The European Commission (EC) wants to see electronic invoicing (e-invoicing) become the predominant method of invoicing in Europe. In its communication ‘Reaping the benefits of electronic invoicing (e-invoicing) for Europe’, it 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 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The EC communication 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.”
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 EC 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 Standardisation (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 United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT) and International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO).
- 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.
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