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Just wondering about the legal options for ABNs and .com.au websites if you leave Australia. Can you still own and operate these companies from afar, as a non-resident?

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In short, foreign legal entities are permitted to have an ABN and a .com.au domain name if they operate in Australia, subject to certain registration requirements.

ABN

According to the Australian Business Register:

If your business or organisation is located outside Australia, you may be entitled to an ABN if you are carrying on an enterprise:

  • in Australia, or
  • that involves making supplies connected with Australia's indirect tax zone – defined as including Australia but not its external territories or certain offshore areas.

The linked page contains further information on what "carry on an enterprise in Australia" means. It would appear that as long as you still have Australian customers on a regular basis, then you would be carrying on an enterprise in Australia, even though you are located overseas.

.com.au

The criteria for .com.au registration is a bit tighter. According to AuDA:

  1. To be eligible for a domain name in the com.au 2LD, registrants must be:

    a. an Australian registered company; or

    b. trading under a registered business name in any Australian State or Territory; or

    c. an Australian partnership or sole trader; or

    d. a foreign company licensed to trade in Australia; or

    e. an owner of an Australian Registered Trade Mark; or

    f. an applicant for an Australian Registered Trade Mark; or

    g. an association incorporated in any Australian State or Territory; or

    h. an Australian commercial statutory body.

On its own a foreign sole trader would not be eligible for an .com.au domain name. However, foreign entities are permitted to register a business name if they "carry on a business in Australia". So if you end up eligible to keep your ABN, you can register a business name with ASIC, which will then qualify you for a .com.au domain under paragraph b.

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