The mid-term report of the Expert Group on e-invoicing

July 15, 2009  |  Adoption, Publications  |  Comments Off

Most of the respondents welcomed the report and endorsed the vision of proposing a framework which facilitates the provision of integrated e-invoicing solutions at EU level.

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Document Tieto: The future of e-invoicing

July 15, 2009  |  Adoption, Electronic Invoicing, Publications  |  Comments Off

Tieto, one of Europe’s leading e-invoicing vendors has, in corporation with Gartner Research, produced a document about the future of e-invoicing in Europe. In this document, specialists and representatives of EU Working Group for e-invoicing, the Tieto Board and the banking world speak out their opinion on the future of e-invoicing and the challenges that have to be conquered, reasons to swith to e-invoicing, a description of the current landscape and many other aspects attached to this fast growing subject.

The publication examines the development of the European e-invoicing framework. The public sector and corporations have begun to realize the benefits of moving away from manual paper invoicing. Cost-savings from B2B invoicing withing services and manufacturing have proven to typically amount to 1% of a company’s revenue.

Dutch banks introduce national Iban and BIC conversion system

June 29, 2009  |  Adoption, Publications  |  Comments Off

The Netherlands Bankers’ Association (NVB) is preparing for the introduction of the Single Euro Payments Area (Sepa) with the introduction of a new nationwide Iban (International Bank Account Number) and BIC (Bank Identifier Code) look-up service for all Dutch citizens and corporates.

The introduction of the new tool is expected to speed compliance with Sepa by offering a single, co-ordinated system for BIC and Iban conversion that all Dutch banks can roll out to their account holders.

Users can request the correct Iban and BIC information using an online web service, the telephone via a voice response system or via an SMS message. A dedicated corporate Web service allows Dutch businesses to update batch files of Bbans (Basic Bank Account Numbers) with the correct corresponding Ibans and BICs for Sepa compliance.

The system was developed by Experian and commissioned by the Foundation Iban Service NL, on behalf of the Dutch banking community.

The introduction of the new coding has been identified as a potential stumbling block to Sepa uptake among European citizens and businesses.

Jim Conning, managing director, Experian Payments, comments: “We…have the European footprint to provide similar services to other EU banking communities who want to facilitate the move to Sepa payments smoothly”.


Electronic Tax Filing At The European Union

June 26, 2009  |  Adoption, Publications  |  Comments Off

Traditionally, tax returns were filed using paper forms. With the increasing number of taxpayers and complexities arising in taxation, it has become impossible to maintain records on paper. The current preference is for electronic means of record keeping and tax filing. In this day of Internet and E-commerce, every state stresses E-filing of tax. An E-filing system permits the filing of almost all taxes through a web portal.
Through an electronic, tax-filing system, every individual and company can file their tax returns through the Internet. An E-filing system permits the filing of all taxes through a web portal using a digital certificate issued by any registered certification authority. Taxes are filed online with the help of a soft, electronic ID PIN and password provided by the tax authorities of the respective state. Tax payers may easily confirm filing and payment status by means of the Tax Board’s telephone service or by the use of SMS.

The Inland Revenue in the United Kingdom is responsible for providing an effective and fair tax service to UK citizens and businesses. One of the objectives of the Inland Revenue is to provide online services to citizens. It also plays an important role in providing a nationwide, electronic, tax-filing system for individual tax payers that employ a self-assessment system to calculate their tax liability.

Meanwhile, by law, businesses in France with an annual turnover of 15 million Euros must file and pay their corporate taxes electronically. The Irish Revenue Department believes electronic tax filing reduces errors due to manual processing of tax claims. The Revenue Online Service facilitates the filing and payment of taxes online. It also allows taxpayers to carry out inquiries on their existing tax status and review their earlier tax transactions. Customers who use the E-filing system are given digital certificates that allow them to digitally sign legally enforceable tax returns.
What Are The Benefits Of The E-Filing System?
E-filing uses an automated system to speed up the processing. It also cuts down on the use of paper. A considerable amount of records can be saved and kept in a system or disc. It is, however, very difficult to keep the same amount of records in paper because of the volume of papers required. It is easy to retrieve data from electronically saved records. E-filing considerably reduces errors. A large amount of work can be achieved in a shorter period of time. In fact, E-filing increases employee productivity. It also improves communication with the tax payers and saves taxpayers’ time. In effect, the E-filing system stimulates the economy of the state.
How Is E-Filing Connected To Electronic Invoicing?
For E-filing, E-invoicing is very necessary. For the electronic filing of taxes, electronically recorded documents are required. Paper documents cannot be accepted for E-filing. To calculate taxes on sales, invoices are a must. Sales and purchases made online generate E-invoices. E-invoices are the required documents for E-filing. EU Directives emphasize the importance of electronic invoicing for E-filing. EU member states are required to include EU E-invoicing and VAT standards in their national laws.

