The proposed business names registration system is likely to deliver increased efficiency and lower costs for businesses. Once implemented, the system will allow businesses to register business names on a national system rather than the current requirements to register in each relevant State or Territory.Kate Hocking
In response to a proposal by the Council of Australian Governments, the States and Territories agreed to refer their business names registration powers to the Commonwealth. As part of implementing the referral, exposure drafts of the legislation were released on 14 March 2011 for 10 days of public comment.
Under the new system, names will be registered as a 'national business name'.
Under the current system for registering business names, businesses owners who do not trade under their own name or under a company name must register a business name in each State or Territory in which that business operates. There is a different regulatory authority in each State or Territory. Also application procedures and fees can vary from State to State/Territory and businesses need to ensure they comply with all relevant requirements.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) will manage and administer the new national system.
Yes, the States and Territories will continue to register limited partnerships and limited associations, in addition to occupational licenses for professions which include travel agents, estate agents and motor car traders. These licences are currently available in Victoria for example, through Business Licensing Victoria.
The new system will commence in the first half of 2012 — as long as the Commonwealth, States and Territories pass the necessary legislation by then.
Before the national system starts, the States and Territories will finalise applications that they are currently processing and any outstanding business name reviews and appeals.
Then business names currently registered in the States and Territories will be transferred to the new national system.
If there are businesses with identical registered business names in different States and Territories, then ASIC may write to each of them and ask that they add a distinguishing word or expression to their name on the Business Names Register — for example, a geographical identifier such as, 'VIC', 'WA', 'Cooma', or 'FNQ'.
This distinguishing word or expression will not form part of the business name but will help people to distinguish the business names.
Once the new national system is in place, ASIC will handle all business name registration matters.
Through the proposed application process, people will be able to register a national business name online at the same time as they apply for an Australian Business Number (ABN). They will do so at www.abr.gov.au.
Remember, for a new business to register a business name, it needs to have an ABN, or be in the process of applying for an ABN.
If the business already has an ABN and only wishes to register a national business name, then it will be able to do so separately online at www.asic.gov.au.
A paper form will be available for anyone who does not have access to, or does not wish to use the online system. The paper form can be mailed to ASIC.
Existing business names that were originally registered in the States or Territories will be due for renewal on their original expiry date.
New registrations will be able to select either a one year, or three year, registration period. They will be able to choose to match the renewal dates with other business names they have registered.
ASIC will issue business name renewal notices before a renewal is due.
An appeal process will be available for businesses to challenge a decision of ASIC about a business name registration. The appeals will be handled through the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT). The AAT may review certain decisions by ASIC which include:
Basic information attached to a business name will be accessible online for free at www.asic.gov.au. This includes:
Businesses will be able to seek suppression of any otherwise publicly available details on request to ASIC.
Businesses will pay a lower fee to register business names — in some cases significantly lower. Currently, business names fees in certain States can be as high as $248.20 or $156.00 for three years.
The proposed fees for registering a new business name are:
Registering for an ABN will remain free.
The following will be able to register a business name through the online system:
Members of partnerships or unincorporated associations can nominate a principal contact who will be permitted to act on their behalf in communications with ASIC. Accordingly, this authorised person will be permitted to register business names on their behalf.
Further information can be obtained through a fee based business name search with ASIC.
For more information, contact Maddocks on (03) 9288 0555 and ask for a member of the Maddocks Commercial Team.
Geoff Musgrove is a partner in the Maddocks Commercial team.
Geoff's principal areas of practice are:
Geoff acts for a wide range of commercial, government, accounting, manufacturing, professional and rural industry clients.
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For more information, contact Maddocks on (03) 9258 3555 and ask to speak to a member of their team.