In this era of digitization, invoices have to evolve from paper to electronic format, benefitting the consumer in reaching the customer faster as well as allowing much lower costs for central-data processes and storage. The predicted impact in the business-to-business field across Europe is of up to €40 billion of benefits. However, there are still some obstacles that hinder the direct benefits of such eInvoicing:
- wide range of formats used;
- cross-border transactions are difficult within the EU due to different national rules which govern the validity and acceptability of electronic invoicing (eInvoicing) in legal, financial and administrative terms;
- uncertainty about eInvoicing systems’ security and potential misrepresentation in fraud which create concerns among consumers as well as among tax authorithies.
Hence, the European Commission requested the ‘European Committee for Standardization’ (CEN) to develop a European Standard for eInvoicing to harmonize practices across Europe and to respond to the EU Directive 2014/55/EU on electronic invoicing in public procurement.
First deliverables published by CEN/TC 434 on Electronic Invoicing
In CEN, the work is carried out by the Technical Committee CEN/TC 434 on Electronic Invoicing. Our Dutch member, NEN, holds the secretariat of this TC. In a very short timeframe, our standardizers were able to develop a European Standard and a Technical Specification:
- EN 16931-1 Electronic invoicing - Part 1: Semantic data model of the core elements of an electronic invoice
- TS 16931-2 Electronic invoicing - Part 2: List of syntaxes that comply with EN 16931-1
The semantic model includes only the essential information elements that an electronic invoice needs to have in order to ensure legal (including fiscal) compliance and to enable interoperability for cross-border, cross-sector and for domestic trade. The semantic model may be used by organizations in the private and the public sector for public procurement invoicing. It may also be used for invoicing among private sector enterprises. The application of this standard is compliant with the requirements for the protection of personal data of Directive 95/46/EC, having due regard to the principles of privacy and data protection by-design, data minimization, purpose limitation, necessity and proportionality.
More deliverables will be published in August and October this year.
In fact, a total 8 deliverables will be published before the end of 2017. The implementation of the European standard EN 16931 and related Technical Specifications and Technical Reports will foster Electronic invoices to progressively be able to have a seamless flow.
"Since the introduction of the VAT Directive for the first time, thanks to this new European Standard on Electronic Invoicing, it will be possible to guarantee full legal compliance of an electronic invoice within the European Union. Now the implementation of the Electronic Invoicing Directive and the objective of the European Commission to make electronic invoicing predominant by 2020 are really getting closer." Andrea Caccia, CEN/TC 434 chairman.