NZ business number plan widens

TOM PULLAR-STRECKER
Last updated 15:35 11/03/2014

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It will become compulsory for sole traders to obtain a New Zealand business number under a government proposal designed to cut red tape and promote e-commerce.

All 548,000 registered businesses were issued with the free 13-digit unique identifiers by the Companies Office in November.

However, a consultation document released today by Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce envisages extending the numbers to a similar number of sole traders, partnerships and trusts.

A compromise intended to protect people's privacy would mean their names and addresses would be kept off a publicly searchable register of businesses unless they wanted those details to be included.

If they chose to make them public they could also list details such as their email and website address, phone number and opening hours.

The numbers will be used by government agencies such as Inland Revenue, ACC and the Customs Service to identify businesses. They could also help businesses more easily identify one another; for example, to aid electronic invoicing.

The consultation document indicated legislation could be introduced by August, which would allow for the numbers to be issued to entities other than registered companies.

They could be compulsory by the middle of next year, and by 2016 it should be possible for holders to register required information with core government departments through a single process.

Privacy Commissioner John Edwards said it might be important that there was no requirement for sole traders to use the identifiers for non-business-related dealings with government agencies, but he wanted to support initiatives that made it easier for people to do business.

Xero chief executive Rod Drury has been a vocal backer of New Zealand business numbers.

Joyce and Commerce Minister Craig Foss released the consultation document at the company's Wellington headquarters.

"If we electronically know which business is which, we can do all sorts of things. Sending invoice data between businesses is one of the first applications," Drury said.

Joyce said the numbers should make it easier for businesses to deal with the Government, and if they were extended to the likes of sole traders they would be more comprehensive than similar systems in other countries.

"Assuming it does what it says on the tin, you will have [agencies] all able to recognise your company through the business number over the next few years," he said.

The Government has invited submissions by April 11.

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- Fairfax Media

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