What is a DUNS number?
A DUNS number is a unique nine-digit identifier for a business created by credit bureau Dun & Bradstreet. Dun & Bradstreet is one of the three major business credit bureaus. DUNS numbers have become the standard numbering system to identify businesses across the globe. The Data Universal Numbering System—or DUNS number—was created and copyrighted in 1962 by Dun & Bradstreet.
Just as your social security number reveals a lot about you—your bank account, tax returns, credit score, residences, etc., your DUNS number reveals similar information about your business.
How can a D-U-N-S number help me?
Here are 4 ways a DUNS number can help you:
- Establish business creditworthiness. Your DUNS number is directly tied to the credit profile D&B builds on your business. In fact, to even have a D&B PAYDEX score, (you can check yours with Nav) you’ll need a DUNS number. When vendors or suppliers look up your business credit profile because they are considering doing business with you and offering your business trade credit, or a lender who is considering lending to your business, they’ll want to see a credit history. Keep in mind that your credit profile won’t be much use to you (and can actually harm you) until you begin establishing a strong business credit history.
- Safeguard your personal creditworthiness. When you don’t have a DUNS number tied to your business credit profile, you’ll need to depend more on your personal credit for business purposes. This can harm your personal credit if you make late payments or keep high amounts of business debt.
- Bid on government contracts. Local, state, and federal contracting opportunities will likely require your business to have a DUNS number. Any contracting opportunity in the System for Award Management (SAM) will require a DUNS number to apply.
- Get longer terms with your suppliers. If you can prove to vendors and suppliers that you are a creditworthy business, they will be more likely to offer you longer trade terms, like net-30 or even net-90 day terms. The best way to do this is by establishing business credit history tied to your DUNS number.
In addition to a DUNS number, if your business or organization wants to do any business with any government agency, you must register in the System for Award Management (SAM) and renew every year. The federal government offers contracts every year to registered small businesses in every industry and SAM registration is required to service any federal contract.
Your SAM application will be processed within 5 business days, but it can take up to 25 business days for your application to be approved. There are multiple government agencies that are involved. The renewal for your SAM application and CAGE Code registration renewal happens 3 months before the expiration date.
Who is Dun & Bradstreet?
Your DUNS number only reveals credit information gathered by one credit bureau—Dun & Bradstreet. Originally known as the Mercantile Agency, Dun & Bradstreet is one of America’s oldest companies. Its founder, Lewis Tappan, created it in 1841 for the purpose of helping merchants establish the creditworthiness of potential customers.
Today, Dun & Bradstreet keeps track of over 265 million businesses worldwide. Over 100 million of those businesses have been assigned a DUNS number. The federal government adopted the DUNS number as its principal business identifier in 1994.
In 1998, the DUNS number was incorporated as the federal government’s contractor identification code. This means that companies without a DUNS number cannot do business with the federal government. This makes a DUNS number invaluable for many small businesses, since government contracts are often stable, lucrative sources of income.
Is a DUNS number the same as a Federal tax ID number?
A DUNS number is different from your federal tax ID (EIN) number. A DUNS number is used for business credit reporting purposes, whereas an EIN is issued by the IRS and used for tax identification purposes.
How do I look up my DUNS number?
Before you apply for a DUNS number, check to see if your business already has one. If you are a Nav customer, you can do this via the BusinessLauncher tool in your profile. Here, you’ll be connected to a lookup tool that search for your business using either your company name and address, or your company’s telephone number.
How to get a DUNS number
Apply here to get a DUNS number. Once you’ve applied, you’ll likely get a call from a D&B representative to help you through the process, and you’ll receive your DUNS number within 30 days. For quicker service, you can use DUNSFile to get it in less than five business days, but it will cost you $229.
Applying for a DUNS number is a simple process, but it does require you to first establish your business as a legal entity (LLC, C-Corp, S-Corp, etc) with your state. Inside the application, you’ll need to provide information like your legal name, the name of your business’ headquarters and address of your business, your telephone number, whether you’re a home-based business, and the number of employees at your physical location.
If you want your number fast, you can use the DUNSFile service to get it in less than five business days, but it will cost you $229.
The more you learn about business financing—including the importance of business credit cards and business tradelines and how reporting to the business credit bureaus is a key factor to the growth of your company—the more your DUNS number will work in your favor.