Company Director


  • What is a Company Director? 
  • Who is Eligible to be a Company Director? 
  • Eligibility Requirements for Permanent Residents and Non Citizens 
  • Duties of a Director of a Company 
  • Management Responsibilities of Company Directors 
  • Director Liability and Company Continuity 

What is a Company Director? 

The definition of Director according to the Corporations Act is described through the following criteria: 

  • Individuals who have received legitimate appointment as a director. 
  • Those acting in a capacity synonymous with that of a director, notwithstanding the absence of a formal appointment. 
  • People whose instructions are consistently adhered to by other members within the company. 

Who is Eligible to be a Company Director?

The role of a company director within Australian companies is primarily defined under Section 9 of the Corporations Act 2001. This definition outlines that anyone appointed to the director’s position qualifies as such. Generally, there are minimal restrictions on who can hold this position. 

Nonetheless, individuals may be prohibited from becoming directors by either a court or the Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC). This prohibition typically occurs due to past legal infractions or violations of the Corporations Act itself. The law specifies that any adult in Australia can become a director, subject to fulfilling certain legal criteria: 

  • Directors must be at least 18 years of age. 
  • They are required to provide written consent to assume the role and its associated responsibilities. 
  • In situations where a company has only one director, that individual must live in Australia. 
  • Companies with multiple directors must have at least one director who is an Australian resident. 

Additionally, Section 206B of the Corporations Act outlines specific disqualification criteria that can render an individual ineligible for the director role. 

For private companies, as per Section 201A of the Corporations Act, there is a requirement for at least one director, who must also be an Australian resident. 

The regulation distinguishes between Australian residents and non residents based on their visa status or citizenship, noting that foreign residents typically do not hold permanent visas or Australian citizenship. 

Moreover, responsibilities typically associated with directors can also be applied to individuals not officially recognised as directors but who either act in a director like capacity or whose directions are followed by officially appointed directors concerning their duties. 

Thus, it is established that a permanent resident is eligible to be appointed as a director of an Australian company. 

Smiling lawyer, realtor or financial advisor handshaking young couple thanking for advice.

Eligibility Requirements for Permanent Residents and Non Citizens 

In the context of Australian proprietary companies, there is a specific requirement that mandates at least one director must predominantly reside within Australia. This rule ensures that there is always a director within close proximity to the operational and regulatory environment of the country.  

Beyond this primary requirement, the company is at liberty to appoint additional directors, irrespective of their residency status, allowing for both Australian and non Australian residents to hold directorial positions. 

The concept of ordinarily residing in Australia is not strictly defined by citizenship alone but involves a more detailed assessment by the courts. This assessment is based on a variety of factors that collectively paint a picture of the individual’s living patterns and ties to Australia. These factors include: 

Duration and Permanence of Stay

Courts look at how stable and permanent an individuals stay in Australia is in comparison to time spent in other countries. This involves assessing whether Australia is the primary base of living or just one of many frequent destinations. 

Centre of Ordinary Life

This refers to the place where the individual engages in their day to day activities. It includes aspects of social, family, and personal life, indicating where the person spends most of their time and energy. 

Property Ownership or Leasing

Having a property in Australia, whether owned or leased, that serves as a residence, significantly indicates an individuals intention to reside in Australia. It shows a commitment to living in the country and establishes a physical and personal connection to a specific locale within Australia. 

Employment Arrangements

Engagements in work or business activities within Australia are strong indicators of residency. Employment ties often necessitate a considerable amount of time spent in the country and contribute to the economic ties linking an individual to Australia. 

Interestingly, the law acknowledges that an individual can ordinarily reside in multiple countries simultaneously. This recognition is pivotal for individuals who might split their time between countries due to personal, business, or other reasons.  

The assessment of ordinary residency is thus a holistic one, taking into account various aspects of an individual’s life to determine their connection and commitment to residing in Australia. 

Duties of a Director of a Company 

Company directors are tasked with several critical responsibilities to ensure the ethical and legal operation of the business. These duties, rooted in the need for prudent management and governance, are crucial for the companys sustainability and legal compliance. 

Exercising Care and Diligence

Directors must approach decision making with a level of care and attention that reasonably cautious individuals would exercise under similar circumstances. This involves a thorough evaluation of financial activities, such as reviewing financial statements and transaction reports, to safeguard the company against unnecessary financial risks. 

Acting with Honesty and Integrity

The role of a director requires actions and decisions that are honest and aligned with the companys best interests. This includes avoiding actions that could enrich the director at the companys expense, thus ensuring decisions benefit the company as a whole rather than individual interests. 

Ensuring Solvency

A fundamental duty is to monitor the companys financial health closely, particularly its ability to pay debts as and when theyre due. This vigilance helps in preventing the company from engaging in business while insolvent, a state where the company is unable to meet its debt obligations on time. 

