The E-invoicing Checklist: The new EU E-invoicing Directive [part 4]

What will be different as from 1-1-2013? The new EU Directive must be implemented in all EU Member States by 1 January 2013. If not, an EU Member State citizen, company or organisation can already act on it, with reference to this Directive. In other words, wake up and make sure you know what its all about. And isn’t that convenient? We’ve got all the info right here for you in part 4 of the series on the E-invoicing Checklist.

Equal treatment and uniform implementation

The very basics of the new EU E-invoicing legislation: paper and e-invoices must be treated equally by all EU Member States. Any particular e-invoicing technology (such as EDI and/or electronic signatures) is not compulsory. This basic idea has to be uniformly implemented by all EU Member States on 1 January 2013 at the latest.

Definition of an electronic invoice

Under the new article 233 EU VAT Directive, the qualification of an electronic invoice depends on the FORMAT of the invoice, not on the means used to transmit it: “Electronic invoicing
shall mean invoicing which is not made in paper format. The following shall not be regarded
as ‘electronic invoicing’”

  • paper sent via fax machines
  • scanned paper invoices sent via electronic mail where the content cannot automatically be processed into the accounts of the recipient

Tacit acceptance by the recipient

It is no longer necessary to get explicit prior consent (though it is advisable) from the recipient, before you can start sending e-invoices. If your customer pays your e-invoice without any comment, you may assume that this particular customer agrees with the content and format of your invoice: tacit approval. See also: ADOPTION TACTICS.


This is a new principle mentioned alongside the requirements of “Authenticity of the origin”
and “Integrity of the content”. Lacking a description in the new directive, the requirement
of “legibility” of invoices seems to imply that in the framework of a VAT inspection, the
invoices have not been altered from the moment of issue until the end of the storage period.
Furthermore, they have to be made available to the auditing officials in a readable form.
Without a proper definition, this “legibility” feature remains an unsure factor in the equation.

Business controls

Each taxable (legal) person may determine their way to ensure the authenticity of the origin, the integrity of the content and the legibility of the invoice. The primary (not the only) method is the use of business controls that create a reliable audit trail between an invoice and a supply of goods or services. When the business controls are not sufficient to meet the requirements, additional measures need to be taken. This largely depends on the size and nature of the (legal) person in question. See also: ENSURE CONTROLLABILITY.

Flexibility in conversion and storage options

The requirement of “integrity of content” means that the content of an invoice is not
altered. This implies that the format in which the invoice is ultimately stored, becomes
irrelevant and also allows for conversion of the invoice format into any other format. As
long as integrity, authenticity and legibility are ensured, of course.

NOTE: “An EU Member State may require that invoices be stored in the original form in
which they were sent or made available, whether paper or electronic. Additionally, in the
case of invoices stored by electronic means, a Member State may require that the data
guaranteeing the authenticity of the origin of the invoices and the integrity of their content
will also be stored by electronic means.”

NOTE: “An EU Member State may also lay down specific conditions prohibiting or
restricting the storage of invoices in a country with which no legal instrument exists
relating to mutual assistance similar or to the right to access by electronic means, to
download and to use.”

Reliable audit trail

Another term that has been introduced without being defined clearly. In short, a reliable
audit trail provides proof to what extent a (legal) person ensured the requirements
of authenticity, integrity and legibility with regard to invoices (regardless of paper or

A reliable audit trail can be created by business controls. Whether you‘ve created a
reliable audit trail depends heavily on the size and nature of your business. When you
are a very small consultancy company (for example), an audit trail is created by linking
your invoice archive to your financial administration and payments archive. Larger and
more complex organisations require more measures to create a reliable audit trail. See

We’ll show you what information must be part of an invoice next week. Important stuff. If you can’t wait that long then the E-invoicing Checklist is free to download for you by following this link.

Previously published articles in this series:
New series: The E-invoicing Checklist [part 1]
The E-invoicing Checklist: Manual [part 2]
The E-invoicing Checklist: Current EU e-invoicing basics [part 3]

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