How to start a business in Australia

Starting a business in Australia has never been easier. While it can be a bit daunting, with a some help from an Accountant, it can also be incredibly rewarding. If you’re thinking about starting your own business, there some critical steps you need to cover off first.

Step 1: Do your research

Before you do anything else, it’s important to do your research and make sure that starting or buying a business is right for you. There are a lot of factors to consider, such as your skills, experience, and finances. You should also research the industry you’re interested in and the competition you’ll be facing.

We advise doing some research around your proposed business name, web address, social media tags etc to ensure you can run with the name that you desire.

Due Diligence – This is a specific process that you use when buying a business. We provide this service to clients to give them an independent analysis of the business that they are looking to buying. We fact check the information given by the selling party and give our opinion on the price that you should pay.

Book a meeting with us to discuss the business you are looking to buy.

Step 2: Develop a Business Plan

Remember the old military adage – The 5 Ps: Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance

A Business Plan is a roadmap for your business. You can’t just wing it and hope for the best. Your Business Plan should include information about:

  • your product or service; why will people or businesses buy from you?
  • market analysis; who are your competitors and what is the future of your market?
  • marketing strategy; how will you get the word out?
  • SWOT analysis – Strengths | Weaknesses | Opportunities | Threats;
  • finance – how are you going to fund the startup or purchase of this business?
  • Team – what people and skills will you require now and into the future?
  • cash flow forecast – banks love these to be detailed. Use your Accountant for this;
  • milestones – what will the business look like in 1,2 5 10 years?

Most banks and investors want to see a sound Business Plan before they are willing to risk their funds with your business.

Xero have a couple of Business Plan templates that you can download and use.

Cash Flow forecasts are a great way to test your ideas. What sales do you need to break even? What sales do you need to pay yourself a decent wage? Speak to us to develop a cash flow forecast for your idea.

Business plans also allow you to confirm the viability of your business case, and improve your ideas, on paper before risking your cash. Running your plan by some trusted advisors and experienced business people can also highly improve your likelihood of success.

You may do the work on your Business Plan and realise that it is not currently viable. This is great as you have only invested a bit of your time. You may stop here and revisit this or keep adjusting your plan.

If your plan is looking good, and you have reviewed it with your Accountant and trusted advisors, it is time to look at putting your plans into action.

Step 3: Meet with your Accountant

Book a meeting with us. We deal with small businesses every day and have a wealth of experience with businesses that have been through the full lifecycle your business will go through. We can fill any gaps in your knowledge and potentially save you costly mistakes.

We can quote up a package to assist you with setting up your business structure, Accounting software and an ongoing plan to ensure you meet all of your tax and accounting obligations.

Setting your business up correctly from the beginning ensures that you have the highest chance of success as you build up your business.

Step 4: Choose a business structure

The next step is to choose a business structure. There are three main types of business structures in Australia. You need to consider the full life cycle of your business to choose what is right for you.

Cost, complexity of management and tax implications are all important considerations. Take some time to speak with us to get expert advice up front. This will save you any regrets in the future as you can make a fully informed decision.

Consideration must also be given to current and proposed ATO laws. Particularly those regarding Personal Services Income and Professional Profits. Speak to us about this.

The common choices for business structure are:

  • Sole trader: This is the simplest type of business structure. As a sole trader, the business is attached to you. You will be personally liable for the debts, liabilities and legal issues of your business.
  • Partnership: This is structure involving two or more people. Partners are jointly and severally liable for the debts, liabilities and legal issues of the business. This is rarely a good idea. Generally only used by spouses.
  • Company: These are the most common entity used by businesses. Companies are a separate legal entity from its owners. You would own shares in the company. You also need to select one or more people to be directors. Companies are limited liability entities, which means that the owners may not be personally liable for the debts and liabilities of the business – as long as the directors have not breached the corporations act. A company can sue and be sued. Companies can also retain profit and pay 25% company tax in most circumstances. Retained profit is paid out later via dividends.
  • Trusts – These are somewhat common for small business. You also need to form a Corporate Trustee (Company) to be trustee of the trust. Trusts must distribute ALL profits each year. There are certain advantages, and disadvantages to using a trust. The 2 main types of trust are:
    • Discretionary Trust – Directors of the trustee company have discretion as to how profit is distributed. This can be quite flexible.
    • Unit Trust – much like a company, owners buy units instead of shares. Distributions to unit holders is based on how many units are held as a % of the total units issued.

