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What's the difference between a trading name and a business name?

Here's what ASIC says:

A ‘trading name’ refers to an unregistered name that businesses could use before the introduction of the National Business Names Register on 28 May 2012. It is not a registered business name.

A business name is a name under which an entity conducts a business. Businesses are required to register their business name if they carry on business within Australia and are not trading under their own name.

If you’re currently operating your business under an unregistered trading name, to continue using it you need to register it as a business name.

Exceptions to this include:

  • if you are operating as an individual and your operating name is the same as your first name and surname

  • if you are in a partnership and your operating name is the same as all the partners' names, or

  • if you are an already registered Australian company and your operating name is the same as your company's name.

For example, if your name is John Smith and you’re operating your business under the name ‘John Smith’, it doesn’t need to be registered. If the name you trade under is ‘John Smith & Co’, then you must register the business name ‘John Smith & Co’.

The Australian Business Register and ABN Lookup still display unregistered trading names. From November 2023, trading names will be removed and only registered business names will be displayed.

A transition period is in place from 28 May 2012 to 31 October 2023 to allow businesses affected by the removal of trading names sufficient time to inform their customers, suppliers and other stakeholders of any changes to the name that they use to conduct their business.

Find out more on ASIC's website.