If you’re learning about the federal contracting world, you may have heard about Dun & Bradstreet (or DUNS) numbers. You also may have heard that they’re being phased out in April 2022. But what are they, why are they so important, and why are they being replaced?
What is a DUNS number?
A Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number is a unique nine-digit identifier for businesses, issued by the credit bureau, Dun & Bradstreet. It’s standardized across global industry and trade associations with more than 300 million businesses registered. You can think of it as your business’s social security number, except you have to request one rather than automatically being assigned one.
What are they used for?
So why would you need a DUNS number? First and foremost, it’s mandatory for applying for federal grants or contracts. Beyond simply being a requirement if you’re getting started with government contracting, the federal government uses this ID to keep track of how federal funds are allocated.
Who uses them?
As discussed in the previous section, the federal government uses DUNS numbers for reasons such as fund tracking, but other government institutions may also use them. For instance, the European Commission uses DUNS numbers as a part of the vetting process and risk assessment of US organizations they might work with. Even the United Nations utilizes companies’ DUNS numbers, but its use isn’t limited to governments or international governance organizations.
Other companies can also use them to look up your business’s credibility as a potential vendor or customer. One example of this is Apple, who requires DUNS numbers for all developers who list apps on their Mac and iPhone App Store. There are many other instances of businesses that require these identifiers, so the best course of action for most companies is to register for one, just in case.
How to get a DUNS number
The first step in this process is to determine whether your company has already been assigned a DUNS number. You can verify this by calling Dun & Bradstreet and indicating that you’re a federal grant applicant or prospective applicant and they will inform you of whether you have one or not.
Once you’ve confirmed that you don’t already have a DUNS number, you can start the process of requesting one. To do this, you will have to provide Dun & Bradstreet with information about your business such as:
Headquarters name and address for your organization
Doing business as (DBA) or other name by which your organization is commonly known or recognized
Physical Address, City, State, and Zip Code
Mailing Address(is separate from Headquarters and/or physical address)
Contact Name and Title
Number of Employees at your physical location
Once this information is passed to Dun & Bradstreet, they can process your request and assign your business a DUNS number.
DUNS numbers vs. EIN numbers
Because of a number of similarities, DUNS numbers can often be confused with EIN numbers (which also happens to be a nine-digit number). EIN numbers, or federal tax IDs, are issued by the IRS for tax purposes, while DUNS numbers are issued by Dun & Bradstreet. DUNS numbers also remain the same for the entire life of the business, while EIN numbers can change.
Transition to UEI numbers
Now that you have a better understanding of what DUNS numbers are and what purpose they serve, we should discuss the upcoming changes to them. In April 2022, SAM.gov will be phasing out DUNS numbers and replacing them with their own Unique Entity Identifier (UEI). This is largely to remove the third-party middleman of Dun & Bradstreet and streamline the process on their end.
The good news is that if you already have a DUNS number (including inactive registrations), you’ve already been assigned a UEI and won’t have to re-apply. You can check this through SAM.gov to verify and it should be right below your DUNS number.
However, the process for obtaining a new UEI number after April 4, 2022 will be relatively equivalent, just through SAM.gov rather than Dun & Bradstreet. This means that whether you’re applying for a DUNS number before April 4 or applying for a UEI number after April 4, the process streamlining is primarily for the government — not for you, the business owner.
Only one step in a longer registration process
Unfortunately, DUNS/UEI numbers are also just one piece of a much larger process of registering for work with the federal government. If you’re taking on all of the responsibility of learning the ins and outs of federal registration, you’ll need to start with a DUNS or UEI number. Once you have that, you can begin SAM registration, then apply for a CAGE Code, and then you can start searching for contracts on the federal marketplace. Through all of this, there can be different hurdles that also pop up depending on the type of business you have, where it’s located, and more.
On the other hand, you can hire a professional team of federal marketplace experts like FAMR to not only register you for a unique identifier number, but take care of the rest of the process as well. In addition, we can help you market your company to get you better contracts and funding so you can focus on running the business.