Source: IBLS

Electronic Signatures as Obstacles for Cross-Border eProcurement in Europe

June 26, 2009  |  Adoption, Publications  |  Comments Off

Description (short summary):

eProcurement is considered one of the most promising services within e-government in terms of cost and time efficiency. Within the European Union, the Internal Market requires cross-border eProcurement. The European Council has issued directives and guidelines for this purpose. While eProcurement works on national levels, cross-border eProcurement in Europe does not. This is mainly due to lacking technical interoperability and legal harmonisation in particular concerning the use of e-signatures. Through a comparative study of the different legal provisions in the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Spain and Sweden, this article provides an overview of the current state-of-play and makes suggestions on how to overcome the remaining obstacles to pan-European eProcurement.

This article starts with a brief definition of the main concepts and a review of the contents of the official (legal) documents and studies that relate to the use of esignatures in eProcurement. Then, success-factors and barriers for their cross-border adoption are  discussed from a legal point of view. Based on a comparison of the national profiles from Germany and the PROCURE pilot participants Czech Republic, France, Spain, and Sweden, recommendations for European legislation and individual measures to better align national regulations and the mutual recognition of electronic signatures in eProcurement among the Member States are made.

Source: ePractice

Dutch State Secretary launches website for digital billing

March 25, 2009  |  Adoption, Publications  |  Comments Off
Together with Wim Mijs, director of the Dutch Association of Banks, State Secretary Heemskerk of Dutch Economic Affairs launched the website last week. 
Via this website, consumers and businesses receive information about the benefits of sending bills digitally. Moreover, customers of ABN AMRO, ING and Rabobank ViaMijnBank are able to receive their invoices online, and pay online through their own secured banking environment.
In his speech at the launch of the website, Heemskerk pointed out the benefits of sending invoices digitally. Together with Marco Pastors (the government’s ambassador for e-invoicing ) Heemskerk aims for the government to receive and process 10 percent of all invoices electronically in 2010.  “This will save businesses and tax payers a lot of money. Soon we will make these arrangements official by signing an agreement with national union VNO-NCW, MKB (SME) Nederland and the main government parties that send a lot of invoices,” the Secretary announced.
Besides the importance of e-invoicing, Heemskerk stressed the importance of innovation in services in general. “With this kind of initiatives, the banks show that they play a leading role when it comes to the use of ICT.” In other parts of the national services there is much profit to make. In general, productivity in the Dutch services is growing slowly. This has a negative effect on the competitiveness of this sector, particularly concerning the current crisis. A closer look is currently taken at this situation to unveil the cause of this backlog. The Ministry of Economic Affairs also helps sectors to digitize their activities by implementing the program ‘The Netherlands Connected Digitally’ (

OB10: potential savings e-invoicing up to €18 billion

March 13, 2009  |  Adoption  |  Comments Off

Organisations across all industries are feeling the impact of the current economic downturn and looking for ways to cut costs and increase efficiencies without disruption to their productivity. Ideal solutions should be implemented swiftly; leveraging earlier IT investments and not requiring large capital investments.

According to the European Commission, businesses across Europe can save up to 18 billion € by using an e-Invoicing solution. The Aberdeen report from May 2007 quotes a reduction of processing costs of 74 - 89%. Whether you are looking to cut costs quickly or sustain your business for future growth, OB10 will help you achieve your goals:

Reduction in costs – OB10 customers reduce by typically 60%
ROI in less than one year
Improve efficiency – removing manual tasks
Sustain your business growth

Focus within your organisation – improve efficiency and reduce costs
We all know that paper invoicing is inefficient, expensive and error prone. It uses expensive resources to manually input data and deal with supplier queries due to lost invoices, incorrect or missing information resulting in inefficiencies and inaccuracies which can affect cash flow management and effective forecasting.

