DUNS Number

DEFINITION of 'DUNS Number'

A data universal numbering system (DUNS) number is a nine-digit number that uniquely identifies a business. Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) created the number, which generates a business profile in its database that provides the name of a company, phone number, address, number of workers and line of work, along with other relevant information about the company.

BREAKING DOWN 'DUNS Number'

A data universal numbering system (DUNS) number is a unique numerical identifier that is assigned to a single business entity. The numbering system was created by Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) in 1983 to identify businesses for data processing and to support its business credit reporting system. In October 1994, it was adopted as the standard business identifier for federal government electronic commerce. The unique identifier system for businesses has become so useful today that it now identifies over 260 million businesses globally including major corporations, small business owners, nonprofit organizations and partnerships. As of 2017, its users include the US government, the United Nations (UN), and the European Commission.

The DUNS number provides information related to a company such as the business name, financial data, trade name, payment history, financial status, and executive names. The number allows a company to search for information about other companies and helps businesses find potential customers, partners, or vendors. The federal government uses DUNS numbers to track federal money disbursements. The is the most widely used number for identifying companies in the United States. The number is necessary to bid on local, state or government contracts; apply for federal grants; apply for credit with a lender; confirm the credibility of a business; and do business with retailers and some foreign countries such as Australia and the European Union (EU).

How to get a DUNS Number

The DUNS number is only used to identify a business registered with the Dun & Bradstreet database. Companies that are registered with another business credit bureau, such as Experian, will not be found on the D&B database since the credit bureaus do not share data with each other. Since each of these systems have unique databases, not every company will have a DUNS number unless it is registered with D&B.

Applying for a DUNS number can be done through the DUNS website and businesses based in the US may apply for a DUNS number for free. An authorizing representative of a company must request a DUNS number which may take up to 30 days to be assigned. However, the number can be received within five business days at no cost if applying for a federal government contract. The authorized representative at the company will need to provide his/her legal name; title at the company; email; phone number; mailing address; a contact name at the company; and number of employees at the physical location.

A DUNS number is required for each physical location of a company and for specific self-employed individuals such as contractors, lawyers, or doctors. The number remains with the company location even if the company goes out of business or closes. A business that is registered with D&B and that has multiple locations would have to apply for separate DUNS numbers for each of its branches. However, the company is not required to apply for a DUNS number for all of its branches – it may acquire a unique identifier for one, some, or all its businesses in multiple locations. Applying for a number for more than one branch will require more than one application form.

A business has to renew its DUNS number registration every three years so as not to become inactive in the D&B database. If the assigned number becomes inactive, the company would have to reapply for another number.

To check whether a business has a DUNS number already assigned to it, the same system used to apply for a new DUNS number can be used to check for an existing number. Using the Company Lookup tool on the D&B website, the company’s representative will need to enter in the name of the company, city, and state. If the company is registered with Dun & Bradstreet, its details will be populated on the screen.

The D&B database allows a business to access its D&B business credit score; review and update an existing D&B credit report; view and print a copy of its D&B credit report; review and dispute payment history; and update financial information.