Business structures

Your business structure may affect your and your partner’s payments from us.

Business types

Business partnerships

This is a business that 2 or more partners own. A partner can be a person or a business structure like a company or a trust. Each partner owns an agreed part of the business assets and profits.

A business partnership:

  • isn’t incorporated like a company
  • has a partnership agreement that sets out its rights and obligations - this can be in writing, verbal or implied

The partners have unlimited liability. This means:

  • they’re personally liable for all the business debts
  • if one business partner doesn’t pay their share of a debt, the others must pay it

The business can trade under the business partners’ names or a registered business name. You or your partner are part of a business partnership if either of you are involved with another person in the running of a business under a partnership arrangement.

Sole trader or self employed

A sole trader is someone who’s self employed. You’re a sole trader if you:

  • own and run a business on your own
  • choose when, where, how and who you work for

As a sole trader you:

  • only need to lodge a personal tax return
  • own all the assets of the business
  • get all the profits from it
  • are responsible for all its debts

You can trade under your own name or a registered business name.

Business assets and income

Any personal or business assets or income can affect your payments from us.

Being in business includes being:

  • a business partner
  • a sole trader
  • self employed

You need to tell us any:

  • income you earn from being in business
  • income your partner earns from being in business
  • assets you or your business own
  • assets your partner or their business owns


In your assets test we include your share of the net assets of the business. To get this amount we:

  • add up the current market value of your share of all the business assets, and
  • subtract your total share of the business liabilities

If you’re a sole trader

If you’re a sole trader, assets can include your personal assets used for the business as well as business assets.


Your financial statement tells us what these are.

We don’t subtract all liabilities. For example, we exempt liabilities secured against the main home of members of the partnership.


In your income test we include your share of the business income. To get this figure we:

  • take your share of the gross income from the business, and
  • subtract deductions


We don’t allow all the deductions you can claim in your tax return. This is because social security law and tax law are different.

Those we allow in social security law include:

  • costs needed to earn business income
  • depreciation of business assets, or
  • employee superannuation

Those we don’t allow include:

  • past year losses
  • offset losses from other businesses
  • superannuation for sole traders or business partners, or
  • some capital costs

Documents we need from you

We’ll need some documents from you if you’re in a business. We’ll also need these from your partner if they’re in business.

If you’re in any kind of business

The Business Details form.

If you’re in a business partnership

The  Business Details form and:

  • a copy of your partnership agreement
  • your most recent partnership tax return
  • your most recent profit and loss statement or income statement
  • your most recent depreciation schedule, and
  • your most recent livestock trading account if you have one

If you’re a sole trader

The  Business Details form and:

  • your most recent personal tax return
  • your most recent profit and loss statement or income statement
  • your most recent depreciation schedule, and
  • your most recent livestock trading account if you have one
You can only claim depreciation for the time when you own the asset and the business is using it. Your depreciation schedule shows how long the business used the asset for as a percentage of the total time you owned it for.

Page last updated: 6 August 2018

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