Starting from January 1st 2017, the Flemish Government expects its suppliers to use electronic invoices. An electronic invoice, or e-invoice, is an invoice that has been prepared, sent and received in a structured, electronic form that allows automatic electronic processing by a computer system.
Does this mean that you can send your invoice to the Government via mail as a PDF document? No, a PDF in itself is not enough, because it does not meet the structural requirements that will allow electronic processing. An e-invoice must be drawn up in a specific XML format, i.e., XML UBL 2.1. This is a standard that will be used throughout the EU. (For those interested, the mapping of the fields for this XML-format can be found here).
The Federal Government, the regional and the local authorities will all use the same platform (“Mercurius” / “Mercury”) to receive e-invoices. That way, you as a supplier, will have just one delivery point for your e-invoices.
In addition, a standardized network infrastructure, called PEPPOL, is being used that also allows companies to exchange (i.e. send and receive) e-invoices among themselves. Peppol is an international (European) network consisting of a framework of conventions, a standard format, and applications, to facilitate e-procurement and e-invoicing.
In other words, we are talking about one uniform system and format that will be used throughout the EU for all invoices and credit notes between businesses and Governments (B2G). Companies can also use the system to exchange invoices and credit notes (B2B). Obviously, this is a good thing. Electronic invoicing is fast, simple, efficient, economical and sustainable:
- Fast: sending, receiving, and processing of data is done electronically.
- Efficient: with e-invoices is it possible to automate processing the data, which has the added benefit of minimizing the chances of errors during processing. And if the order form was delivered electronically, it is also possible, e.g., to automatically verify whether the order and invoice match. Furthermore, this is a system that will be used throughout the entire EU.
- Economical: invoices and credit notes can be exchanged and processed automatically, which saves you time.
- Sustainable: you no longer have to print out any invoices. Large companies sometimes keep up to six paper copies of invoices. That is no longer necessary. E-invoices are a sustainable solution.
It is to be expected that most accounting packages will be adapted to work with e-invoices by January 1st. If you do not have a package with which you can create e-invoices, you have the option of creating an e-invoice online via the Mercuirus/Mercury portal. (More information, in Flemish, here).
At INFORMA Europe, we are busy with the integration of e-invoices in CICERO LawPack. Soon, it will be possible to create and send e-invoices from within CICERO LawPack. It will also be possible to automatically process e-invoices in the accounting application.