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Digitalization of invoicing: e-invoicing

Electronic invoicing enables a company to automate its invoice processing. In addition to cost savings, the ability to automate the invoicing process and integrate with other business systems, provides business efficiency and revenue generating opportunities.

If you consider a switch from paper and manual based invoice processing to electronic invoicing, please find below an overview of the main conditions of e-invoicing and some practical guidelines regarding the implementation of an e-invoicing solution.

To be considered as an ‘electronic’ invoice or ‘e-invoice’, the invoice needs to be issued and also received in electronic format. This includes invoices sent as structured XML messages, e-mails with PDF attachments, faxes received in electronic format and even invoices that may be downloaded by the customer from a web portal.

The following specific conditions apply to an electronic invoice:

  • Authenticity

The identity of the sender of the invoice must be guaranteed. This means that the sender must be able to evidence that he effectively executed the transaction and issued the invoice to the customer.

  • Integrity

Both paper and electronic invoices must mention the following legally mandatory items: (i) name, address and VAT number of the involved parties, (ii) the VAT rate, (iii) the amount, (iv) a description of the goods or services, (v) the issue date and (vi) the identification number.

Please note that the content of the electronic invoice can not be altered after sending the invoice. Therefore, invoices issued in Word format are invalid. As long as the supplier can guarantee the authenticity and the integrity of the invoice, the invoice can be issued in PDF format.

  • Readability

All items on the invoice should be easy to read without too much room for interpretation.

EDI-messages, XML-messages or other structured messages in their original format are not considered as readable. However, most software for electronic invoicing provides for a conversion of structured messages into a PDF file.

The authenticity of origin, the integrity of content and the readability should be guaranteed as from the issuance of the invoice until the end of the conservation term of seven years.

Although there are no conditions regarding the methodology to be used by the supplier to ensure the required guarantees, these guarantees can only be ensured if the supplier sets up reliable (internal) business controls which provide for a trustworthy audit trail between the invoice and the service provided. For the supplier, the invoice can be compared to the order form, the transport documents and the payment receipt. For the customer, the invoice can be compared to the approved order form, the delivery note and the payment receipt.

In addition, specific technologies can be used to ensure the requirements of authenticity, integrity and readability, such as (qualified or advanced) electronic signature or Electronic Data Interchange (EDI).

  • Acceptance

The approval of the customer is necessary if a supplier wishes to issue electronic invoices.

However, there are no legal requirements as to this acceptance. There may be an implicit acceptance if the customer does not object the invoice within a specified delay and proceeds to payment.

A supplier can also enforce this implicit acceptance by adding a clause in its general conditions, stating that from now on, only electronic invoices will be issued. If the customer then pays the (first) electronic invoice without objecting thereto, the customer has implicitly agreed with future electronic invoicing.

 

For specific questions, you can reach out to the authors of this article or to your regular contact person at Cresco.

Pauline Devos | Associate

Tessa Gijbels | Partner

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