Small business-starting a company

Before you start a company, you need to decide if the company structure will best suit your business needs. ASIC recommends that you get professional advice about your circumstances when making this decision. If you want to start a company, then you must also:

  • choose your company name

  • decide how your company will be governed

  • understand your legal obligations as an officeholder

  • obtain the consent of those who will be involved with your company

  • register your company, and

  • understand your legal obligations regarding your company name, Australian Company Number (ACN) and Australian Business Number (ABN).

When we register an Australian company, the company can conduct business throughout Australia without needing to register in individual states and territories.

Your company name

Your company name must show its legal status (e.g. include ‘Proprietary’ or ‘Pty’ in the name if it's a proprietary company). It cannot be a name that is already registered to a company or business and cannot include certain words or phrases. You may also need to check if your proposed name is similar or identical to any registered or pending trademarks. Alternatively, you can use the ACN as your company name.

Registering just a business name is not the same as registering a company. It does not create a separate legal entity or provide access to certain privileges that attach to companies – for example, a corporate tax rate or limited liability.

For more information about company names see Information Sheet 61 Starting a company


For more information about business names see 'Registering a business name'

How your company will be governed

When deciding how the company will be governed internally, you need to decide if it will operate under replaceable rules, its own constitution or a combination of both. Replaceable rules are the basic rules for internally managing a company found in the Corporations Act

and, if used, mean the company doesn't need to have its own written constitution. Proprietary companies with a single shareholder who is also the sole director do not need to have any formal set of rules to govern its internal relationships.

Officeholders

If you're a director or secretary of a company, you must understand your own legal obligations as an 'officeholder'. It is the officeholders who remain ultimately responsible for ensuring the company complies with the law.

Before applying to register a company, you must also get written consent from people who agree to be a director (must be over 18 years), secretary (must be over 18 years) and member (every company must have at least one member) which you must keep as part of the company's records once registered.

Proprietary companies must have at least one director (who ordinarily resides in Australia) but need not have a secretary. See Minimum officeholders.

Registering your company

You can register a company using a number of business service providers who deal directly with ASIC. Alternatively, you can complete Form 201 Application for registration as an Australian company, include the fee, sign it and mail it to us at:

Australian Securities and Investments Commission

PO Box 4000

Gippsland Mail Centre VIC 3841.

Once received, we will register the company, give it an ACN, issue a Certificate of Registration and issue a number associated with the ACN called the corporate key (which can be used to view your company records, lodge forms and receive annual statements online).

Displaying your company name

A company must display its name prominently at every place where it carries on business that is open to the public and on certain documents, including all documents required to be lodged with us. 

More about this topic

Members of a company

Australian company numbers

Are you allowed to operate a business?

Corporate key

Registering a business name

What is a company?

Appointing alternate directors

Minimum number of officeholders

Shares and the share register

Knowing your legal requirements.

More information on the ASIC website

Starting a company - INFO 61

More about small business

Small business home

Starting a small business

Compliance for small business

Closing a small business

Resources

 

Protect your business from unfair contract terms

Pen1 

Find out more about the new law applying from 12 November 2016 that aims to protect small businesses from unfair contract terms.

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Last updated: 04/11/2013 12:00