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.
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:
At the same time however, e-invoicing faces obstacles such as:
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).
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.
For 2015, up to €7 million is being made available for EU applicants.
The first 2015 CEF Telecom calls for proposals have been officially launched. More information is avaliable here.
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.