Australia government regulations for business deal mainly with registration of the business, health regulations, environmental protection, licensing, taxation, employment law and consumer rights. A general familiarity with the areas and nature of the regulations could make your small business start quicker and save you a great deal of trouble later.
Formation of a Business
Australia government regulations for business allow Sole Trader, Partnership, Proprietary Limited Company, Association, Trust or Cooperative forms of organizational structures.
The sole trader form is simplest to establish. The partnership form involves a number of persons deciding to do business together. These decisions are best written down in the form of a partnership agreement to avoid future disputes. Sole traders and partnerships can do business under their own names without business name registration formatlities. However, if they add any words to their own names, registration would be necessary.
The Limited Company form allows owners to limit their risk from business debts. They are liable only to the extent of their investment in the business (and any personal guarantees they might provide). However, this form involves a good deal of formalities under Australia government regulations for business. You have to register your business as a company with Australian Securities & Investment Commission, with a name that is approved by them. Visit http://www.asic.gov.au/ for fuller details.
The other forms of business structures are not generally used for profit oriented businesses. Cooperatives, however, do allow members to pool their resources and skills to common benefit, and operate on democratic principles.
Taxes and Australian Business Number
An important part of Australia government regulations for business deal with taxes to be paid by businesses. Main taxes are the tax on business profits and the one on turnover of goods and services. There are also procedures such as Pay As You Go – PAYG.
Australian Business Number or ABN is an identifying number used to uniquely identify businesses. ABN is also highly relevant in PAYG administration. TFN is Tax File Number that all tax payers must obtain. Your application for ABN could cover registrations under GST – Goods & Services Tax – and PAYG as well as TFN. Go to ABRPublic Web site for online application for ABN and other online transactions with the Australian Government.
Companies pay tax on their business profits. Business profits are computed by deducting allowable expenses (business related expenses) and depreciation on capital assets from your gross revenue. Business profits of partnerships are shared among the partners. Both sole traders, and partners, pay tax on their total income which is computed by adding tbeir business income to other income.
If you are registered under GST, you could collect a tax on your sales from your customers. You yourself would be paying GST on the purchases you make for your business. If your collections exceed the GST paid by you, you pay it to Australian Taxation Office – ATO. If the GST paid by you exceed your collections, you could claim the excess from ATO.
PAYG are payments of taxes as you go along, usually at quarterly or monthly intervals. It could also involve deducting tax from payments you make to employees, and also payments to other businesses who do not provide an ABN. Such deductions are handed over to ATO. If you don’t have an ABN, other businesses would deduct PAYG taxes from amounts they pay you.
Small businesses with low turnovers need not register under GST or ABN. However, they too would need a TFN. They could, however, opt for a Simplified Tax System involving simpler record keeping.
You submit Business Activity Statements throughout the year and a Return of Income once a year. Go to ATO web site www.ato.gov.au/ for getting a clear idea about tax matters and your responsibilities.
Health and Safety Regulations
Australia government regulations for business relating to health and safety at workplaces are mostly administered by state and territory governments. These regulations seek to ensure that:
- Working processes are safe and would not affect employee health;
- Machinery, tools and equipment are guarded in ways to avoid injuries;
- Hazardous materials are stored, transported and worked with in ways that would not affect the health of those who handle these;
- Employees are educated and trained in safety and health matters relevant to their particular workplaces;
- Employees are consulted about health and safety issues at their workplaces; and
- Workplaces are regularly monitored and findings recorded.
The regulations also require employees to follow instructions in these matters and work in ways that would not affect the health and safety of themselves and others at the workplace.
Suppliers of products and services also have responsibility to design and supply these in ways that would not cause injuries or health problems.
Visit the web site of Occupational Health & Safety Commission www.nohsc.gov.au/ for full information on specific health and safety matters.
Matters like waste disposal are regulated by local authorities. Get a clear picture of all the health and safety issues affecting your particular business by discussing with your local Business Enterprise Centre.
Australia government regulations for business make it obligatory in some cases to obtain licences before you start operations. The licence requirements might be imposed by federal, state/territory or local government. Broadly, these licences are of the following kinds:
- Initial business licences;
- Professional or occupational licences;
- Industry or product licences; and
- Public interest and environment licences.
You could find out whether you need any licence by logging to Business Licensing Information Service – BLIS – web sites. All state/territory governments have BLIS or a similar site. For example, NSW web site is http://www.bli.net.au/nsw while Queensland has a SmartLicence web site. You could also go to Australia Business License Information Web site or contact your nearest Business Enterpriser Centre for license information.
Fair Trading Practices
Another set of Australia government regulations for business concern fair trading practices. There is a federal Trade Practices Act and state laws like NSW Fair Trading Act. All these laws seek to protect consumers against:
- False claims;
- Misleading practices such as hiding of relevant information in advertising or other presentations; and
- Exploitation by taking unfair advantage of consumer vulnerability, as when the business is the only trader in a location or has high bargaining power otherwise.
Enforcement could be through such means as injunctions, penalties, freezing of bank accounts and referral of complaints to other authorities. See http://www.fairtrading.act.gov.au/ for a clearer picture.
Government Regulations on Employment
Australia government regulations for business seek to protect employees against discrimination based on race, colour, ethnic origin, marital status, pregnancy or disability. They also seek to provide equal opportunity at workplaces for all Australians.
Wage rates and working conditions are determined either by awards applicable across an industry, or enterprise bargainining between employers and employees (or their unions) within a particular business enterprise.
Employees are entitled to different kinds of paid and unpaid leave to meet contingencies or as an annual vacation. Working hours and weeks are also regulated. Workplace safety has already been discussed above.
Employees are protected against unfair dismissal and you should be aware of the procedure to be followed in terminating the services of an employee on disciplinary or other grounds. The authoritative source for employee relations is the Workplace Relations Act 1996.
Two good sources for learning about Australia government regulations for business on matters of employment are the federal government web site www.wagenet.gov.au/ and your state government site for industrial relations, such as the NSW web site http://www.industrialrelations.nsw.gov.au/.
Australia government regulations for business also require you to maintain wage books, provide payslips containing specific details to employees, contribute to employees superannuation fund or pay a Superannuation Guaratee Charge.
There are Australia government regulations for business that clarify the duties and rights involved in business transactions. The law of contract applies to different kinds of business transactions such as sale and purchase of goods and services, employing people, lease agreements and transactions with your bank.
Excepting a few cases such as sale of land, business contracts need not be in writing. Terms of a contract can be inferred from the conduct of the parties. However, written contracts make it easier to prove the exact nature of the agreement between parties.
Leases are an important kind of agreement the terms of which could have a significant impact on your business. Hence, it is important to understand the exact terms and negotiate them carefully.
Trade marks, patents and copyrights can be protected under Australia government regulations for business relating to intellectual property.
Privacy laws impose a responsibility on you to use information that you gather about inviduals in the course of business, in a responsible and fair manner.
You could better understand legal issues by contacting a good solicitor or your nearest Business Enterprise Centre.