Getting the right licences and registrations
You must get the necessary licences, registrations and permits to conduct your business lawfully before you start operating.
The types of licences, registrations and permits you may need will depend on the business type, activity and location.
A business licence is issued by local, state or federal government and provides a business with permission to operate.
Business licences can also help to protect your business, customers and your employees.
Each licence will have its own conditions and rules. If your business is issued with a licence, you must ensure that you always meet the necessary conditions.
The following are common business licences and examples of businesses who might use them.
- Advertising signs and advertising device approval—required when a business needs approval for the placement of signs and the type of advertising they engage in.
- National police certificate—required by businesses employing staff.
- Standard vehicle registration—required for any business with commercial vehicles.
- Building and contractor licence—required for various trades (e.g. electricians, structural landscapers, builders).
- Liquor and food licences—required for businesses making and selling food and alcohol.
- Specialised licences—used across various specialist businesses (e.g. businesses in the beauty industry may require a higher risk personal-appearance licence).
- Shared-facility accommodation licence—required for businesses offering accommodation (e.g. bed-and-breakfasts, motels).
- Commercial activity licence—required for any businesses conducting commercial activities (e.g. tourism guides).
A business permit regulates the safety of business operations. Permits are issued by state, local and other government agencies.
Specific permits may be required to allow your business to operate in a certain area, industry and location or to conduct specific activities.
For example, businesses will require:
- a state-forest activities permit if operating in a state forest or national park in Queensland
- a commercial vehicle parking permit if needing access to commercial vehicle parking (contact your local council)
- an electrical work training permit if training staff to do work that is not covered by their ordinary licence conditions
- a rehabilitation permit to rehabilitate injured wildlife.
Determining and applying for licences and permits
You can search for permits and licences relevant to your specific business operations online through the Australian Business Licence and Information Service (ABLIS).
If you are aware of specific licences and permits that you will be applying for, you can search by name.
Alternatively, you can enter some information about your business (e.g. planned business activities, location) and ABLIS will display relevant licences and permits.
Business Launchpad is a new digital tool that makes it easier to discover licences, permits and regulatory information tailored to your specific business needs.
Types of business registrations
There are several key business registrations that your business may need to apply for. They include an Australian business number (ABN), business name and tax registrations.
You can use the Australian Government's Business Registration Service to apply for relevant business registrations.
A registered business name is the trading name your business operates under. Your business structure determines how you register your business name.
Use the Business Registration Service if you intend to operate your business as a sole trader, partnership or trust.
Alternatively, if you want to operate your business as a company, you will need to register for an Australian company number (ACN) with the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC). Use the ACN when you apply to register your company business name.
Your tax requirements will depend on the type of business you operate and the number of employees you have.
If you are operating a partnership, company or trust, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) will automatically assign a business tax file number.
If you are a sole trader, you will use your individual tax file number for both business and personal use.
Read about tax basics for business.
A trademark is a word, symbol or phrase that is used to identify your business or its products. It is part of your business's intellectual property.
It is advised that you register a trademark on your business name and logo when you start your business.
Registering the trademark early will help you protect your business.
Many businesses have found they must change all their branding (at great cost) when they discover a competitor has used and trademarked their business name.
A domain name is a web address (e.g. www.yourbusinessname.com.au) that allows you to have a professional presence on the internet.
Learn how to select and register a domain name.
- Find out how to find the right business location.
- Learn about writing a business plan.
- Read about the skills you need for running a business.
- Last reviewed: 10 Oct 2022
- Last updated: 10 Oct 2022