Step 5: Form your entity

Once you’ve chosen a business structure, you can work with your Accountant and legal advisor to form the entity. It is very important to get the paperwork correct at this step. We have seen and helped to correct many errors where people have tried to DIY this step.

If you choose a company, you will need to first get your MyGovID, then a Director ID, to be able to form a company.

Step 6: Get your Registrations

OK. Now you need to get comfortable with some acronyms. ACN, ABN, BAS, GST, PAYGW, ASIC, STP, ABR, not to mention the other things like ABRS, Director ID and MyGovID.

This is where you really need expert advice from your Wood Accounting to ensure you are setup correctly from day one.

Here is a quick run down of the most common small business acronyms everyone needs to become familiar with:

  • ABN (Australian Business Number) is a unique 11 digit identifier for your business. You need an ABN to operate a business in Australia.
  • GST (Good and Services Tax) is 10% added to most goods and services. You must register for GST if your turnover (income) will be more than $75,000 per year. GST is a user pays tax in that the end users end up paying the tax. So consumers that spend the most pay the most GST.
  • ACN (Australian Company Number) – a unique 9 digit number issued to all companies in Australia. Fun fact – your ABN is your ACN with 2 extra numbers added to the FRONT of the number.
  • ASIC (Australian Securities and Investment Commission) – The Australian regulator for companies. ASIC is responsible for promoting a fair, transparent and efficient financial system for all.
  • PAYGW (Pay as You Go Withholding) – This is a registration you must have in order to pay wages and with hold tax.
  • STP (Single Touch Payroll) – This is a new system that requires all businesses to submit each pay run to ATO in real time. Allowing ATO to have visibility on PAYGW and Super that is due for employees.
  • BAS (Business Activity Statement) – The is a monthly/quarterly/annual statement businesses lodge to report their GST, PAYGW, PAYG, FTC and other taxes payable for the period. Businesses use software such as Xero to capture this information and summarise it into the BAS.

Step 7: Finalise your Intellectual and Digital Property

Get your digital identity sorted ASAP. You will have checked all this out in your business plan but now you need to register:

  • Website domain names,
  • email systems,
  • social media tags – these are critically important digital assets
  • your logo and marketing collateral
  • Trademark – consider trademarking your logo, colours, tag lines etc. This will prevent others from using these to steal your business. Be aware that your business or company name DO NOT prevent others using them.

Step 8: Get your Systems Right

What systems are you going to use to run your business efficiently, so that you have a competitive advantage over your competition?

Each of your business functions will likely have a system. Most systems these days are digital cloud solutions.

Your Accounting system is the centre of any business. This provides the functions of payroll, quoting, invoicing, accounts payable, accounts receivable, bank reconciliations, reporting, BAS etc. Common solutions here are Xero and MYOB. Our preference is Xero due to it’s ease of use for the customer.

Secondary systems surround the core accounting system. These include, Job management systems, HR systems, POS systems, inventory systems, online store systems and many more.

Step 9: Open a business bank account

It’s important to have a separate bank account for your business. This will help you keep your personal and business finances separate. We always recommend a 2 account system.

  • 1 main bank account – for every day trading
  • 2 tax and super account – we have clients move their tax obligations to this account so that they have the $$ available when their tax obligations are due.

We do not recommend a certain bank but we do ask clients to use a bank that is able to connect bank feeds to Xero. Without this bookkeeping and BAS become a really painful experience.

Step 10: Get the right insurance

There are a number of different types of insurance that you may need for your business, such as business interruption insurance, public liability insurance, cyber insurance and workers’ compensation insurance. Worker’s Comp is compulsory for all businesses that have employees. That includes those who only employ the owners.

If you are unsure, speak to a business insurance broker for tailored advice.

Step 11: Get the necessary permits and licenses

Depending on the type of business you’re starting, you may need to obtain certain permits and licenses. For example, if you’re selling food, you’ll need a food handling permit. Tradies may need a new permit to add their new entity details to current licences.

