A DUNS number is a unique nine-digit identifier for a business created by the credit bureau, Dun & Bradstreet. Dun & Bradstreet is one of the three most common 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.
Your social security number reveals a lot about you—your bank accounts, tax returns, credit scores, residences, etc., your DUNS number reveals similar information about your business.
Your DUNS number only reveals credit information gathered by one credit bureau—Dun & Bradstreet. Formerly known as the Mercantile Agency, Dun & Bradstreet is one of America's oldest companies. Its founder, Lewis Tappan, created it in 1841 to help merchants establish potential customers' creditworthiness.
Today, Dun & Bradstreet keeps track of over 265 million businesses worldwide. Over 100 million of those businesses use a DUNS number. The federal government adopted the DUNS number as its principal business identifier in 1994.
Companies without a DUNS number cannot apply for federal contracts and do business with the federal government, making the duns number invaluable for many small businesses since government contracts are often stable, lucrative sources of income.
Here are four ways a DUNS number can help you:
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.
A DUNS number is a simple process, but it requires you first to establish your business as a legal entity (LLC, S-Corp, C-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.
Apply here to get a DUNS number. Once you've applied, you'll likely get a D&B representative call 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.
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 crucial factor in your company's growth—the more your DUNS number will work in your favor.