13 Digits: universal unique identifier for businesses

13 Digits: universal unique identifier for businesses

If you’ve looked at your Companies Office registration since December 2013 you’ll have seen that (without having to do anything) your company now has a 13 digit New Zealand Business Number (NZBN) as well as its usual company registration number.  The Companies Office allocated the NZBN to all New Zealand companies as part of the Government’s Better Public Services programme.  Ultimately, the NZBN system is designed to apply to all businesses and government agencies and assist them in interacting efficiently, although currently the NZBN only applies to limited liability companies.

The 13 digit NZBN is derived from GSI NZ, a not-for-profit organisation.  The Government has purchased 10 million Global Position Numbers using the GS1 global number standards for issue by it, not by GSI NZ.  The NZBN primarily identifies the business or entity.  When used for New Zealand limited liability companies the first two digits are 94, identifying the company as a New Zealand entity, the next ten digits are the business entity id and the last digit is a system check.

Looking ahead, the rationale for the NZBN is to remove the need for New Zealand business entities to have separate accounts with Government agencies so that across their data bases the business will have a common identifier.  As a company updates its details for the purposes of one data base it will automatically update other Government data bases.  The NZBN is a first step in that direction but is limited.  Taking the IRD as an example, the NZBN only applies to companies not other business taxpayers and it does not replace IRD, GST and ACC numbers.

Globalisation is forcing an extension of information sharing between Government departments and agencies in New Zealand and internationally.  With the continuing expansion of electronic communications across all media, this trend can only continue, with the NZBN being  simply the first step towards one number fitting all business operators whatever entity or form that they may use.

Public Consultation
Around half of New Zealand businesses are sole traders, partnerships and trusts. Legislative change is needed to extend the NZBN to these other entities. Some of the questions the Government is seeking feedback on include:

  • Companies already have an NZBN. Who else should have one?
  • What information should be public? Why?
  • What should happen to the NZBN if a business is sold?
  • Are there reasons why NZBN information should not automatically be available to government agencies you deal with?

Consultation opens on 11 March 2014 and closes at 5pm on Friday, 11 April 2014. Go to http://www.mbie.govt.nz/what-we-do/better-public-services/nzbn/nzbn-consultation

For more information on this see the Companies Office website, www.business.govt/companies, the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment website, www.mbie.govt.nz,  and the GS1New Zealand website, www.gs1nz.org.nz.