Applying for an NZBN
If you’re self-employed (a sole trader), a partnership or trust, and you're currently in business in New Zealand, you're eligible to apply for an NZBN. A business can be non-profit and can also be carried out free-of-charge.
What qualifies as a business?
You’re in business, as defined by the New Zealand Business Number Act 2016, if you acquire or supply goods or services, or acquire or dispose of land (but not if you do this as a consumer, employee, or as an individual member of an unincorporated entity).
Companies and organisations registered with the Companies Office
If your organisation is registered with the Companies Office and is included in the list below, it’s already been allocated an NZBN and you can search for it on the NZBN Register.
Organisations registered with the Companies Office include:
- registered companies
- incorporated societies
- charitable trust boards
- building societies, credit unions and friendly societies
- industrial and provident societies
- limited partnerships (New Zealand and overseas).
Applying for your NZBN
You can get an NZBN for your own business, or on behalf of a business you have authority to act for (for example, as a business’ accountant or bookkeeper). To do this you will need to know the business type.
Most NZBN applications will be processed instantly if you can provide either your New Zealand driver licence or passport. If you don’t have either of these, or you’re applying for a partnership or trust, you’ll need to supply some additional information. These applications are processed within 3 working days.
Sole traders (also called self-employed) have set up their business without registering as a company. Sole traders don’t have business partners or other shareholders, but they might have staff.
Two or more people can form a business partnership, setting out how they’ll share profits, debts and work in a partnership agreement. This is a popular structure with professionals (for example, architects, lawyers and accountants).
A trust is an entity that holds money or property for the benefit of its beneficiaries or for legal purposes. An NZBN can be issued to the trustee(s) of a trust. If you’re a trustee of more than one trust, you’ll need to get a separate NZBN for each trust.
If your society or group is a registered charity, but not incorporated, you are eligible for an NZBN. Other types of organisations, such as schools and organisations formed by legislation (such as an Act of Parliament) can also apply.
If you need help identifying your business type
If you’re still unsure of your business type, have a look at business.govt.nz for more information(external link) or talk to your accountant, bookkeeper or lawyer.
Thinking about starting a business?
You won’t need to get an NZBN if you’re only thinking about starting a business, but it would be good to find out how you can use it once your business is up and running.
Having an NZBN will help you stay up-to-date, help others know who they are working with and enable you to take advantage of innovations, such as eInvoicing. There might be other benefits too, depending on your business. Learn more about using the NZBN