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What Is a DUNS Number?

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Businesses receive a DUNS number after registering with Dun and Bradstreet, the private business credit reporting agency that created the system. Similar to a personal Social Security number, a DUNS number is a nine-digit identifier for individual businesses.

Though not always required, lenders and potential business partners often reference a DUNS number when checking on the financial stability of a company.

If you’re wondering whether to apply for a DUNS number for your business, keep reading to find out who needs to do so and what the process entails.

What is a DUNS number?

DUNS stands for data universal numbering system, and that system maintains timely information about more than 330 million businesses worldwide. The number identifies a business’s Dun and Bradstreet profile, which includes the company name, address, branches and subsidiaries, as well as scores and ratings that evaluate various financial health indicators. Together, this information is called the Dun and Bradstreet Live Business Identity.

Dun and Bradstreet is one of three major reporting agencies that collect business credit information, along with Experian and Equifax. These agencies produce their own business credit reports, which illustrate how well businesses handle financial obligations.

To get a credit report from Dun and Bradstreet, your business needs a DUNS number from the agency. Business owners can create their own DUNS number, but the agency also creates a number any time a third-party supplier or financial institution requests information about a business. A profile could be made without your knowledge or permission. You can look up your company here and receive one free report for your own business or another company. Dun and Bradstreet collects information from business registration authorities, like local governments, suppliers and business owners themselves to create individual profiles. 

Who needs a DUNS number and why?

You would need a DUNS number to bid on proposals if you work in government contracting. A DUNS number would also be necessary to apply for grant money through Grants.gov. Keep in mind that a DUNS number is different from a company’s tax identification or employer identification number (EIN), which you’ll still need for tax purposes.

If you expect to apply for business financing, you may want to request a DUNS number or find out if your business already has one, since a DUNS number could be created without your knowledge. Setting up a business credit profile and monitoring your company’s performance is generally crucial to establishing payment terms with suppliers or securing financing. Dun and Bradstreet has a free credit monitoring service, Credit Signal, that businesses can use.

Financial institutions often check a company’s business credit report when deciding whether to approve a loan or line of credit, and what terms and conditions to offer. Your Dun and Bradstreet report would include performance-based scores and ratings, and any lawsuits, liens or judgments against the business.

How a DUNS number affects your business

Whether you set up a DUNS number yourself or find that a Dun and Bradstreet profile already exists, keep the potential business impact in mind.

How it could help your business

Since Dun and Bradstreet is one of the largest business credit reporting bureaus, anyone looking for information about your company credit history would likely check with the agency. Having a DUNS number and accompanying profile would allow others to better understand your business’s financial standing.

Establishing business credit would also help you separate your personal and professional finances. Keeping your business finances removed from your personal funds would make bookkeeping easier and help you appear more professional as an owner.

Just as others would use your DUNS number to investigate your business, you could do the same when deciding to work with another company. A DUNS number could indicate whether a company would be a worthwhile partner or target customer.

How it could hurt your business

Once you or someone else creates a DUNS number, all basic information about your business would be recorded, including judgments, bankruptcies and any other public findings. You won’t be able to hide negative aspects of your credit history.

Receiving credit from a supplier could help you build your credit profile, but they may not report your activity unless you ask. It would be your responsibility to ensure suppliers report your payment history to Dun and Bradstreet. You could report credit details yourself to influence your profile, but Dun and Bradstreet may charge a fee ranging from $149 to $199 per month.

Where to find your DUNS number

Before applying for a DUNS number, check the Dun and Bradstreet database to see if one has already been created for your business.

You could use the DUNS number lookup on the Dun and Bradstreet website. You could search by your business name or phone number. If you choose to search by company name, you’d need to enter some basic information:

  • Street address
  • City and zip code
  • State and country

If your search does not produce a DUNS number, you would need to create a new profile.

Requesting a DUNS number

Establishing a new DUNS number is free for business owners and you can request a number online. You would need to provide the following information about your business when applying for a DUNS number:

  • Legal name
  • Company headquarters address
  • DBA name or other name assigned to your business
  • Your office address, if different from headquarters
  • Mailing address, if different from headquarters or office address
  • Phone number
  • Your name and title
  • Number of employees at your business location
  • Business start date
  • Legal structure
  • Type of business

It could take one to two business days to receive your DUNS number. You could also call 1-866-705-5711 to apply via phone. If you come across any websites or organizations charging a fee to acquire a DUNS number, they are likely fraudulent or part of scam.

The final word on DUNS numbers

Like your personal credit history reflects your past financial decisions, your business credit profile shows similar information about your company. Your business credit report affects your ability to secure financing and impacts the overall reputation of the operation.

A DUNS number relates directly to Dun and Bradstreet, which is just one business credit reporting agency. However, it is among the largest, and lenders and suppliers are likely to check your Dun and Bradstreet credit report when assessing your business.

Applying for a DUNS number is free and might have already been done for you. Although any past financial missteps like bankruptcies would be recorded, it would be better to have a profile with negative information than no profile at all. For instance, financial institutions may be suspicious if they cannot find any information when searching for a credit report, which could lead to little or no funding.

After obtaining a DUNS number, be sure to monitor your business profile. Keeping an eye on your credit report would help you build and maintain good business credit, which would improve your reputation as a business owner.

 

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