Imagine if the manual invoice handling process could be removed. If data was received directly into your accounting system – containing all the information you require. As a business you would immediately increase efficiency, reduce processing time and costs and rely on invoice data for cash flow and forecast management.

Electronic invoicing from OB10 enables your suppliers to send data in their preferred format directly to your accounting system. We will work with you and your suppliers to ensure you receive reliable, tax compliant electronic invoice data. This not only enables you to remove manual input from the process and to focus staff on tasks that add value to your organisation, but also provides accurate real-time data to improve working capital and management reporting.

> Find out more on how e-Invoicing from OB10 works

Get the most from your suppliers
There has never been a more important time for buying organisations to support their supply chains. Suppliers are an integral, essential component of your business. Many suppliers are struggling due to the drop in business volumes, late payments and pressure being placed on them to squeeze profit-margins. It is important to you and the success of your business that your suppliers can continue to offer their services or products through the economic downturn - for your own benefit.

Reduce your costs and support suppliers with Supplier Payments
The Supplier Payments service is a powerful combination of e-Invoicing and innovative supply chain financing from Abbey UK Corporate Banking, bringing benefits to buying organisations and suppliers alike.

Developed with our partner Abbey UK Corporate Banking, this proven working capital solution reduces the cost of finance for the whole supply chain. In contrast to most other forms of supply chain financing, the payment is provided in the form of early cash to the supplier. Because payment is made early, your suppliers benefit from a reduced cost of finance and are able to provide services or products to their full potential. At the same time, you are able to support your suppliers during this difficult economic situation whilst maintaining your working capital position. Alternatively you may choose to negotiate a reduction in the cost of goods purchased.

Opinion: Post no bills

March 3, 2009  |  Adoption, Publications  |  Comments Off

E-invoicing has not taken off as fast as its proponents might have hoped, but the economic climate might give their efforts new impetus.

The European Commission estimates that the potential cost savings of e-invoicing in the business-to-business sector will be €238 billion. The European Association for Corporate Treasurers puts the figure at €243 billion. According to Swiss-based consultancy Billentis, the unit costs of issuing paper-based invoices during the past year were in the range of ?8-18 (of which 40-50% could be saved by e-invoicing) and the unit costs of processing incoming paper-based invoices were in the range €11-32 (of which 60-90% could be saved). Given the current economic climate, such savings represent a very attractive proposition for corporates.

E-invoicing is also an attractive proposition for financial institutions, which have suffered huge losses and are focusing on transaction banking as a generator of fee income. The problem is that the area is bedevilled with challenges, including a lack of standards, a lack of definitions - and a lack of interest in some quarters.
The concept of e-invoicing has been around for many years. It aims to replace paper bills with electronic ones. Corporates can view invoices online, through a banking portal or other service and authorise them for payment. They can download invoices from the portal and automatically import them to their accounts payable or accounts receivable applications and archive them electronically to comply with statutory requirements.

What’s new about e-invoicing is that it is being linked with the single euro payments area. Because SEPA will standardise and harmonise payments processing across borders, it will significantly reduce the complexity of implementing e-invoicing solutions, according to SEPA: potential benefits at stake,  a report by Capgemini commissioned by the European Commission and published on the day SEPA came into effect in January 2008. Solutions will be more easily integrated into the back offices of sellers and buyers and because both sides of a transaction are using the same standards for payments processing, the challenges of compatibility between supplier and buyer will be greatly reduced. Moreover, “… the [Payment Services Directive] harmonises regulation and legislation, which lowers the barrier that regulation and legislation represent, though certain related barriers still remain (for example taxation)”, says the report.

Taxation is indeed a sticking point and is one that the EC is currently trying to fix. The EC’s VAT Directive has made matters worse, says Ifor Williams, sales director at Accountis, a developer of electronic invoicing, payment and document exchange services. Unsurprisingly for a European initiative, each country has chosen to interpret the Directive in its own way, leading to differences in tax treatment and invoicing standards. “The European Commission is aware of the problems with the VAT Directive and is working on revisions. Any revised directive shouldn’t differentiate in its treatment of paper and electronic invoices,” says Williams.

