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Is registering a company and registering a company name the same thing?
(By Brendan Muller, Operations Manager of Incorporator.com.au and TradingAs.com.au, September 2014)

Yes. Loosely speaking it’s the same thing.

But we just need to be very sure we’re on the same page as to a small number of terms and concepts.

When you register an Australian company (most usually a ‘Pty Ltd’) you bring in to existence a separate, unique, legal entity - something which has a legal life of its own which, in theory at least, is endless until, perhaps one day, it is properly and legally finalised.

A further key concept to be aware of is that every Australian company is allocated a nine digit Australian Company Number (ACN) upon registration and this number remains the same for the life of the company.

The ACN never changes (although the company’s name may change time and time again but let’s not get too far ahead).

So it’s actually the ACN which ultimately identifies a company from the day it’s registered until the day it’s finalised (if ever).

In fact, some Australian companies are known simply by their ACN. So don’t be surprised if you come across a company called say ACN 987 654 321 Pty Ltd. This is this company’s correct ‘name’.

But in addition to its ACN, the great majority of Australian companies also possess a name in the more usual sense – just as human beings are called by a name not a number.

This name is a most often a word or words that identify it.

Think QANTAS Limited or David Jones Limited.

This name is most often given to the company at the time of registration - but sometimes later if the name of the company is changed for whatever reason.

So, for example, you may register an Australian company (a separate, unique, legal entity) and it comes in to existence and is allocated the ACN 123 456 789.

At the same time, and in the very same process, you can stipulate that your company be named ‘LMNOP Services Pty Ltd’.

So what you end up with is a company called LMNOP Services Pty Ltd with the ACN 123 456 789.

So ‘registering a company’ and ‘registering a company name’ is the same thing when understood in this correct manner.

A couple more things.

None of this is to say that the company’s name may not be changed by you or a subsequent owner some day and become known as, say, ‘QRSTU Trading Pty Ltd’ but its identifying ACN will remain ACN 123 456 789.

In this eventuality, it remains exactly the same company with exactly the same ACN, just a different name.

One final point - there is no concept at all in Australia of registering (as opposed to reserving) just a ‘company name’ (for example, LMNOP Services Pty Ltd) without in so doing registering a separate, unique, legal entity with a life of its own that is allocated an ACN.

And sometimes people use ‘registering a company name’ in this incorrect sense when they really mean registering a business name (also known as a trading name, and which, by the way, may be done through our sister site TradingAs.com.au).

(A registered business name is not a separate, unique, legal entity with a life of its own as is a registered company but this is the subject of another topic.)