By the right number ACN or ABN ASIC Report

Sunday, 20 February 2005

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Mark Drysdale

    Many people are unsure about when to use their Australian Company Number (ACN) or Australian Business Number (ABN). Let’s clear the confusion.

    Many people are unsure about when to use their Australian Company Number (ACN) or Australian Business Number (ABN).


    Let's clear the confusion.

    We'll start by explaining the purposes of these two numbers and when they must be used, and then we'll tell you when you can use just your ABN if you have one.

    What is your ACN?

    Every company registered under the Corporations Act 2001 is issued with a unique nine-digit number known as an ACN. Your ACN helps ensure that your company can be adequately identified when you do business. The ACN should be identified by the words "Australian Company Number", or by the abbreviations "ACN" or "A.C.N.".

    The law even allows companies to register their ACN as their company name or change their company name to their ACN.

    When must you use your ACN?

    Your ACN should appear on all your company's public documents and eligible negotiable instruments. These include:

    • all documents that must be lodged with ASIC
    • statements of account, including invoices
    • receipts (which are not machine-produced, eg by a cash register)
    • orders for goods and services
    • business letterheads
    • official company notices
    • cheques, promissory notes and bills of exchange
    • written advertisements making a specific offer which is capable of being accepted (such as by the completion of an order

    form), and

    • websites that facilitate transactions.

    While there are no specific requirements about how an ACN should appear on a document, it should be clear, easily readable, and obvious that the ACN is for the company to which it relates. It should also be shown on the first page of a document where the company name first appears and should follow the name.

    When is the ACN not required?

    You don't have to use your ACN on certain items including:

    • packaging and labelling, including envelopes and transport documents
    • advertisements that don't make a specific offer which is capable of being accepted (such as advertisements which only promote the company and its goods or services in general)
    • credit cards and credit card vouchers
    • machine-generated receipts, including
    • cash-register receipts
    • business cards and "with compliments"slips, and
    • items that are not documents (eg vehicles, television advertisements).

    What if you also have an ABN?

    If your company has an Australian Business Number, you may use the ABN with your company's name instead of the ACN on company documents and negotiable instruments, provided that:

    • the last nine digits of your company's ABN are the same, and in the same order, as the last nine digits of your company's ACN, and
    • you quote your ABN in the same way you would normally be required to quote your ACN.

    The ABN should be identified by the words "Australian Business Number", or by the abbreviations "ABN" or "A.B.N."

    Need more information?

    Visit for a range of information sheets (including one about ABNs and ACNs) to help understand your corporate law obligations as company directors.

    Alternatively you can contact our Infoline on 1300 300 630.


    The purpose of this database is to provide a full-text record of all articles that have appeared in the CDJ since February 1997. It is aimed to assist in the research and reference process. The database has a full-text index and will enable articles to be easily retrieved.It should be noted that information contained in this database is in pre-publication format only - IT IS NOT THE FINAL PRINTED VERSION OF THE CDJ - therefore there might be slight discrepancies between the contents of this database and the printed CDJ.

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