements to the query tool and developed an accompanying user guide. The query tool includes a range of preloaded queries that allow agencies using small ABR data sets to search non public records, run queries to analyse industry coding data and identify registration trends. The ABN Lookup web service is also integrated into the query tool, allowing publicly available ABR information to be updated instantly.
We also offered a new postcode filtering option for ABR data, allowing local councils to limit ABR data extracts to businesses within their region. Some agencies have reported a 95% reduction in the amount of data they receive. Based on a successful pilot, we made the postcode filter available to all agencies. The new filtering option also allows agencies to more easily import data into the ABR query tool.
During 2009–10, we continued rolling out our program of planned communications, including consultative forums and newsletters. These help current partners gain greater benefit from accessing ABR data, as well as educate new partners about the benefits that can be realised from using ABR data and services.
Throughout the year we:
We also refined the partnering framework to ensure it continues to support the engagement and retention of ABR partner agencies and where possible, extends their use of ABR data.
Snapshot of performance
Bulk Data (DVD)
Online ABN Search
Online Subscription to an ABN
ABN Lookup (public data)
1 – Very dissatisfied
2 – Dissatisfied
3 – Satisfied
4 – Very satisfied
Under the memorandum of understanding with our partners, we have an obligation to dispatch data discs within 14 days of a request. This year, we were able to improve our performance in delivering discs and met this standard 91.65% of the time, a significant achievement considering that the number of data discs issued were more than double that of last year.
Percentage of bulk data extracts provided < 14 days
Number of data discs issued
In 2009–10 we continued to refine our governance framework to provide transparency and trust amongst ABR stakeholders with a focus on improvements to our reporting framework. These enhancements will provide our users with greater confidence in our administration and understanding of our strategic direction and priorities.
In 2009-10 we finalised plans for a new whole-of-government division within the ATO that brings together administration of the ABR and Standard Business Reporting (SBR). This plan will take effect from July 2010 and provides a level of focus and direction that better positions us to achieve our intended outcomes for government and community.
ABR Advisory Board
This inter-agency advisory board was established in 2008–09 with the Registrar as the chair to help guide ABR priorities and program of work.
The Advisory Board met in December 2009 and April 2010. The stewardship provided by the Advisory Board has continued to influence our strategic direction, refined the business plan and helped progress the register as a whole-of-government resource.
In 2009–10 the Advisory Board has provided input on:
Governance and Reporting
We have kept our partners, the government and the community informed of our aims and achievements by providing information in the quarterly ABR newsletter, the ABR website, our consultative forums and the 2008-09 Year in Review Report.
Separation of ABR within the ATO Program Framework for 2010–11 will also provide further delineation of the activities of the Registrar. The program framework outlines the programs that we administer to deliver services and benefits to individuals, businesses and the community as a whole.
Adoption of an ABR logo
Portfolio secretary approval of the logo change was granted, with the new logo being progressively rolled out to all ABR products. The new logo will also be added to the ABR website during Release 1 of the ABN Business Name project.
This new logo better reflects the ABR's role in servicing other agencies, government and the community.
As the number of ABR partners grows, and their use of data expands, the impact of any integrity related issues becomes magnified. This is particularly true as agencies become increasingly reliant on ABR data as a means of understanding the business sector within their area of influence. Agencies, in particular local government, use ABR data for decisions on economic development, land planning and advice on business location. To support the government in making informed decisions it is important that the ABR:
Our integrity work in 2009–10 has balanced the need to identify and address current areas of risk, with opportunities to deliver long term improvements in the future. Key examples of this include improvements to address validation services and cross-agency data sharing and update processes. Some of these improvements are directly reliant on the implementation of our new ABR system being delivered in 2010–11.
In 2009–10 we progressed a number of activities to maintain and improve the integrity of the ABR.
Up front validation – Eligibility tests
Our online entitlement tests led to 56,899 individual registrants being refused an ABN as they were unable to satisfy eligibility requirements. The intelligence from the tool was used to support compliance work of other agencies including the ATO by providing input and referrals about risk behaviours in specific industries.
This work has lead to a 15.43% decrease in ABN applications from individuals.
The ABR continued to work to ensure appropriate quality assurance processes were in place. These measures check the accuracy of ABN and AUSkey registrations at the point of registration. They also check the accuracy of ANZSIC coding. QA processes are based on the internationally recognised Integrated Quality Framework.
