Step 5: Regulatory requirements of starting a business

There are not as many regulatory requirements as you may think when starting your own business. A lot simply have to do with ensuring you are properly registered, and many others will depend on the type of business structure you choose to utilise. Then, there are some that are specific to the physiotherapy industry.

Using the following information as a checklist will help get you started.

1.  Register your company:

Companies need to be registered with the Australian Securities and Investments Commissions (ASIC). ASIC will give you a form to fill in, application fees apply. You will then be issued an Australian Company Number (ACN). You'll need to pay ASIC an annual fee to renew the registration. You can trade Australia-wide using this company name.

If you want to use a different name to trade under, you will need to register a separate business name, referred to as a trading name - see next step…

2.  Register your business/trading name:

In May 2012, a new National Business Names Register was introduced. Business names registered with State/Territory Boards will be transferred to the national register as a national business name. All new applications following the handover will be registered under the new system as the individual State/Territory Boards will cease handling business names registrations.

The National Business Names Register will be managed by ASIC. Businesses are now able to complete one online application to register a business name, which is valid nationwide, combining the Australian Business Number (ABN) and Business Name registrations.

Remember – if you are trading under your or your business partners' name, that is, first name and surname or initials and surname, then you don’t need to register.

3.  Register your business as a trade mark

This is not compulsory but may be considered if you want legal ownership rights to your business name Australia wide. Registration of a business/trading name does not give you any proprietary rights over that name, only a trade mark can give you that kind of protection. You may wish to ensure you have exclusive use of your name now and in the future throughout Australia by registering a trade mark.

4.  Register a Domain Name

If you register a domain name at this stage you can either develop a website before you open your physiotherapy practice or down the track once you have your business up and running. For further information visit Australian Domain Name Administrator.

5.  Register for an ABN, TFN and GST

You will need to apply for an Australian Business Number (ABN); this can be done at the Australian Business Register.

Sole traders will use their personal Tax File Number (TFN) and will report both business and personal dealings annually, on the one tax return. However, partnerships, companies and trusts need their own TFN. You can obtain a TFN at the same time as your ABN, using the same application form, available at Australian Business Register. Sole traders need an ABN in addition to their TFN.

You will need to register for goods and services tax (GST) if you anticipate your annual turnover to be greater than $75,000. You can register for GST at the same time you apply for your ABN and TFN at the Australian Business Register. After you have registered for GST, you will be required to lodge a Business Activity Statement (BAS) with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) on a quarterly basis. You will automatically start receiving BAS based on the information provided on your application. That is, you will elect to either have these Statements sent directly to you and prepare them yourself or you will elect for a tax agent to receive them on your behalf.

6. Register for PAYG withholding

If you are going to have employees, you will need to register for PAYG withholding, as it is a requirement that you withhold tax on their behalf when paying wages. You may also have to withhold tax from payments made to contract workers.

You need to:

  • register for PAYG withholding; either at the same time as applying for your ABN and TFN, or at a later date with the ATO
  • calculate how much to withhold from wages/contractor payments
  • report and pay the withheld amounts to the ATO in your quarterly BAS and annual tax return

The ATO website offers detailed instructions about PAYG withholding for employers and has an online calculator for assisting with calculating the amount to be withheld for each employee.

If you are a sole trader or a partner of a partnership, without employees, you will not need to register for PAYG withheld. This is because you will ‘draw’ money from the business to live on, but this is not considered a wage or salary.

7.  Registration as a Physiotherapist

It is likely that you have been practicing as a physiotherapist and are already registered with the appropriate authority in your State or Territory. As of 1 July, 2010, the State/Territory registration boards were merged into the new Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). Physiotherapists already registered at this date will have their registrations automatically transferred under the new Physiotherapy Board. Registration renewals and new applications for registration will now be lodged under AHPRA. To register, physiotherapists must have a prescribed qualification, pay an initial fee and an ongoing annual registration fee.

8.  Register for a Medicare Provider Number

Before you start operating your physiotherapy practice, you should apply to Medicare for an initial Medicare provider number. This will give your patient’s access to rebates available when: being treated as part of a multidisciplinary care plan through the Enhanced Primary Care Program; requesting certain diagnostic imaging services; and, when being treated under the Department of Veteran Affair. Information on how to register for this initiative, the referral forms required to claim services and detailed information relating to the initiative are available on the Medicare Australia website.

9.  Australian Physiotherapist Association Membership

As a registered physiotherapist you have access to the Australian Physiotherapist Association (APA). The APA is based in Melbourne, has over 18,000 members and represents over 75% of registered physiotherapists. It has released a Code of Conduct which is binding to all members and established standards for a voluntary national scheme for the accreditation of private physiotherapy practices. Currently, 20%-30% of private practices throughout Australia have gained accreditation. Visit APA  for membership details.

HELPFUL HINT: Accreditation of your practice can promote competitiveness by raising credibility among patients and referring clinicians.

There is no regulatory authority in Australia that advises about fees and services for the physiotherapy industry. Therefore, you have the freedom to choose the price, terms and conditions by which you provide your services.


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