Growth

e-Invoicing

e-Invoicing

EU countries and the European Commission decided to introduce a European Standard for e-invoicing in response to the many e-invoice formats used across the EU. These varied formats cause unnecessary complexity and high costs for businesses and public entities. While all contracting authorities will have to accept electronic invoices that comply with the European norm, nationally specific rules will remain valid. In other words, the Commission’s initiative will result in a norm and not in a European e-invoicing infrastructure. The latter will be supplied by service providers on the market.

Once the e-Invoicing Directive 2014/55/EU has been transposed into the national laws of EU countries and the deadline for implementing the norm has passed, electronic invoices will be able to flow seamlessly across the EU.

Dedicated working environment for e-invoicing stakeholders

This new collaborative space enables stakeholders interested in e-invoicing policy and market developments to exchange experiences and best practice on cross-border e-invoicing. It is open for use by the entire e-invoicing user community (all public administrations and private actors dealing with e-invoicing in Europe) to disseminate information, co-create the future and learn from one another. 

Benefits and obstacles to e-invoicing  

Compared to paper invoices, e-invoices are easier to process, they reach the customer faster and can be stored centrally at very low cost. A report (5 MB) predicts potential annual benefits of up to €40 billion across Europe in the business-to-business field alone.

Some of the main benefits from e-invoicing include:

  • faster retrieval of money from customers by reducing the time an invoice or payment is in the post
  • reduced printing and postage costs
  • quicker and cheaper processing as the information in electronic invoices can be fed directly into a company's payment and accounting systems
  • lower storage costs
  • reduced training and system development costs.

At the same time however, e-invoicing faces obstacles such as:

  • e-invoices are produced in a wide range of formats and according to many different standards. This hinders the smooth transfer of an e-invoice from one place to another, and prevents the realisation of the full benefits and cost savings of e-invoicing
  • variation in national rules which govern the validity and acceptability of e-invoices in legal, financial and administrative terms. This makes their use in cross-border transactions within the EU difficult
  • many potential users have concerns about the security of e-invoicing systems and the potential for misrepresentation in fraud.

Standardisation and e-invoicing

The Commission-funded European Committee for Standardization (CEN) runs a number of activities on issues related to e-invoicing implementation.

A series of informal meetings with representatives of standards organisations produced the report 'e-Invoicing Standardisation Overview, issues and conclusions for future actions', September 2012 (291 kB).

Following the adoption of the E-invoicing Directive 2014/55/EU and in accordance with the provisions of Article 3 within, the Commission issued a standardisation request (79 KB) (annex, 92 KB) to the European standardisation organisations in December 2014. The work is being carried out by the CEN Project Committee on Electronic Invoicing (CEN/PC 434).

EU funding for e-invoicing solutions

Under the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), EU funding is available to support e-invoicing activities. Every year, call for grants are launched to select projects which can use EU money to set-up, upgrade and deploy e-invoicing solutions.

The 2016 CEF Telecom calls are now open. The deadline for submissions is 15 December 2016.

The European Multi-Stakeholder Forum on Electronic Invoicing

The European Multi-Stakeholder Forum on Electronic Invoicing (EMSFEI) brings together stakeholders from national e-invoicing forums and from the user side of the market. Its objective is to help pave the way for a broad-scale adoption of e-invoicing at national and EU-level. The Forum provides a unique opportunity to exchange experiences and best practice across borders. It also discusses issues of common interest and may issue recommendations to the Commission.

Documents endorsed by the EMFSEI forum at its tenth meeting of 21 March 2016

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