The ABR has agreements in place that acceptable levels of quality will be achieved and maintained. The quality levels are regularly analysed by the ABR.
Cancellation of ineligible registrations
As more agencies have begun using ABR data to identify business activity within their regions, it has become increasingly important to remove ineligible entities from the register in a timely manner.
The Registrar cancelled 26,205 ABNs where the entity was identified as no longer or never being eligible for an ABN. We are also actioning cancellation referrals from the ATO where entitlement to an ABN no longer, or has never, existed. These cancellation referrals have resulted from targeted audit activity. We have also identified key risk areas for future ABN eligibility campaigns.
The decrease in the number of Registrar cancellations compared to last year was due to insufficient resources being made available to conduct mail-outs to potentially ineligible clients. Additional funding is to be sought this year to allow for greater numbers of Registrar initiated ABN cancellation programs to be run.
Integrity indicators and effectiveness measures
Partner agencies are interested in the effectiveness of our processing system and the integrity of our data holdings. They would like us to establish some key performance indicators. Workshops were conducted with partner agencies in Brisbane and Canberra to determine what core data items should be included in this framework.
We are conducting a phone survey with ABN holders to measure the currency and accuracy of these data items. We are also investigating the potential of using third party data sources to improve the accuracy of ABR data holdings.
The ABR implements a range of data quality programs and processes including:
To assess the effectiveness of the ABN processing and maintenance program, we monitor and manage:
We are currently looking at what information we are able to provide to agencies.
Processing rate for ABN applications
% achieved < 7 days
% achieved < 14 days
% achieved < 28 days
% achieved < 42 days
Our target is to process 93% of ABN registrations within 28 days of receipt.
While the ABR system was unavailable for only 454.33 hours during 2009–10, our ability to process ABN registrations was severely restricted for about 10 consecutive days. Combined with a 'just in time' processing approach, this made it difficult to meet our service standards during that time.
ABN Lookup was unavailable for 28.46 hours during 2009/10 – this equates to 99.68% availability.
The work on hand carried forward to the 2010–11 year was 10,124 compared to 32,716 in 2009–10, a 69.05% decrease from the previous year. This can be attributed to the increased focus on ABR related activities including the improved processes and increased flexibility of the processing workforce to deal with ABR related workloads.
We added or updated 750,622 ANZSIC codes this year.
Any clients newly registering for GST or PAYG Withholding are also required to have their ANZSIC code reviewed and updated if necessary.
Updates to the register
We processed 3,272,757 updates to the ABR including 121,796 ABN cancellations initiated by clients and 26,205 ABN cancellations initiated by the Registrar.
GST and business tax file numbers processed
The Registrar also facilitated registration transactions on behalf of the Commissioner of Taxation, resulting in:
ATO digital certificates and AUSkey
From 17 May 2010, we ceased accepting new registrations for ATO digital certificates and started issuing AUSkey – a new online multi-agency security credential.
The number of active, (downloaded) ATO digital certificates had grown by 5.42% to 430,605 (up to 17 May 2010), compared to the growth rate of 15% in 2008–09. In addition to ATO digital certificates, at the end of June there were 52,731 active (downloaded) AUSkeys.
Access to publicly available data
We provide members of the community with access to publicly available details such as the ABN and GST status of businesses. Updated ABR information is easily accessible via the ABN Lookup and Superfund Lookup online search facilities. The ABR website and ABN Lookup are among the most frequently used government websites in Australia. In 2009–10, on average, there were 9,741,595 searches a month on ABN Lookup to verify details of businesses. This shows the community's continued reliance on the ABR as a trusted source of business identity information and the ABN as the single business identifier.
The active population as at June 2010 was 6,593,352.
The large scale ABN cancellation program run during 2008–09 contributed to the significant decrease in the number of active ABNs recorded in that year.
ABN registration trends over the past three years are different to the number of ABNs processed as the data is based on the 'business start date' rather than the processing or registration date. This provides a true reflection of when an enterprise begins, and is not impacted by processing times which can result in registrations being carried over between financial years.
The following case studies demonstrate how various government agencies have benefited from accessing ABR data.
Filling in data gaps in the Alice
In Alice Springs, distance is no barrier to good planning when you have the right information.
The Department of Regional Development, Primary Industries, Fisheries and Resources recently conducted economic profiling of the town.
Principal analyst, Megha Raut, said ABR data provided a robust sampling framework for a business survey of the area, ensuring a more meaningful picture of the Alice Springs economy.