Proper Use of Information

Directors have privileged access to vital company information, such as contracts, financial data, and records of transactions. Misusing this information for personal gain or to the detriment of the company and its stakeholders is strictly prohibited. 

Maintenance of Accurate Records

It falls within a directors remit to ensure the company keeps accurate and comprehensive records of its financial transactions and position. These records are essential for transparency, accountability, and compliance with regulatory requirements. 

Disclosure of Personal Interests

Directors must be forthcoming about any personal interests that might influence their decisions or actions regarding the company. This transparency is crucial to avoid conflicts of interest and to ensure that decisions are made in the companys best interests. When in doubt about the relevance of a personal interest, erring on the side of disclosure is advised to maintain integrity and trust. 

These responsibilities collectively ensure that directors act in a manner that is not only legally compliant but also ethically sound, promoting the long term success and viability of the company. 


Management Responsibilities of Company Directors 

Company directors have a broad range of responsibilities that are essential for the ethical, legal, and financial management of a company. These responsibilities span across various facets of the companys operations, including the management of assets, debts, employees, and investments. 

Asset Management

Directors must recognise that all assets within the company are owned by the company itself, not by any individual director. This distinction requires that company property, assets, or funds be managed with the companys best interests in mind, rather than being treated as personal property. 

Debt Obligations

A company is liable for its debts, which can range from obligations to trade creditors to dues owed to statutory bodies. Directors must ensure the company operates within its means and meets its financial obligations timely. If a company faces potential insolvency, directors are expected to halt business activities and seek professional advice to prevent further financial distress. 

Investment Management

Funds invested in the company, whether through loans or shareholder investments, must be utilised for legitimate company purposes. The prioritisation of the companys ability to meet its financial obligations is paramount before any distribution of dividends to shareholders. 

Director Liability and Personal Guarantees

While the company generally bears the responsibility for its debts, circumstances may arise where directors become personally liable. This situation often results from legal breaches, such as insolvent trading, or when directors provide personal guarantees for loans. 

Employee Financial Obligations

Directors should ensure that the company meets its obligations regarding employee related financial dues. This includes making timely contributions towards employee benefits as required by law. 

Failure to adhere to financial regulations, especially concerning employee withholdings and contributions, can result in directors facing personal penalties. These penalties are typically commensurate with the amount that has been unpaid or improperly managed. 

Director Liability and Company Continuity 

Upon registration, a company is recognised as a separate legal entity with its own set of properties, rights, and liabilities. This status is maintained until the company is formally deregistered. The responsibilities of a director can extend beyond the operational period of the company, persisting even after the company has stopped trading or has been deregistered. 

Conditions Under Which Directors are Liable

Directors may face liability for the companys debts, losses, or financial obligations in specific situations, particularly when the company is unable to settle its debts as they become due, indicating insolvency. A core responsibility of directors is to prevent the company from operating if it is insolvent. 

Indicators of Insolvency

Several signs can suggest a company is facing insolvency, including: 

  • Consistently low profits or inadequate cash flow from business operations. 
  • Difficulties in timely payment to suppliers and creditors. 
  • Suppliers’ refusal to provide further credit to the business. 
  • Challenges in adhering to loan repayment schedules or maintaining overdraft limits. 
  • Legal actions initiated or threatened by creditors or suppliers for unsettled debts. 

Evaluating Insolvency

To ascertain whether a company is trading while insolvent, directors need to evaluate: 

  • Cash Flow: The capability of the company to meet its current and future debt obligations as they become due based on projected cash flows. 
  • Overall Financial Position: The feasibility of liquidating assets in a timely manner to pay off debts as they are due. 

Allowing a company to continue its operations while insolvent, poses a significant risk of violating the Corporations Act. This legislation enforces both civil and criminal penalties for directors who fail to adhere to their duties of preventing insolvent trading. It underscores the importance of ethical and legal compliance in managing a company’s affairs, emphasising the need for directors to act responsibly in monitoring and evaluating the company’s financial standing.

Personal Liability of Directors for Company Losses

Directors can incur personal liability if their failure to fulfil their duties leads to losses for the company. Such situations may involve illegal actions or violations of both civil and criminal statutes within the Corporations Act, potentially requiring the director to compensate the company for the incurred losses. Importantly, the responsibility of a director can persist beyond the cessation of the companys operations or its deregistration. 

Tax-Related Director Liability

Directors might also face personal liability for failing to adhere to laws governed by external entities. A notable example includes the obligation to settle the company’s tax dues, where directors can be held personally accountable for any outstanding tax liabilities, especially in scenarios involving company employees.  

Directors are mandated to ensure that the company fulfils its tax withholding and employee superannuation contributions. Failure to meet these tax obligations can lead to directors being personally fined amounts equivalent to the company’s unpaid tax liabilities. 

This article is general information only and does not provide advice to address your personal circumstances. To make an informed decision you should contact an appropriately qualified professional.