The Commonwealth Registers Bill 2019 is aimed at modernising the administration of business registers, which at the moment is found in the Australian Business Register and 31 separate data holdings of ASIC.
This legislation enables the Australian Business Register and the business registers administered by ASIC to be moved to a modern registry platform that will be administered by the Australian Business Registrar within the ATO, as was announced in the 2018–19 budget.
The legislation allows the appointment of a registrar (or registrars), who will have the ongoing flexibility to adapt and respond to changes in technology, in order to improve the user experience and simplify the way people interact with government business registers.
“By providing the registrar with added flexibility, the registrar can reduce red tape for business by lowering their reporting obligations,” said Assistant Treasurer Stuart Robert.
“This will implement a ‘tell us once’ [outcome] for business interactions with the registry, reducing the frustration expressed by businesses in repeating themselves, reducing the time required to address their requirements by staff and enabl[ing] more consistent services.”
The new bill will also introduce a Director Identification Number (DIN) requirement, aimed at combating illegal phoenixing activity by providing traceability of a director’s relationships across companies, enabling better tracking of directors of failed companies and preventing the use of fictitious identities.
To date, current application to become a company director requires only a name, an address and a date of birth, with no requirement for a person to prove their identity.
The proposed DIN requirement will also reduce time and cost for administrators and liquidators during the insolvency process by providing a more streamlined tracking of directors and their corporate history.
Under the new requirements, new directors will have 28 days to apply for a DIN from the date they are appointed a director unless they are provided an exemption or extension by the registrar.
Directors that are currently in place will be afforded transitional provisions of 15 months to apply for a DIN from the application days of the new requirement.
Failure to comply with the DIN regime will see a maximum penalty of $200,000 for individuals or $1 million for a body corporate.
The DIN scheme has been highly controversial, with many business leaders lambasting it as nothing more than another regulatory burden, one which they say would not be needed if better utilisation and cross-sharing of existing information was carried out by regulators.
“As a small business owner, we waste considerable time just satisfying all the government red tape, and then what time we have left we can concentrate on our business. Now we will have to undergo expensive training to comply with the new ID number. When will this stop?” said one My Business reader in response to the release of the draft framework unveiled in October 2018.
“It is very obvious that one branch of government doesn’t know what the other branch is doing,” added another.
“Why not just require them to provide their TFN — an existing number which ALL company directors would already have — and which requires proof of ID to obtain in the first place?” said a third.
Meanwhile, the Governance Institute, which has welcomed the DIN, said that the measure should go further than just directors and include all office holders, including company secretaries.