'It helped us collect a broad range of economic data from a diverse cross-section of businesses and develop a definitive economic profile of Alice Springs,' Megha said.
'It filled in the data gaps – identifying select businesses, specifically in small regions, and allowed us to identify areas of growth, strength and improvement.’
The survey covered four key areas:
By cross-matching ABR business name and address data with administrative data from other government and business directories, the department identified 1,780 active businesses.
The department contacted 600 of these businesses and completed 374 surveys. ABR address data was used to develop detailed maps for the department's field officers.
To develop the maps, officers outlined town planning zones and highlighted areas according to specific industry groups.
Next, they incorporated ABR and Northern Territory Government data to create a layered map providing the exact location of selected businesses.
'This allowed us to identify all active businesses, including home-based businesses, with a street address,' Megha said.
The economic modelling work in Alice Springs has attracted international attention and was published in Global Business and Economics Review.
ABN worth its weight in gold to local council
Access to the ABR has helped the Gold Coast City Council make significant improvements to their procurement processes, including faster payments to businesses and a reduction in community-funded operating costs.
The council is the second largest in Australia with more than 3,300 staff.
Efficient customer and supplier transactions are critical to the smooth running of the council's accounts payable function.
The ABN is captured in business registration forms and the council verifies business details provided on those paper forms via the online ABN Lookup facility.
When an invoice arrives, the ABN displayed is verified against the supplier's details held in the council's master file. If a discrepancy is found, the business is advised to update their information on the ABR and provide council with appropriate evidence.
'The ABN is a reliable business identifier. With the Gold Coast City Council processing more than 162,000 supplier invoices each year, it is essential that we use the best available data. Access to the ABR gives us that.’
The council also uses ABN Lookup to identify and eliminate duplicate records within their database.
Gold Coast City Council periodically checks their supplier database against ABR data. This prevents the need for remedial activity during financial audits and reduces the risk of funds being paid in error and increases the opportunity to identify erroneous data more quickly.
ABR unmasks misuse of Australian business numbers
The ABN entitlement tool and refusal functionality helped in detecting and stopping misuse of Australian business numbers in the business community in 2009–10.
ABR staff detected a large number of new ABN applications containing similar details that originated from a single organisation – a significant enterprise within a specific industry.
Although applicants indicated that they were contractors, evidence pointed to them being employees and therefore not entitled to an ABN.
The ABR collaborated with the ATO on further investigations which included compliance visits by ATO officers.
Investigations uncovered widespread misunderstanding of the employee/contractor relationship throughout the whole industry.
The compliance visit also resulted in other organisations within the same industry changing the status of their 'contractors’ to employees.
While audit activities such as these contribute to the collection of tax revenue, they also ensure employees receive their correct entitlements. This could include:
Cancelling ineligible ABNs improves the integrity of the ABR, making it a trusted source of information for our partner agencies and the business community.
The Registrar of the Australian Business Register is responsible under law for administering the ABR.
This responsibility includes:
The Registrar collaborates with key agencies to ensure the ABR is positioned to support their requirements and achieve its intended outcomes. The Registrar is also the Commissioner of Taxation. These roles bear separate and distinct responsibilities.
As at 30 June 2010, the ABR executive also consisted of a Deputy Registrar and an Assistant Registrar.
The Deputy Registrar:
The Assistant Registrar:
The ABR Advisory Board, an inter-agency advisory board on which a number of government agencies are represented, met in December 2009 and April 2010.
The board influences the strategic direction of the ABR, helps determine the priorities for the ABR program of work, and oversees the direction and delivery of future plans to progress the whole-of-government agenda.
The Registrar of the ABR is also chair of the advisory board. He takes account of input from the advisory board, while continuing to determine priorities, establish and review objectives, and communicate progress.
As at 30 June 2010, the Advisory Board membership consisted of:
The following table of ABR partners lists their jurisdiction and the data they access.
