Information Sharing Update on Australian Business Identifiers

In its 2015-2016 Budget, the Australian Federal Government announced Australian Company Numbers (ACNs) and Business Tax File Numbers (BFTNs) will soon be replaced with a single business identifier (SBI) being the Australian Business Number (ABN). The SBI is expected to deliver benefits to newly registered businesses, by reducing the need to use multiple identifiers with government. The government has been working on an implementation study since December 2015.

The original plan to implement the SBI on 1 July 2016 has been delayed as the consultation process has highlighted additional time is required for subsidiary systems of government who are reliant on current identifiers to adjust their systems and processes. The implementation study is now expected to be finalised in mid-2016. As yet, there are no further updates on the likely implementation dates.

The World Bank has issued guidance notes this month for the Implementation of a Unique Business Identifier to enhance the ability of multiple agencies to obtain and share data. This is to promote tax compliance as well as streamlining business start-ups and other administrative functions.

The study with its full impact needs to be clear prior to implementation. By way of example only, the impact on foreign businesses requires clarification as the current administration is not identical to local businesses. According to the World Bank report, some jurisdictions already  maintain the foreign business identifier(s), country of origin, beneficial owners, number of people employed, tax identification number, and financial information.

Preliminary notes on how it is intended to operate:

  • Australia‚Äôs corporate regulator ASIC (Australian Securities and Investments Commission) will no longer issue an ACN to a company on registration. New companies will no longer be able to use the ACN as their name.
  • Companies registered on or after 1 July 2016 will be able to use the ABN in its name.
  • Existing companies will retain all current numerical identifiers.
  • A company registered before 1 July 2016 will be able to continue to use its ACN under the Corporations Act and will not be required to apply for an ABN if it does not have one.
  • A foreign branch currently requiring an ARBN will hopefully benefit under the SIB reforms. By way of example (and there are numerous ) , certification of Proof of Identity documentation is not uniform for the ATO and ASIC , 2 of the main government bodies. The SBI will hopefully harmonize these requirements to streamline the process for businesses.