What is a business name?

There’s so much information online about choosing and registering a business name that it can get a little confusing. Don’t worry – we’ve simplified things by putting everything in the one place!

A business name is a name or title which a person, or other legal entity, trades under. It is also known as a trading name.

It’s important to know that a business name is used only to identify your business. To get exclusive rights to that name, you can protect it with a trade mark.

Do I really need one?

Before choosing a business name, it’s best to determine if you actually need one.

If you are planning to operate as a sole trader, partnership or a trust, you will need to register your business name with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).

You don’t need to register your business name if it will be your, or your partner’s, first name and last name.

For example:

  • Stephanie Smith has a clothing business named ‘Stephanie Smith’. Because her business is trading under her own name, she does not have to register for a business name.
  • Mark Murray has a café named “Murray Beans”. As his business is not operating under his own name, he must register the business name “Murray Beans.”

You also don’t need a business name/ABN if you choose to operate as a company, but you will need to register your company.

How to conduct a business name search

If you have a business name in mind, you will need to confirm whether someone else is using it. You can use ASIC Connect to check if a name is available.

Let’s walk you through how to do this:

  1. Access ASIC Connect.
  2. You should be on the page that has the tab ‘Search business name register’.
  3. Use the ‘Search business names register’ tool and select Check business name availability’ in the dropdown menu.
  4. Type the business name you want to search in the ‘For’ field.
  5. Click ‘Go’ to search.
ASIC Connect Search

What if the business name I want is taken?

If the business name you want is unavailable, the best option is to create a new one.  You can always use an alteration of the original name you wanted. The example ASIC use is instead of ‘Bunch of Apples’, try ‘Sam’s Bunch of Apples’.

There are rules that do apply. For example, you can’t use different characters for a business name that will be pronounced the same way as a name that is already registered. The Business Names Registration (Availability of Names) Determination 2015 outlines the rules in more detail.

If you’re stuck on ideas, brainstorm or ask your friends and family for suggestions! Whatever name you come up with, you’ll have to repeat the above process to check it also isn’t taken.

ASIC Connect Search Results

As you can see in the above image, the name we were searching for isn’t available.

How can I register my business name?

Once you find a name that is available, you can register your business name! You need an Australian Business Number (ABN) to do this. If you don’t have one, you can register for one at the same time as when you register your business name. Find out more about ABNs here.

You can use the Australian Government’s Business Registration Service (BRS) to register a business name. This service is handy as you can do a few business and tax registrations in the same place:

  • Australian Business Number (ABN)
  • Business Name
  • Australian Company and Company name
  • Goods and Services Tax (GST)
  • Pay as You Go (PAYG) withholding
  • Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT)
  • Luxury Car Tax (LCT)
  • Fuel Tax Credits (FTC)
  • Wine Equalisation Tax (WET)
  • AUSkey

To register your business name, you will need the below:

  • your name and contact details
  • address and contact details of the business or organisation
  • details of each person or organisation associated with the business (e.g. partner, director, secretary or shareholder)
  • tax agent number (if you are going to use an agent)
  • business name
  • credit card details (Visa or MasterCard)

You may need to have more information on hand if you choose to apply for any of the other business and tax registrations at the same time.

Cost of registering your business name

To register your business with ASIC, it costs $36 for 1 year or $85 for 3 years. *

* Prices correct at the time of writing.

Once you have your business name sorted, stay tuned for more small business tips and information!

Little Big Shop is an ecommerce platform built for small business and the simplest and easiest way to create an online shop and start making sales.