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How to set up a business legally in Australia [2020 Free checklist]

If you are setting up a new business, it is easy to think you should focus on getting customers and revenue before investigating your legal requirements. However, going into business without getting legal advice can open you up to legal risks such as getting sued by an unhappy customer, competitor or unintentionally breaking business laws. These small steps can save you a lot of money down the track.

Wondering what you need to do to set up a business in Australia? This free checklist will go through the key things you need to consider:

  1. Choose a business structure: You can choose between a sole trader, company, partnership, co-operative, trust or joint venture or a combination of these options. The key considerations which choosing a business structure include start-up costs and ongoing costs, how easy it is to set up and run and the level of legal protection they provide.

  2. Register a business name: If you choose to pick a company structure, you will need an Australian Company Name too.

  3. Business Agreements:

    1. Client agreements/sign up forms: Client agreements help to set up a collaborative relationship where everyone understands their rights and responsibilities.

    2. Website terms: Include terms to use your website, sign up forms for your services, privacy policies and cookie notice.

    3. If you are hiring staff or contractors: carefully document the relationship with an employment agreement or service agreement. Employers are legally required to keep careful records for their employees.

    4. Shareholders Agreement or Partnership Agreement: If you are going into business with someone else, it pays to document it, to prevent disputes later on.

  4. Register your trademark: this gives you “first dibs” on your name and logo. Australia has a first to file system so it protects parties who have already filed the trademark. It is worthwhile checking if somebody else is already using that name so you don’t double up. If you do double up, they may be entitled to sue you for the trademark.

  5. Register for insurance: the common ones are: personal accident and sickness insurance, WorkSafe, property and assets, professional indemnity and public liability, product liability, third party injury and vehicle insurance.

  6. Register for Goods and Services Tax (GST): Businesses making $75,000 or more per year need to register for GST. Taxi businesses need to register for GST regardless of their income.

  7. Check licensing requirements: Some business types need a special license or permit to run or have special requirements. Examples include real estate, food and pharmacies.

  8. Register for government grants: The federal government has a grant for people who have set up a business which provides an income while you get the business off the ground. There are also innovation grants and grants for export.

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