Antonella Vanara, payment systems marketing manager at Italian payments processor SIA-SSB, says pan-European interoperability of e-invoicing will require equal VAT treatment. “There are also obstacles to interoperability in the area of electronic signature standards. These standards are very complex and numerous - every country has its own. For example, in Italy, the digital signature must be issued by a qualified company that is accredited in Italy.”

According to a report from the Politecnico di Milano, basic standalone e-invoicing services are used by less than 1 company in 10 in Italy and the more integrated solutions are used by less than 1 in 30 companies.

As reported in Banking Technology’s Sibos Daily News in September 2008, Dutch/German payments processor Equens has teamed up with Italy’s ICBPI and Belgium’s Isabel in a joint electronic invoicing pilot that aims to establish an open, multiparty, cross-border e-invoicing network. Dave Rietveld, general manager for new business services at Equens, said it would take “a couple of years” before a European e-invoicing standard came into force and until that time local standards are well established and should be exploited. “It is too expensive for companies to invest in new standards, so our product bridges the current local standards, giving customers greater European reach.”

At present, pan-European e-invoicing is a concept, rather than a reality. However, advances have been made in national schemes, many of which could provide the basis of pan-European schemes once the interoperability problem has been ironed out. Public authorities are playing a role here, with the governments of Denmark, Italy, Spain and Finland mandating the use of e-invoices for business-to-government transactions. Says Vanara: “Some of the final features of the business to government sector have to be addressed, but once they have, this will be a real driver for e-invoicing in Italy, where current use is quite low.”

The Spanish government has driven the development of a legal framework for e-invoicing, a technical format and a website to help SMEs. SMEs are also able to obtain free software, attend events and get support, which totalled ?10 million in 2007 and ?43 million in 2008. By August 2009, all invoices sent to public administration bodies in Spain must be electronic.

In Finland, around 30% incoming and 40% of outgoing invoices are electronic. Unlike some other countries, Finland had not found the need for legislation to make this happen, Jere Reinikainen, a project manager at the State Treasury in Finland told the EXPP Summit in Frankfurt last September. Reinikainen said e-invoicing was considered a gateway product into e-government and e-business in general.

Bo Harald, chairman of the European Commission’s Expert Group on e-invoicing, says e-invoicing in Europe will be driven by the public sector because government authorities are the largest senders and receivers of invoices. “The Expert Group is very proud of the countries that have made a move to e-invoicing, but is also disappointed that more countries have not made such a commitment,” he says.

The Expert Group has been charged with developing a set of high level business requirements, which will cover the needs of all users and market participants; proposals to simplify the legal and regulatory framework for e-invoicing; and a vision for how the market could respond to user needs through network solutions supported by standards.

Nordic countries are quite advanced in their use of e-invoicing, says Gareth Lodge, a research director at financial industry analysts TowerGroup. “One of the reasons there are such high levels of EBPP and EIPP in the region is linked back to a banking crisis in the region about 12 years ago,” he says. “Banks had to shut hundreds of branches and one third of the industry’s workforce was laid off. But the banks still had to service customers, so they looked for other channels and this increased the reliance on electronic service delivery, which led to adoption of e-invoicing.”

Banks in the rest of Europe should take hold of the opportunities that will arise from the public sector, he says. “Most public authorities are required to deliver the best value to their clients, but the levels of investment to do this tends to be relatively low. They will be looking for a third party or a bank to help them introduce e-invoicing, so the question is, who will provide the best value in doing that?”

Accountis’ Williams says there is a good case for the banking network to be used for e-invoicing: “Invoices and purchase orders are just extra items in a business transaction that leads up to a payment being transacted. Banks are very good at handling payments, so the banking network should be used. E-invoicing is a very big opportunity for banks to gain extra transactional revenue that they don’t currently get.”

