Global numerical identifier to benefit small businesses

In a global economy, it's often difficult for smaller firms to do business with large companies, particularly if they haven't been verified as a customer or supplier. Within Australia, businesses are required to apply for an Australian Business Number (ABN), an 11-digit identification number used for tax and identification purposes; while companies are required to register for an Australian Company Number (ACN) with ASIC.

However, when it comes to establishing relationships with global companies, local businesses are at a disadvantage. This is largely because of a lack of a global numerical identifier that enables large, overseas companies to check the financial position of smaller firms.

Dun & Bradstreet's unique nine-digit identification number, the DUNS Number, has been used by companies and government agencies worldwide since its creation in 1962. The identifier is assigned to every business in the D&B global database, which consists of more than 205 million records - three million of which are located in Australia and New Zealand.

According to Dun & Bradstreet's General Manager of Corporate Affairs, Danielle Woods, small businesses would significantly benefit from adopting such a global identification number.

"The DUNS acts as a virtual fingerprint, allowing Australian businesses to easily identify foreign entities entering the domestic market and vice versa. Companies worldwide use the DUNS to link information on suppliers, customers and trading partners, which can be used to assess risk and opportunity in business relationships."

The DUNS number is currently used by the US Federal Government as the principal contractor identification code, which means that suppliers doing business with government agencies electronically will be required to submit their DUNS number as part of the registration and transaction process.

The DUNS is also recommended by the United Nations and the European Union as the global standard for business identification, and is the norm for all e-commerce transactions conducted by the Australian Federal Government.

Private companies such as Apple Inc., also use the DUNS to verify the existence of businesses participating in their application developer program. Small software developers wanting to register with Apple as application developers are required to register for a DUNS number. Businesses incorporated with ASIC or registered for an ABN will already have a DUNS number, which can be searched for at /express.

Other benefits of the DUNS number include:

  • Reduced barriers to trade by having a single data source designed specifically for corporate identification
  • Enhanced ability to detect tax fraud, money laundering and terrorism financing activities due to the use of the DUNS in corporate linkage
  • Cost-effective method of classifying invoices, requisitions, payments, customs clearance and other business documentation
  • Improved communication with customers and suppliers via linked transactions and accounts

See also:
How can I get a DUNS number?

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