Step 12: Market your business

Once you have your business up and running, you need to let people know about it. There are a number of different ways to market your business, such as online marketing, print advertising, and public relations.

Step 13: Have Fun!

Starting a business is a lot of work, but it can be very rewarding. By following these steps, you can increase your chances of success. Enjoy the process of building your own successful business.

Step 14: Think about your Exit Strategy

Building a business is like building a house. At some point in the future you may not fit with the business any more and need to move on. Again the 5 Ps come into play. Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. Think about and have a rough plan for some common scenarios:

  • Retirement
  • Sale after a planned time period
  • Illness or death – make sure you have personal wills and estate planning in place.
  • Shareholder/Unitholder agreements – if you are in business with other owners and directors get a legal agreement in place to clarify how changes in to ownership will play out.

As Accountants we can help plan these scenarios and refer you to lawyers who are experienced in drafting practical shareholder agreements. Book a chat to run through these steps.

Additional tips for starting a business in Australia

  • Network: Networking with other entrepreneurs can help you learn from their experiences and get advice and support.
  • Challenges: Starting a business is a challenging but rewarding experience. Speak to us at Wood Accounting for advice and support if you experience any challenges along the way.

How to Sell Your Business – Tax Free!

Australian small business CGT concessions: A simple overview

If you’re a small business owner in Australia, you may be entitled to a number of capital gains tax (CGT) concessions. These concessions can help you to reduce or defer the amount of CGT you pay when you sell your business or business assets.

What are the different small business CGT concessions?

There are four main small business CGT concessions:

  • 15-year retirement exemption: This concession allows you to exempt a capital gain from a small business asset if you are 55 years old or older and have owned the asset for at least 15 years.
  • 50% active asset reduction: This concession reduces the capital gain on an active business asset by 50%.
  • Small business retirement exemption: This concession allows you to contribute remaining capital gains to super tax free, or if you are over 55, take the funds personally, tax free.
  • Small business rollover: This concession allows you to defer a capital gain on an active business asset if you reinvest the proceeds from the sale of the asset into another active business asset.

Depending on the structure you own the business in you may also be able to claim the general 50% CGT Discount, before applying the above concessions. Expert advice is essential to ensure you optimise the order in which you use these concessions.

Who is eligible for the small business CGT concessions?

To be eligible for the small business CGT concessions, you must meet the following criteria:

  • You must be a small business entity. This means that your aggregated turnover for the year must be less than $2 million.
  • You must own the asset for which you are claiming the concession.
  • The asset must be an active business asset. This means that the asset must be used in your business to generate income.
  • Different rules apply depending on what structure you own your business within. Concessions apply to sole traders, partnerships, trusts and companies.

How do I claim the small business CGT concessions?

To claim a small business CGT concession, you are best to consult with an Accountant who is experienced in dealing with this complex set of concessions. At Wood Accounting we have many years of experience assisting clients maximise their benefits, and minimise any Capital Gains Tax. You may also need to provide additional information to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), such as a valuation of the asset.

When should I speak to an accountant about the small business CGT concessions?

If you are thinking of selling your business or business assets, it is important to speak to an accountant to discuss your eligibility for the small business CGT concessions. An accountant can help you to calculate your potential CGT liability and advise you on the best way to structure your sale to minimise your tax.


If you are a small business owner in Australia and you are thinking of selling your business or business assets, speak to our experts at Wood Accounting for advice on how to minimise or eliminate your tax liability. Wood Accounting has a team of experienced accountants who can help you to understand the small business CGT concessions and ensure that you claim all of the concessions to which you are entitled.


How to get a business loan

Banks and other lenders offer a variety of loans, so make sure you investigate your options and find a loan that suits the needs of your business.

Deciding how much to borrow

Consider what source and type of finance will suit your needs.  The method of funding and term of the loan should match the purpose for which the loan is being used. 

Think realistically when assessing your financial needs.  Consider initial set-up costs.  Estimate how long before your business is likely to be self-supporting.  You should be able to demonstrate that you will be able to repay the loan, taking into account potential risks such as lower than predicted sales or interest rate increases. 