In June last year, The Royal Bank of Scotland announced it had signed a multi-year contract for Accountis’ electronic invoice presentment and payment technology, which it will use to provide VAT compliant e-invoicing services to corporate customers in the UK. The application provides detailed status information - such as proof of delivery, acceptance, query and approval status - for all documents involved in a business transaction, from purchase order to invoices. The service also provides real time dispute management.

Ian Watkinson, head of product innovation at RBS GTS UK, describes the services as a cheaper, faster and better way of processing invoices in a secure and VAT compliant manner. Among the first users of the service are local authorities, which says Watkinson, are aware that e-invoicing is an opportunity to deliver best practice and better value to tax payers. “E-invoicing helps local authorities to be more efficient and pay suppliers on time, which is a measure of how effective they are as organisations.”

Watkinson points up that in providing e-invoicing services, the bar should not be set “too high” for SMEs. Local authorities, for example, have a large and varied supplier base and therefore services should not be prohibitive for smaller, local suppliers he says, “In an accounts payable e-invoicing scenario, we don’t charge suppliers to register or connect to the service and we offer a range of connection options. If an SME can only print invoices, we have an option where we can capture the invoice print file before the document is printed, digitally sign the invoice and send it securely to the council. At the high end, large multinationals tend to generate their own format of data files reports out of their billing systems and they can securely connect their systems direct using the same service.”While e-invoicing has not developed as quickly as its proponents would want, there could be a silver lining to the cloud that is the global economic downturn. Says Watkinson: “Working capital management is very close to the hearts of suppliers today. E-invoicing services will help to improve how suppliers manage their days sales outstanding by providing them with the option to easily offer discounts on earlier payment terms. The service thereby facilitates the management of working capital, which is very important in this economic climate.”

Author: Heather McKenzie


Internet Law - EU regulations for e-Invoicing

March 3, 2009  |  Adoption, Publications  |  1 Comment

european-union flag 230x200To achieve basic standards of clarity and certainty in a taxation system, the incidence of taxation must be well defined. The tracking of indirect taxes such as VAT relies on invoices as the primary evidence of a commercial transaction.
When business evolves by means of advance technologies, documentary evidence such as invoices must match these advances. The European Union has recognized the importance of e-invoicing for e-commerce. Various EU standards have contributed to the evolution of e-invoicing..

These include the European Commission Recommendation 1994/820/EC, the European Directive 1999/93/EC and the European Directive 2001/115/EC. These standards have served the dual purposes of facilitating VAT administration on the one hand and fostering e-commerce on the other.

What Is The Importance Of E-Invoicing VAT Transactions In E-Commerce?
The invoice of a commercial transaction is one of the most important documents in any business. The invoice must conform to accounting, tax, business and even linguistic rules. Guidelines governing indirect taxes such as VAT that are levied on the basis of a commercial transaction specifically provide rules for authenticity of origin of an invoice as well as the integrity of its content. The invoice is also necessary in order for the recipient to claim a VAT refund. With the transformation of conventional business into e-business, all member states have individually tried to regulate the complex legal issue of invoicing. These disparate efforts resulted in a disruption of the smooth functioning of the Internal Market.

The Commission launched a multi-annual project “Simpler Legislation for the Internal Market” (SLIM) in 1996 to streamline key Internal Market Legislation. The Commission’s report on the SLIM initiative was approved by the Internal Market Council on November 27, 1997. This report includes a commitment to study “the details considered necessary for drawing up an invoice for VAT purposes and the legal and technical requirements for electronic invoicing”.CEN, the European Committee for Standardization or Comité Européen de Normalisation, was founded in 1961 with twenty nine national members to develop voluntary European standards and to foster the European economy in global trading.

In 2003, at the request of the European Commission, CEN set up an open “E-Invoicing Focus Group” and issued a report analyzing the requirements on standardization issues relating to electronic invoicing resulting from the new VAT legal framework. The Council Directive 2001/1115/EC recognizes the legal validity of electronic invoices for VAT purposes and specifies the related, required, technical conditions.

What Is The European Commission Recommendation 1994/820/EC.?
The Commission Recommendation was developed at the request of the European Trade and Industry Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) user groups to provide the required legality, acceptability and security in the use of EDI in European member states. The Recommendation includes the Model European Interchange Agreement that was developed in line with the work carried out by the International Chamber of Commerce and several major industry sectors, including the automotive, electronics, retail and distribution sectors.

