EU E-invoicing Standard gets unanimous approval, with 4 BIG adoption barriers

The European Commission announced that a decision has been taken on the European eInvoicing standard (EN), pursuant to Directive 2014/55/EU on eInvoicing in public procurement.

The European Commission mandated the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) to define the European E-invoicing standard. Following intense deliberations, CEN announced that the invoice model and its syntaxes received unanimous approval:

  • The EN 16931-1  – Core semantic data (invoice) model
    approved with 25 positive votes, no negative votes (100%);
  • The EN 16931-2 –  List of syntaxes
    Approved with 24 positive votes, no negative votes (100%);
  • Still under approval
    – CEN/TS 16931-3    Syntax bindings
    – CEN/TS 16931-4    Guidelines  at transmission level
    – CEN/TS 16931-5    Extension methodology
    – CEN/TS 16931-6    Test methodology and test results

In light of a successful vote, the Committee expects to be on track to publish the final standard in the coming months. Once this has been achieved, the European Commission believes the real work of supporting e-invoicing, using the European standard, can begin.

Four barriers to adoption

However, there are some constraints that could hamper the somewhat romantic view of the European Commission:

The Intellectual Property of the work done by CEN lies with CEN.
As a consequence not all documents regarding the new European E-invoicing Standard will be freely available. And free access to this information is quintessential for massive adoption of the new standard.
The exemptions within the Core Invoice Usage Specification.
Currently it is envisaged that national extensions of the EN16931 European Electronic Invoice Standard will not be legally binding. But then there is CIUS, the Core Invoice Usage Specification. It is expected that through CIUS restrictions will unfortunately proliferate due to too open ended norm. Increasing complexity and insecurity.
Over 99% of the businesses in Europe consists of SME’s, most of which are self-employed/sole proprietor.
They are standardisation no-no’s and rely heavily on their administrative software to produce e-invoices and on e-mail to send them around. If administrative software providers are not facilitated to embrace the new standard, the ‘on-boarding’ rate will be disappointing.
Adding complexity to the standardisation landscape.
The European Union is adding a new e-invoicing standard, with at least two syntaxes (UBL and UN/CEFACT CII), to an existing landscape. And even though a standard should reduce complexity (which was the aim), this will only increase complexity in the European business landscape. Why? Because the new standard only has a mandated monopoly in the B2G environment. In the business to business environment current standards will continue to proliferate.

And while the quote underneath from the European Commission might theoretically be true. The practice of e-invoicing adoption is quite different.

“E-invoicing reduces costs for economic operators and the environmental impact of paper-based invoices. The creation of a European standard for e-invoicing in public procurement prevents the continued proliferation of e-invoicing standards and syntaxes coexisting in the Member States, which leads to increased complexity in term of cross-border interoperability.”

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