Applying for a loan

If you are starting up a new business and need to apply for a loan, the lender will require the following information from you: 

  • A description of the products and/or services you intend to provide
  • A marketing plan showing how you intend to bring in business
  • Evidence of the demand for your products and/or services.

You will also need to provide details of your own qualifications (both business and educational), previous business experience and past achievements.

Obviously, the amount you need to borrow and the purpose for which the loan would be used will need to be communicated to the lender, and repayment terms will need to be clearly established. 

If possible, financial information such as sales and profit projections over the term of the loan should be provided to the lender together with a cash flow forecast, showing the loan repayments, for the 12 months ahead.

Likely, the lender will seek security from you to protect the loan and this can vary from one lender to another and will depend on the type of loan and amount to be borrowed.  Some generally acceptable forms of security are:

  • real estate
  • shares in public companies
  • a personal guarantee.

Your loan application is more likely to be successful if you provide the lender with a well written Business Plan which includes: 

  • your business goals and objectives
  • results of your market research which support your financial projections and anticipated borrowings
  • systems you intend to implement to enable you to monitor your business and respond to changes in your financial position.


  • Have your Business Plan ready.
  • Prepare financial information including a cash flow forecast.
  • Seek expert advice. We can assist you.
  • Decide on a form of security
  • Speak with a finance broker

Contact Wood Accounting team today. We have numerous finance broker connections who are experts in Business Finance


All you need to know about Single Touch Payroll (STP)

Our friends at Xero have written a comprehensive blog article explaining STP. Rather than re-hash this info we are linking over to their blog.

For our current Xero clients we are working through our list and offering assistance, for a small fee, with reviewing payroll and registering for STP.

Single Touch Payroll explained

ATO also have a comprehensive section of their website dedicated to STP. We welcome STP as we feel this will even the playing field for businesses. STP will force ALL businesses to report their PAYG tax and Super obligations to ATO each pay run rather than at end of quarter or end of year. This will give ATO more visibility on those employers not meeting their obligations allowing them to take earlier action against those breaking the rules.

Does your business run STP compliant software?

IF you are running Xero you certainly do have STP enabled software. Many other software providers also have STP ready software.

If you are not sure give us a call and we can get you organised before the due date.


Should I buy a business?


Buying an existing business offers a sense of security because you have a good idea of what you’re getting for your money.

Existing customers and goodwill

An established business will generally come with existing customers, clients, suppliers and staff. This eliminates much of the effort and expense needed to generate goodwill, branding, advertising and hiring staff.

Expenses and finance

The business is already operational and stock is already on hand, so your initial expenses would be minimal and you can quickly generate a cashflow. If you need to obtain finance, it may be easier because the business has a proven track record.

Training and assistance

First-hand experience is valuable and the previous owner and employees remaining with the business are best placed to give you the training and assistance you need.


An existing business does not come with a guarantee of future success!

Goodwill may not last

There’s a risk that customers and clients may leave when the business changes hands. Staff may wish to leave too and you may have to pay their entitlements, such as long service leave. The departure of the owner may have a negative effect on the business, so you can’t necessarily guarantee the profits.


The business may have a bad reputation or have made a poor impression in the past – this might prove difficult for you to turn around.

Premises and equipment

The premises may be inadequate and the equipment or stock may be out dated or in need of replacing or repair.


Thoroughly research the business!

For expert advice on buying a business, make an appointment to talk with your accountant, solicitor or business adviser.

Contact Wood Accounting team today on
02 95482828 for assistance with this Action Plan!


Convert to Xero


Xero is an online accounting system that runs in your web browser on any internet enabled device. You can run your business accounting functions from your smartphone or tablet. Invoice, quote, track expenses without having to install any software.

We recommend Xero as it is tried and tested solution that suits almost all businesses big or small. We use it in our business.

Xero is the future of accounting. Get on board and change the way you do business.

Converting is simple!

•Optimize your current file – ensure debtors and contacts are up to date,
•have us review your file,
•pick a conversion date and we are ready to go.

Register your interest here and we will contact you to organise a needs analysis and a quote. Once we have your file it should take less than 4 days to have you fully operational in Xero.

Why convert?