Jurisdiction and agency name
Attorney General's Department
Australian Bureau of Statistics
Australian Communications and Media Authority
Australian Securities and Investments Commission
Australian Taxation Office
Australian Trade Commission (AUSTRADE)
Centrelink (Business Integrity Performance Branch)
Centrelink (Strategy and Capability Division)
Defence Materiel Organisation
Department of Climate Change
Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations
Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts
Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs
Department of Finance and Deregulation
Department of Health and Ageing
Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government
Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research (AUSINDUSTRY)
Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research (ABN Lookup)
Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research (Enterprise Connect)
Office of the Fair Work Ombudsman
State or Territory
Australian Capital Territory
ACT Long Service Leave Authority
ACT Planning and Land Authority
New South Wales
Building and Construction Industry Long Service Payments Corporation
Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water
Department of Services, Technology and Administration (Office of Industrial Relations)
NSW Department of Education and Training
NSW Food Authority
Office of State Revenue
Roads and Traffic Authority
Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority
Sydney Water Corporation
Department of Business and Employment
Department of Justice
NT Build Portable Long Service Leave
Territory Revenue Office
Department of Education and Training
Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (EIDI)
Department of Justice and Attorney-General
Office of Fair Trading
QLeave - Portable Long Service Leave Authority (Building and Construction)
Queensland Building Services Authority
QLeave - Portable Long Service Leave Authority (Contract Cleaning)
Queensland Rural Adjustment Authority (QRAA)
Queensland University of Technology
Construction Industry and Long Service Leave Board
Department of Further Education, Employment, Science and Technology
Department of the Premier and Cabinet - SafeWork SA
Department of Primary Industries and Resources (Fisheries)
Department of Trade and Economic Development
Office for Recreation and Sport
Department of Economic Development, Tourism and the Arts
Department of Justice (Workplace Standards)
Tasmanian Planning Commission
Tasmanian State Revenue Office
Tasmanian Water and Sewerage Corporation (Southern Region)
Country Fire Authority
Department of Human Services
Department of Innovation, Industry and Regional Development
Department of Justice - Infringement Management and Enforcement Services
Department of Planning and Community Development
Department of Primary Industries - Shared Business Systems
Department of Treasury and Finance
Essential Services Commission
Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board
Office of Housing (Department of Human Services)
State Revenue Office
Victorian Workcover Authority
Construction Industry Long Service Leave Payments Board
Corruption and Crime Commission of Western Australia
Department of Treasury and Finance (whole-of-government procurement)
Department of Water
Small Business Development Corporation
Wheatbelt Development Commission
Armidale Dumaresq Council
Ballina Shire Council
Campbelltown City Council
City of Canada Bay
Coffs Harbour City Council
Fairfield City Council
Hawkesbury City Council
The Hills Shire Council
Holroyd City Council
Hornsby Shire Council
Hurstville City Council
Lake Macquarie City Council
Lismore City Council
Liverpool Plains Shire Council
Mosman Municipal Council
North Sydney Council
Parramatta City Council
Queanbeyan City Council
Sutherland Shire Council
Tweed Shire Council
Wagga Wagga City Council
Willoughby City Council
Alice Springs Town Council
Darwin City Council
Banana Shire Council
Brisbane City Council
Cairns Regional Council
Central Highlands Regional Council
Gold Coast City Council
Ipswich City Council
Lockyer Valley Regional Council
Logan City Council
Moreton Bay Regional Council
Scenic Rim Regional Council
Somerset Regional Council
Sunshine Coast Regional Council
City of Charles Sturt
City of Holdfast Bay
City of Marion
City of Onkaparinga
City of Playford
City of Port Adelaide Enfield
City of Salisbury
City of West Torrens
Clarence City Council
Glenorchy City Council
Hobart City Council
Huon Valley Council
Launceston City Council
Meander Valley Council
West Tamar Council
Alpine Shire Council
Banyule City Council
Bass Coast Shire Council
Cardinia Shire Council
City of Boroondara
City of Casey
City of Greater Dandenong
City of Kingston
City of Port Phillip
Darebin City Council
East Gippsland Shire Council
Frankston City Council
Hume City Council
Knox City Council
Macedon Ranges Shire Council
Manningham City Council
Maroondah City Council
Melbourne City Council
Melton Shire Council
Mitchell Shire Council
Monash City Council
Moonee Valley City Council
Moreland City Council
Murrindindi Shire Council
Nillumbik Shire Council
Rural City of Wangaratta
Southern Grampians Shire Council
Towong Shire Council
Warrnambool City Council
Wellington Shire Council
Whitehorse City Council
Whittlesea City Council
Wodonga City Council
Wyndham City Council
Yarra City Council
Yarra Ranges Shire Council
City of Bayswater
City of Belmont
City of Bunbury
City of Fremantle
City of Gosnells
City of Joondalup
City of Mandurah
City of Perth
City of Subiaco
City of Swan
City of Wanneroo
Shire of Esperance
Shire of Mundaring