It depends on which country, which agency, and which ID number. Companies are often issued more than one number, one for registration of the company and one (or more) for taxes. Private organizations also issue unique numbers to companies such as the DUNS number and the LEI number.
The short answer is:
- Company Registration Number – Yes
- Tax ID or Employer Identification Number – Probably Not
- Sales & Use Tax or VAT Number – Probably
- Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) – Yes
- Legal Entity Identifier (LEI) – Yes (if they have one)
I will explain the difference below.
Company Registration Number
In the United States, corporations and other types of companies are formed on the state level, and are assigned a company identification number. In Texas it is called the “Filing Number,” in New York it is called a “DOS ID” (Department of State ID), California calls it an “Entity Number”, and other states may call it something else.
It is called a Company Registration Number (CRN) in the United Kingdom, Australia, the European Union, and many other countries.
This company registration number or company identification number is public information in most states, countries, & unions and appears on a variety of documents, including the proof of registration & state filing, and on their business credit reports.
Most jurisdictions allow you to look up a company using this ID, often for free on their website, but many do not. You would go to the state or country in which the company is registered to a do a search. In the European Union, companies are registered at the member state level, but you can look up companies on the European Union website.
Tax ID / Employer identification Number
This number is also issued to a company for the purposes of paying taxes. It’s called a Employer Identification Number (EIN) or Federal Tax ID (TID) in the United States.
Each taxing jurisdiction issues its own Tax ID number, so a company often has more than one. For example, in a union or a federation, both the federal government and the state government might issue their own tax ID numbers.
In the United States, the EIN is public information for publicly traded companies and registered non-profits, and appears on their publicly filed reports.
You can look up a company by EIN if they are a non-profit, but it appears that the SEC does not give you the option to search by EIN.
For private companies, you cannot look up the company on the federal government website by their EIN number, however, many business credit reporting bureaus allow you to search for a company by EIN, however these reports are not free.
Other states and countries vary.
Sales & Use Tax ID / Value Added Tax (VAT) Number
In most jurisdictions this is considered public information, and many jurisdictions have websites that allow you to look up a company by this number.
For example, Texas calls it a Taxpayer ID and you can look up the company using this number on the Comptroller of Public Accounts website. In the European Union, it would be called their VAT Number, and it can be looked up on the European Commission’s website and on most member state websites.
In some states, the Income Tax ID and the Sales & Use Tax ID are the same, while in some states they are different numbers tracked by different taxing authorities within the state.
Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS)
This number is issued by Dun & Bradstreet to all companies that it becomes aware of (usually by downloading public state filings). A company can request a DUNS number to expedite the process, but if they do not request one, one will be assigned to them.
This number is primarily used for business credit reporting, but many government agencies and third party databases use this number to identify companies as well.
Dun & Bradstreet charges a fee to view the business credit report. You can get basic information about a company for free on their website, however they don’t support looking up companies by DUNS on the free search.
It should be noted that other business credit reporting bureaus assign their own numbers to companies, however, the DUNS number is the only one used by certain government agencies, while the others are mostly used internally.
Legal Entity Identifier (LEI)
This is a global legal entity number that is issued by a non-profit entity, and you can register at a number of “Local Operating Units” in various countries. Many countries have more than one independent local operating unit, which acts as an agent for registering companies and assigning a LEI.
Companies involved with certain types of cross-border transactions are often required by the government to register for this number, but anyone can register.
There is a fee that must be renewed annually, so typically only companies that need one get one. So most small businesses will not have them, unless they are involved in international trade.
Most local operating units have search capabilities on their website, and you can search by LEI.