Trading partners were advised to agree and sign interchange agreements based on the European model prior to commencing the exchange of EDI messages. The Recommendation specifically deals with the definition of EDI, EDI messages, essential characteristics of EDI messages, security of EDI messages, admissibility of evidence regarding EDI messages, storage of EDI messages, EDI standards, applicable laws and security measures when using EDI.

Article 2 of the Commission Recommendation also provides for alternative provisions for accepting electronic invoices when they are sent by EDI, and the agreement then provides for the use of procedures guaranteeing authenticity of origin and integrity of contents. The Recommendation deals with the legal status of EDI by mandating that EDI is admissible in a member state to the extent permitted by national law.

How Did Directive 1999/93/EC Contribute To The Development Of E-Invoicing?
The European Parliament and Council issued Directive 1999/93/EC on Community Framework for Electronic Signatures. The Directive introduced a legal framework to guarantee EU-wide recognition of electronic signatures. This Directive recognizes the importance of the electronic signature as a prerequisite for e-invoicing and security of data transmitted electronically.

The purpose of the Electronic Signature Directive is to facilitate the use of electronic signatures in e-invoicing and to contribute to their legal recognition. It establishes a general framework for electronic signatures and certain certification services to ensure the proper functioning of the internal market. Electronic signatures are also considered important as they facilitate the wide use of e-invoicing. Apart from its commercial value, the invoice is an accounting document, it has legal implications to both transacting parties and it is the basis for VAT declaration and reclamation, statistics declaration for intra-community trade and export and import declaration for extra-community trade.

How Has Directive 2001/115/EC Enabled E-Invoicing For VAT?
European Directive 2001/115/EC specifically deals with e-invoicing. It clarifies the implementation of e-invoicing and aims to introduce harmonized procedures for paper as well as e-invoicing across all member states. The Directive outlines the liability of taxable persons and their service providers for the integrity of content and authenticity of origin of electronic invoices for VAT purposes. This relates mainly to the invoices exchanged electronically and to the storage of invoices.

Under the Directive, no member state can refuse the invoice of goods or services sent by electronic means provided that the authenticity of the origin and integrity of the contents are guaranteed by means of an advanced electronic signature (AES), or by means of EDI as defined in Commission recommendations. Member states may, however, require the advanced electronic signature to be based on a qualified certificate. Invoices may also be sent by other electronic means subject to acceptance by the member state(s) concerned.

Although the EDI invoice message has been adopted by several industry and trade sectors in Europe, it has not been implemented to its full potential. Paper invoices have been maintained to overcome difficulties surrounding VAT regulation. Several member states introduced special procedures to allow EDI paperless invoicing but still require companies to apply for permission from the tax administration and in some cases to exchange summary VAT control messages, electronically or on paper. For cross-border electronic invoicing, companies are exchanging electronic invoices for company administration application, but are forced to parallel the exchanges with paper invoices to meet member state VAT requirements.


Norwegian finance portal launches new bank switching function

February 25, 2009  |  Adoption, Electronic Invoicing  |  Comments Off

A new solution was launched by the Norwegian Minister of Finance Kristin Halvorsen, the Minister of Children and Equality Anniken Huitfeldt and the Director of the Norwegian Consumer Council Randi Flesland through the financial portal, aiming at facilitating the process of switching banks or even starting negotiations within a bank in order to achieve better terms.
Based on the initiative of the Government and industry, new procedures were launched, in 2008, for information exchange between banks and also their customers. “” is Norway’s most complete marketplace for banking services; it provides pertinent financial and banking information enabling the customers to compare various financial products and services in an efficient manner.

After merely a year of operation, this portal has largely been accepted by customers and the majority of banks. The new switch bank solution constitutes a modern tool that facilitates potential bank switching, enables customers to initiate negotiations with banks while providing the possibility to compare other bank offers online and favours competition among banks selling similar financial products and services. Possible switching is directly implemented by the bank while this new tool facilitates the initiation of the entire process. This modern solution provides its consumers with substantial negotiating power protecting them from extra charges on the services offered, and in addition, stimulates the competition between banks inducing them to offer deals with better terms on their services and products.