Regular users of the New Zealand Companies Office website may have noticed the appearance of a curious 13-digit number in the past few weeks.  All companies listed on the New Zealand Companies Register (including struck-off companies) have now been assigned a New Zealand Business Number (NZBN) to use when dealing with government agencies and other businesses.

The NZBN is in addition to (and unrelated to) a company's unique company number and has been implemented by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) after consultation with businesses and state sector agencies as part of the government's "Better Public Services" programme which is about making it easy for business to work with government.

For now, the NZBN is only available for companies, but there are plans to extend NZBNs to other entities such as sole traders and state sector organisations.  At the moment, the NZBN will not replace other identifiers used to interact with government (such as ACC, GST or IRD numbers) but in time it is anticipated that the NZBN will become the main identifier for businesses.

Several prominent business leaders including Xero's Rod Drury have welcomed the NZBN, noting that it should be particularly helpful for small businesses dealing with a variety of agencies.  In time, it is hoped that the NZBN will:

  • Create a single searchable public register of all businesses in New Zealand
  • Allow details given to one government department about a business to be automatically updated in all other relevant public sector databases
  • Make it easier for businesses to deal with different government agencies, and access tailored government services
  • Allow businesses to spend less time on government forms and correspondence and more time on actually doing business
  • Cut compliance costs by removing duplication.

MBIE, ACC, Inland Revenue, Statistics New Zealand, New Zealand Customs Service, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, the Ministry for Primary Industries and Callaghan Innovation are all signed up to recognise and use NZBNs.  Time will tell whether the laudable goals of the NZBN scheme become reality for businesses dealing with government.