If you are thinking of starting a business in New Zealand, one of the first things you need to do is to apply for a New Zealand Business Number (NZBN). This is a unique identifier for your business that makes it easier to liaise with others in the course of running your business. Depending on the structure you choose, you may get assigned an NZBN automatically, or you can apply for one at no cost. This is generally an easy, one or two-step process and you can do it all online. This article explains:

  • who needs to apply for an NZBN;
  • what information you need to get one
  • how to apply for one; and 
  • how long it will take to get it

Do You Need to Apply for an NZBN?

The most common business structures in New Zealand are: 

  • sole traders; 
  • partnerships; 
  • companies; and 
  • trusts. 

If you have registered your business with the New Zealand Companies Office, you will get assigned an NZBN automatically. This will generally be the case where you operate as a company or limited partnership.

Alternatively, you will need to apply for an NZBN on their website if you: 

  • are operating as a sole trader, partnership or trust; and 
  • meet the ‘in business in New Zealand’ criteria.

The ‘in business in New Zealand’ criteria recognise your eligibility for an NZBN if you: 

  • acquire or supply goods or services; or 
  • acquire or dispose of land. 

However, you will not meet the criteria if you engage in these activities as a consumer, employee, or as an individual member of an unincorporated entity. 

What Information Do You Need to Get an NZBN?

When you apply, you have to provide your core business information or Primary Business Data to the Register, including your business’:

  • trading name;
  • email;
  • legal business name;
  • phone number;
  • physical address;
  • business industry classification code;
  • registered business address; and
  • website.

Tip: It is a good idea to keep your core business information up to date. Your NZBN account should become your go-to when anything changes in your business. This is because other businesses rely on the accuracy of this information. In some instances, they may even receive automatic notifications when you change your details. 

Should You Keep Your Business Information Private?

If you are operating as a sole trader, partnership or trust, you have the option to keep your business information private. However, this is not always the best approach. Having this information publicly available:

  • makes it easier for other businesses to use your trading name to verify that it is you who they intend to deal with; and 
  • helps people to contact your business via your phone number, email and physical address.

Match Your Business Contacts to Their NZBN

An NZBN will allow you and the other businesses that you deal with to offer: 

  • a more personalised customer experience; and 
  • streamlined relations with your suppliers.

This is because you can match your current customer information with their NZBN business data.

For example, you can: 

  • learn more about your customers’ purchase habits by matching up their NZBN number with their previous transactions; or
  • verify the accuracy of customers’ addresses before delivering your products. 

To match your business contacts to their NZBN, you can either: 

  • use the NZBN free and secure Business Match service; or 
  • connect to the Register using their free API. 

Using the API connection is more efficient because when your customers or suppliers change their information, you will automatically receive a notification.

How to Apply for an NZBN

1. Gather Your Documents 

To get an NZBN, you need to provide some tax information and proof of identity in the following forms: 

Business Structure  

Tax Information

Proof of Identity 

Sole trader 

IRD number of the business (this may be your personal IRD number). 

You will need your New Zealand:

  • drivers licence; or 
  • passport.

Partnership

IRD number of the partnership.

To prove your partnership, you will need to provide your:

  • partner details, including the full names of the partners, date of appointment and a New Zealand driver licence or passport for one of the partners; and
  • proof of partnership, including a copy of the partnership agreement, minutes from a partnership meeting or a letter to the NZBN Registrar. 

Trust 

IRD number of the trust.

You will need to provide your:

  • trustee details, including the full names of the trustees and date of appointment, as well as a New Zealand driver licence or passport;
  • proof of trustee status, including a copy of the trust deed and, in some instances, an additional list of the current trustees.

Note: These requirements may differ due to changes in government policy. Please visit the NZBN website when gathering your documents for the most up-to-date information. 

2. Sign-Up with RealMe 

Once you have gathered all your documents, the first step of the process is to set up your RealMe login, unless you already have one. 

Your RealMe login is a single username and password that allows you to access multiple online services and securely prove your identity. The number of organisations and businesses using RealMe is growing all the time. These include; 

Signing up with RealMe is easy and free. All you have to provide is:

  • a username and password, 
  • your contact details, and 
  • three security questions.

Given the importance of this service, it is a good idea to add an extra layer of security to your account. You can do this by adding a secret PIN or two-factor authentication. All you will need is your mobile phone to do this. 

You can also verify your identity and address with RealMe. Some of the organisations you deal with whilst running your business expect you to have verified these details.

  • Tip: When you verify your identity, you can use your: 
  • New Zealand passport or citizenship certificate; or 
  • birth or immigration documents. 

Using your NZ identity documents speeds up the process as it allows you to take your own photo using the camera on your phone or computer. Otherwise, you can get your photo taken for free at a participating photo store.

These requirements can change with updates in government policy. Please visit the RealMe website when gathering your documents for the most up-to-date information.

3. Create a User Account on the NZBN Register

The last step of your setup process is to create a user account on the NZBN Register, unless you are already registered with the New Zealand Companies Register. As with RealMe, this is a quick process that you can carry out online

Tip: If you are running a business in New Zealand but you are not a citizen, you may need to provide additional documentation to prove that you can work in New Zealand.

How Long Does the NZBN Application Take? 

It can take up to three business days for NZB. Otherwise, it is approved instantly. You can check the status of your application on the NZBN website at any time.

Key Takeaways

Your NZBN is a valuable asset for your business. It allows others to find you easily and at no cost. It also saves you time when liaising with other businesses and government agencies. If you have registered your business with the New Zealand Companies Office, you will get assigned an NZBN automatically. Otherwise, you will need to apply for one. To apply for an NZBN, you need to provide some tax information and proof of identity. You will also need to create an account with RealMe and the NZBN Register. This application process can take up to three business days. If you need help deciding on your business structure or getting set up with the NZBN Register, contact LegalVision’s business lawyers on 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

FAQs

What is an NZBN?

NZBN stands for New Zealand Business Number. This is a unique identifier for your business that makes it easy to liaise with other businesses or government agencies when running your business.

How do I find my NZBN?

You can find your NZBN by searching for your business name through the New Zealand Companies Register or via the NZBN website.

Do sole traders need an NZBN?

Sole traders do not need to have an NZBN. However, it can be beneficial as it identifies you as a real business and makes it easy to update your business information.

How do I apply for an NZBN?

If you have already registered with the New Zealand Companies Office, an NZBN will have been automatically assigned to your business. Otherwise, the process to apply for an NZBN will require you to create an account with RealMe and the NZBN Register.

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