The Guides to Social Policy Law is a collection of publications designed to assist decision makers administering social policy law. The information contained in this publication is intended only as a guide to relevant legislation/policy. The information is accurate as at the date listed at the bottom of the page, but may be subject to change. To discuss individual circumstances please contact Services Australia.

1.1.C.220 Company - public & private


This definition applies to all payments subject to assets testing provisions.

Definition: company

A company is incorporated by registration under the Corporations Act. A company is a legal entity which is set up to either:

  • hold investments, OR
  • run a business.

The features of a company are:

  • A company is owned by its shareholders.
  • A company is a separate legal entity from its shareholders.
  • Companies that were incorporated before 1 July 1998 will have
    • the incorporation of their company recorded in the Memorandum of Association, which states the

      • name of the company
      • liability of the shareholders
      • amount of share capital, and
      • objectives of the company
    • the internal running of a company regulated by the Articles of Association, which state
      • how the directors are appointed
      • the powers and duties of the directors
      • the rules on how the company is to be run, and
      • voting rights of the shareholders.
  • Companies that were incorporated from 1 July 1998 can be governed by
    • replaceable rules set out in the Corporation Act 2001 (which are a set of model rules for operating a company)
    • a company constitution (which is a set of rules that lays out how the company will be operate), or
    • a combination of both.
  • The directors are elected by the shareholders at the company's annual general meeting.
  • The directors control the running of the company on behalf of the shareholders.
  • The shareholders' liability for the debts of the company is limited to the nominal value of their shares.

Definition: private company

Some features of a private company are:

  • there are between one and 50 shareholders
  • approval from the director/s may be required before the shares are sold
  • shares cannot be offered for sale to the general public, and
  • often the income support recipient and their partner are the only shareholders and directors of the company.

These companies are referred to in the Corporations Act as proprietary companies.

Policy reference: SS Guide Assessing Shares in Public Companies, Assessing Shares in Private & Unlisted Public Companies - Not Assessed Under Trusts & Companies Rules, Assessable Assets from Private Companies & Unlisted Public Companies, Treatment of Assessable Assets - Private & Unlisted Public Companies - Not Assessed Under Trusts & Companies Rules

Definition: public company

A public company can offer its shares to the public. A public company may be listed on the Stock Exchange or unlisted.

Shares in public listed & unlisted companies

Shares in public listed and unlisted companies are financial assets under the Act. They are part of an income support recipient's financial assets and subject to deeming. They are NOT subject to assessment under the business income rules in the SSAct section 1075(1).

Act reference: SSAct section 8(1) Income test definitions, section 9(1)-'financial asset', section 9(1)-'financial investment', section 9(1)-'listed security', section 9(1)-'unlisted public security', section 1075(1) Permissible reductions of business income, section 1072 General meaning of ordinary income

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