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European Commission wants broad-scale adoption of e-invoicing by 2020
The European Commission wants to see e-invoicing become the predominant method of invoicing in Europe. In its Communication 'Reaping the benefits of electronic invoicing (e-invoicing) for Europe', presented by Vice-President Tajani and Commissioner Barnier yesterday, the European Commission identifies a set of tangible actions to make the uptake of e-invoices in Europe easier. Providing invoice data electronically and in a format could allow businesses to benefit from shorter payment delays, fewer errors, reduced printing and postage costs. Most importantly, structured e-invoices facilitate business process integration from purchase to payment, meaning that invoices could be sent, received and processed without manual intervention. Currently, exchanging e-invoices is often complex and costly, in particular across borders and for SMEs. The Communication by the Commission addresses these obstacles and is complemented by a Commission Decision to set-up a European multi-stakeholder forum on e-invoicing.
Michel Barnier, Commissioner for the Internal Market and Services, said "E-invoicing has the potential to make a big difference, for businesses, consumers, and European trade as a whole. The benefits in terms of saving time and money are fully in line with our Europe 2020 strategy and with the Digital Agenda for Europe in particular."
Vice President Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship added "Revolutionising the way we pay bills, e-invoicing will boost the overall competitiveness of European Companies, especially SMEs"
Existing rules governing e-invoicing in Europe are not uniform. As such the potential benefits of e-invoicing still remain to a large extent unexploited. As part of its flagship initiative, ‘A Digital Agenda for Europe’ (see IP/10/581, MEMO/10/199 and MEMO/10/200), the European Commission is focusing its efforts on removing barriers to the broad-scale adoption of electronic invoicing in Europe. The four key priorities on e-invoicing are:
Ensuring a consistent legal environment for e-invoicing
Achieving mass market adoption by getting SMEs onboard
Stimulating an environment that creates maximum reach between trading partners exchanging invoices
Promoting a common e-invoicing standard
For each of these priorities, the Commission Communication sets out a number of specific actions for example:
In 2011, the Commission will propose a revision of the e-signature Directive to provide cross-border recognition of secure e-authentication systems.
The Commission will launch two new projects in the framework of the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme (CIP) to help specific sectors to agree on interoperable processes for the electronic exchange of data and documents along the different steps of the supply chain (including e-invoicing).
The European Committee for Standardization (CEN), a major provider of European Standards and technical specifications, should develop a Code of Practice including consistent terminology and clearly defined roles and responsibilities for actors involved in e-invoicing.
CEN should design implementation guidelines for a Cross-Industry Invoice data model and collaborate with international standards organisations, such as UN/CEFACT (United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business) and ISO (International Organization for Standardization).
To facilitate the monitoring and implementation of these actions, the Commission invites Member States to establish national multi-stakeholder fora on e-invoicing by June 2011. The Commission will complement this by setting up a stakeholder forum on e-invoicing at EU level.
E-invoicing, short for electronic invoicing, is the electronic transfer of billing and payment information via the Internet or other electronic means between trading parties involved in commercial transactions. These include businesses, the public sector or consumers, for example. Compared to paper invoices, e-invoices may create substantial advantages for all trading partners. According to a study carried out on behalf of the Commission in 2008, replacing regular paper invoices by e-invoices across the EU could result in approximately EUR 240 billion in savings over a six-year period.
As the invoice precedes the payment in any purchasing transaction there is also a strong link with SEPA (Single Euro Payments Area). SEPA aims at integrating and standardising electronic payments across the EU. SEPA and further standardisation of e-invoicing therefore have mutually reinforcing benefits. The environmental benefits of e-invoicing in terms of reducing paper consumption and energy costs are also significant.
The mass uptake of interoperable e-invoicing solutions in the EU is currently being prevented by barriers such as technical ambiguity, legal uncertainty, and operational constraints. In order to address this situation the Commission established an independent e-Invoicing Expert Group, which came forward with a final report at the end of 2009. The Communication and Decision adopted today are based on a public consultation on the final report of the expert group (see MEX/09/1130).