eDelivery supports Hermes project to implement universal eInvoicing in Belgium
The Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) eDelivery Building Block is providing key support to the Hermes project, which is accelerating the uptake of electronic invoicing in Belgium. Using eDelivery, the Belgian government and the CEF team have expanded the list of organisations able to receive eInvoices to include all (almost 1.8 million) Belgian economic operators, which are now encoded as participants in the PEPPOL eDelivery network.
The Hermes Project
eInvoicing (the use of standardised, structured electronic invoices that are interoperable across sectors and borders and can be processed automatically) is helping public administrations and businesses all over Europe process invoices more efficiently for cost savings and easier cross-border trade.
However, sending and receiving business partners still face obstacles in their eInvoicing journey. While those receiving eInvoices enjoy most of the gains in efficiency, many are hesitant to put in the necessary time, money and work to implement a solution that will enable them to accept eInvoices. This is because they need to receive a certain amount of eInvoices for this to become cost-effective, and not all of their senders have adopted eInvoicing yet. Consequently, some sending parties are also hesitant because it is costly to adapt their invoices to different customers depending on whether or not they have the technical capability to process structured, electronic invoices in XML format.
The Hermes project is giving new incentive to both sides by making it possible for senders (i.e. sellers) to send exclusively structured, interoperable eInvoices, regardless of the receiving party’s processing ability. If the receiver cannot, Hermes sends both a PDF translation to the recipient, along with information on solution providers that can help them adopt eInvoicing. NB: the structured, XML invoice is available through a Portal, which also tracks the delivery of the document from the sender to the receiver.
By allowing sending parties to send structured eInvoices only, the Hermes project is removing a key bottleneck in the adoption of eInvoicing. Sending parties no longer have to worry about tailoring the invoices they send based on the processing capabilities of their clients' systems. In turn, the greater number of sellers sending eInvoices will give buyers greater economic incentive to get started on their eInvoicing journey so they can receive fully interoperable, machine-readable eInvoices.
The CEF eInvoicing Building Block helps you send and receive structured, electronic invoices that are interoperable across sectors and borders, in line with the European standard on eInvoicing.
How does eDelivery help?
The essential function of the Hermes system is its ability to know whether a recipient can receive an eInvoice or needs a PDF.
Using the CEF eDelivery Building Block, an open, reusable, standards-based solution for sending documents and data via a secure communication channel, the Belgian government and the CEF eDelivery team worked in close collaboration to upload the records of almost 1.8 million Belgian economic operators in the subdomain associated with the PEPPOL eDelivery network of the CEF eDelivery Service Metadata Locator (SML) Service.
Until now, this network connected sending parties with all clients who could process structured invoices (currently around 25,000 receivers in Belgium). With Hermes acting as the middleman, and the addition of 1.8 million records present in the CEF eDelivery SML Service, all these senders are now connected to all economic operators in Belgium regardless of their eInvoicing maturity, making sure the invoice reaches its recipient in the correct format.
Loading 1.8 million records simultaneously into Hermes and the SML was a major achievement, requiring technical expertise, a balance of structure and flexibility and the close collaboration of Belgian authorities and the CEF eDelivery team. With the security eDelivery offers, as well as scalability to accommodate any number of participants or messages in a network, this solution was the perfect choice for such a mammoth task.
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