European Commission rule changes to give boost to e-invoicing

In January 2009, the European Commission agreed to proposals for a new set of rules designed to eliminate the current barriers to e-invoicing in the VAT Directive by treating paper and electronic invoices equally.

The Commission says the aim of the rule change is to increase the use of electronic invoicing, reduce burdens on business, support small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and to help tackle fraud.

László Kovács, commissioner for taxation and customs, says: "Today's important initiative will put forward much simpler, more modern and comprehensive rules for invoicing, whilst allowing tax administrations effective means of control. Paper and electronic invoices will be treated equally which will allow businesses to move to a 100% e-invoicing system and to save up to 18 billion euros across the EU".

He says the proposal not only addresses the VAT obstacles which hamper the up-take of electronic invoicing, but it also addresses difficulties that businesses face in respect to the electronic issuance and storing of invoices, as well as discrepancies of the content of invoices.

The Commission says it will remove the pre-conditions of advanced electronic signatures or electric data interchange (EDI) for sending invoices electronically and allow for the electronic storage of invoices - even if the original invoice is in paper format.

As a result the Dutch government has recently announced it is loosening its e-invoicing restraints to allow e-invoicing by e-mail.  They claim this will cut back on their administrative burden, saving up to EUR 600 million on a yearly basis.

The significant benefits of e-invoicing when used as part of an e-procurement process have been demonstrated by the use of UBL standards by many European governments.

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