Starting a business in Australia

With a robust economy, stable political climate, a skilled and diverse workforce and global success across key industries including financial services, agribusiness and tourism, Australia is one of the safest places in the world to do business.

However, there are many considerations when starting up a business in Australia.

Key Considerations

There are many considerations when starting up a business in Australia.

Below are some key areas to be aware of:

Choosing a business structure

There are numerous business structures available in Australia,

the most common being:

Sole trader

Sole trader

An individual operating as the sole person responsible for all aspects of the business.

Partnership

Partnership

Two or more parties running a business jointly, not as a company, generally with equal responsibility for all aspects of the business.

Company

Company

An entity with its own legal 'personality' separate from its shareholders, generally with the Directors responsible for all aspects of the business.

Trust

Trust

A relationship whereby a Trustee is responsible for holding property for beneficiaries subject to the terms of a Trust Deed.

Joint venture

Joint venture

Two or more parties combining resources for a specific commercial venture.

More detail on each structure option can be found on the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) website:

Choosing Your Business Structure

Incorporating a company

Companies are the most common form of business entity in Australia.

Types of companies include:

Proprietary Company

  • Must have at least one Australian resident director.
  • May not have more than 50 non-employee shareholders.
  • Results in the liability of the shareholders upon winding up of the company being limited to the amount unpaid on their shares (if any).

Public Company

  • Used for larger business ventures or where there are multiple shareholders and reporting requirements.
  • Must have at least three directors, two of whom must be an Australian Resident
  • Must have at least one company secretary who resides in Australia
  • Can list on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX).

Australian Branch

If the business won't be operating long-term it may be preferable to set up an Australian branch of an existing foreign company. To do this, a foreign company must register with the Australian Securities & Investment Commission (ASIC).

Other Structures

There are many other structures available - a foreign company should see structuring advice before establishing an entity to ensure the needs of the business are met.

For more information on setting up an Australian company or registering as a foreign company visit ASIC's website:

Hiring employees

Each Australian state or territory has its own legislation regarding the labour market. Areas to consider include:

  • Salary, leave and superannuation entitlements
  • Occupational health and safety legislation
  • Workplace policies covering privacy, anti-discrimination, bullying, harassment and internet / mobile / email use

The Fair Work Australia website is a good resource for employment matters:

Hiring Employees

Tax & registration obligations

The type of business you run will determine which tax registrations apply. Professional taxation advice should be sort prior to commencing business to ensure you comply with Australian tax legislation. The major tax categories include:

  • Income Tax
  • Capital Gains Tax (CGT)
  • Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT)
  • Withholding Tax
  • Goods and Services Tax (GST)
  • Custom Excise and Duties
  • Stamp Duties
  • Payroll Tax
  • Land Tax
  • Activity Statements

The Australian Government Business website has a good overview of tax differences, including some comparison tables.

Australia's Economic Statistics

AUD$1.8
trillion
GDP

2.4%
GDP Annual
Growth

AUD$8.9 trillion
Household Wealth

2.1%
Inflation

1.5%
Cash Rate

24 million
Population

Industry Share of Output

9%
Construction

6%
Mining

5.9%
Unemployment

59%
Services

7%
Manufacturing

5%
Retail Trade

AUD$656,800
Average House Prices