So you want to become a government contractor? Let’s start with the long pole in the tent: If you want to win government contracts, you must first be registered in the System for Award Management (SAM). You and your company are not eligible to receive a contract from the federal government until your US federal contractor registration is complete1, and it takes time and effort to get it done.
But don’t let this administrative exercise prevent you from realizing your government contracting ambitions. We created this guide to help you through each step of the registration process, from the information you’ll need to collect before you begin the process through the complex representations and certifications that will inform your contracting relationships with any government agency that awards you a contract.
Before we get started, here are a few notes. Registering your business on SAM.gov is a free process. There is no cost to use SAM, and there is no annual fee associated with your registration. We point this out because many new registrations fall victim to spurious enterprises pretending to represent the government who want to charge you for completing and maintaining your profile. Do not fall for these scams! Instead, use our free guide which will take you step-by-step through this process and get you on the path to winning your first government contract.
What Information Do I Need Before Registering as a Government Contractor?
Before you can register as a government contractor, you have to have a registered business name. You have four options to register your business name, so choose the one that’s most appropriate for you. A registered business name will help protect your business, and it’s a prerequisite to applying for a federal tax ID number (also known as an Employer Identification Number, or EIN). You’ll need your social security number and a few other key demographic data, but other than that no surprises. Make sure you write down the exact business name you use to register for the tax ID number; that name must be entered precisely as recorded on your W-9 form when you go to the SAM.gov registration.
After getting your federal tax ID number, you’ll need to obtain a D-U-N-S Number from Dun & Bradstreet. The “DUNS” number is a publicly available, 9-digit unique identifier assigned to your business and is required to register on SAM.gov. Applying and receiving a DUNS number is free and they never expire; the process takes about a day and you can get your DUNS number here. Note: whatever information you used to apply for your DUNS number (business name and address) is exactly what you will use when registering for SAM, down to the letter! Inaccuracies between your DUNS record and your SAM profile are a primary factor that prevents businesses from successfully registering in SAM.
Now that you have these business basics, you’ll want to create a business bank account. Your local bank or personal bank will be a great resource here, and there are advantages to keeping your personal finances separate from your business finances such as tax deductions, tracking of credits and debits, and qualifying for certain small business loans. And most importantly, you’ll want to have a bank account that can accept electronic funds transfers (most can, but it’s good to double-check) so the government can pay you!
To recap, these are the things you need before you register your business in SAM.gov:
- Social Security Number
- Registered Business Name
- Federal Tax ID Number
- DUNS Number
- Bank Account Information (ABA routing number and account number)
Where to Find Information Needed for SAM Registration
This table includes information that you will be required to enter during your SAM registration. We recommend that you obtain this information before you begin the registration process.
|Input||What it Is||Where to Find It|
|DUNS||The D-U-N-S Number is used to establish your company’s D&B® file, which can help potential partners and lenders learn more about your business, and may also help them make more informed decisions about whether or not to work with you as a client, supplier, or partner.||https://www.dnb.com/duns-number/get-a-duns.html|
|CAGE||The Commercial and Government Entity (CAGE) Code is a five-character ID number assigned by the Defense Logistics Agency to provide a standardized method of identifying a given legal entity at a specific location.||If you are a US business, you do not need to have a CAGE Code prior to registering in SAM.gov.
Once you submit your Entity Registration for processing, SAM sends your information to DLA for CAGE Code assignment.
Think you already have a CAGE code? Use this CAGE Code Search Tool to confirm or request a new one.
|Tax ID Number (TIN) and Taxpayer Name||Your TIN is based on your business structure and can be either an Employer ID Number (EIN) or your Social Security Number (SSN).
IMPORTANT: When applying to SAM.gov, it is important that you clarify your Taxpayer Name and your Legal Business Name, as these can be different.
Entering the incorrect name will cause your application to be rejected.
|Use this IRS form to apply for a Federal Tax ID Number (aka, the EIN).|
|Bank Account Information||Your SAM record needs to include your bank routing and account numbers so you can get paid for the work you perform!||Consider setting up a business bank account if you don’t already have one.|
|NAICS code||The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) is used to categorize industries in North America. The Small Business Administration then assigns a size standard to each NAICS code, and this size standard (expressed either in the number of employees or annual revenues) determines whether a business qualifies as small or other than small for the purposes of competing in a solicitation.||You can use GovShop’s commodity code search to browse NAICS codes and pick the ones that are relevant to your business.
While you are required to enter one NAICS on your SAM application, you can add as many as are applicable to your business, and change, add or remove them as your business evolves.
If you want to know the size standard of a particular NAICS, you can use this resource to look it up.
Making Changes to Your SAM.gov Profile
Business owners often worry they aren’t being comprehensive enough when initially completing their profile. For instance, you’ll be required to select certain industry and product codes that describe your business. You should select those that are most accurate for your business at the time of completing your profile; you can always come back and make these updates after approval. The same goes for any particular socioeconomic size certifications you may earn or become eligible for in the future.
The bottom line is your SAM profile is dynamic and will change along with your business. That means that after you complete the basic registration process, you can come back in and update certain sections to include the important representations and certifications section. These are very important and have legal implications, and the burden is on you to keep these sections up to date.
How to Register your Government Contracting Business on SAM.gov
Now that you have this information, you’re ready for the next step: registering your business on SAM.gov. This is not a difficult process, but it can be confusing and at times frustrating if you’ve never worked with a government system before. In each section of our free Guide to SAM.Gov Registration, we describe what you’ll need to enter and provide context for each of the following sections.
- Which Type of SAM Account Should I Use to Register My Business?
- What is the Correct SAM User Role for Registering My Business?
- Initiating the SAM Registration Process
- Determining Your Purpose of Registration
- Entering Core Data on SAM.gov
- Additional Business Information
- IRS TIN Consent
- CAGE/NCAGE2 Code
- Ownership Details
- Predecessor Details
- General Business Information
- Financial Information
- Executive Compensation and Proceedings Information
- SAM Search Authorization
- Entering Assertions during your SAM.gov Registration
- NAICS and PSC Codes
- Size Standards
- Electronic Data Interchange
- Disaster Response Information
- Entering Your Representations and Certifications on SAM.gov
- Financial Assistance Reporting
- Entering Points of Contact
- SBA Supplemental Page
- Submitting Your Registration
- SAM Submission Status Indicators
After completing each of these sections, you’ll have completed the SAM.gov registration process and be eligible for contracts from the federal government. But the work is only just beginning! We offer a free 10-week Bootcamp to help new businesses succeed in this exciting marketplace, which you can sign up for below. We’re also excited to offer the GovShop Small Business Resource Center — a curated library of procurement resources to help you navigate the acquisition lifecycle and win government contracts!