All You Need to Know About Sole Trader, Partnership & Company Registration

All You Need to Know About Sole Trader, Partnership & Company Registration
  • The financial and legal structure of a company and a business are quite different. 
  • It's important to understand the nuances and differences between the two so you can set your business up with confidence and ease.
  • Keep reading to learn about the main types of business structures in Australia, business names and how to register your business.

"What is the difference between a business name and company registration?" This is the most frequently asked question at Shelcom Corporate Services. When you first enter the business world there are many new terms to understand, not to mention understanding the different business structures and how they work!

In this article, we'll give you an overview of how a sole trader, partnership and company business structure work and how to register each type of business.

Business vs Company: What is the Difference?

It is very typical that when speaking colloquially the words business and company are used interchangeably and it is not entirely incorrect. A company is in fact a business and a business can be a company.

In the official business structure world, however, the two are very different. A business and a company are very dissimilar in the way that they are structured financially and legally.

How to Register a Sole Trader Business  

A sole trader business is usually a great starting point for a new small to medium size venture.

The cost of setting up a sole trader business is relatively low as all you need is an Australian Business Number (ABN) for which you can apply for free through ABRs website.

Business name registration is one of the first activities that you will need to take care of. If you would like to register your business with the Australian government you can do so for $30 for one year or $80 for three years (these are the prices if you apply directly through the  Australian Securities & Investments Commission).  

Australian business name registration is handled by the Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) you will need your T.B.N and a name for your business, along with a postal address and a physical business address.

Generally, there are two types of businesses: Sole Trader or Partnership.

A sole trader does not have to register a business name with ASIC if they trade under their own name, however, they must apply for an ABN. ABN number registration will need to be completed as part of this process. Also, if the proprietor's name changes, the business must be registered with ASIC.

How to Register a Partnership Business 

A partnership can comprise two or more individuals or entities, and a formal partnership agreement should be put in place.

Legally and financially a business and the proprietor are not separate from one another.  The money the business earns is income that needs to be claimed on the proprietor’s personal tax return.

Tax-wise, in the eyes of the ATO you are seen as an individual, which means you are privy to the $18,200 tax-free threshold and the individual tax threshold rates.

The proprietor of a business is solely (or together with a partner or partners) responsible for any debts the business suffers. If the business has bad debt, creditors are within their legal rights to repossess the proprietor’s personal belongings and private assets.

Remember, you can always restructure your business down the line as it grows. You can go from running a business as a sole trader to running a company as a director in the future if need be.

How to Register a Company 

A company is a much more complex and expensive structure and is often favoured by medium to large enterprises, or by proprietors who need asset and liability protection.

A company structure set up costs around the $600-$700 mark, and it is advised that an accountant, lawyer, financial planner or corporate service provider is involved in the entire company registration process from general business advice to the compilation and filing of paperwork.  

An expert should be involved to ensure that the structure fits the circumstances and that everything is completed correctly and in compliance with the law.  There are also mandatory annual fees (including company name registration), which must be paid to ASIC on the anniversary of company incorporation.

Today, the fee is $230, but this is subject to change at ASIC’s discretion.

Legally and financially a company is a separate entity from the proprietor.  If a company is set up with a limited liability structure and it goes into debt, the debt remains the responsibility of the company, which means that the proprietor’s personal assets are secure. 

Keep in mind that this does not mean that company directors are not accountable if they violate the law.

Incorporated companies have shareholders which enable the company to raise funds more easily. Companies are also taxed differently from individuals and pay a flat tax rate of only 30%, yet they don’t get the tax free threshold privileges.

These are all factors that you will need to take into account whilst completing the required company registration tasks.

A company must meet many regulatory standards and government directives. It must report and disclose information about itself on a regular basis.  ASIC ensures that companies are meeting their obligations under the Corporations ACT 2001.


Regardless of which business structure you choose, it's important to make sure you have ticked all of the legal and compliance boxes. It's worth hiring experts to help you if you have any doubts, as it can save you a considerable amount in the long run. 

You can read more about regulatory and compliance here. You can also find more information on starting a business and what's involved, and get connected to professionals and service providers that can assist you.

Have more questions? Still unsure? Ask me in the comments below and I will do my best to help! 

Gosia Slotala

Marketing Manager at

Hi! I'm a Marketing Manager for Shelcom - a Corporate Service Provider in business for over 26 years. My passion in helping entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, partnerships, etc., set up their business legally and without hassle. I love helping people understand the procedures and legalities of establishing enterprise in Australia. On a daily basis I help individuals with anything from ABN registration and business registration, to more complex issues such as corporate structures, trusts and SMSF's.