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Bo Harald

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Bo Harald - ZEF, Transmeri, Demos, Real Time Economy Program

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Nobody in their right mind...

01 February 2009  |  2852 views  |  1

Nobody in their right mind would do crossborder e-invoicing - if you listen to the seemingly endless listing of different legal, tax and even fraud risks - said DHL's speaker at an e-invoicing conference recently. "But we do it - and it is quite successful" (freely quoted). This is not surprising for us from Nordic countries where (more secure and easier to trace..) e-invoices have been treated in the same way as less secure paper invoices from the outset. Transport mode is irrelevant. This has - not surprisingly - led to faster uptake and less fraud.

EU now: equal treatment

With DG Taxud's Equal Treatment initiative - as requested by enterprises also via the Expert Group - we should now be able to speed up the migration from expensive manual processes both in-country and x-regions faster. It shows the way, removes mental roadblocks and lowers risks from the outset.

Expert Group mission - highest level

The EG mission is very much to make it possible for 24m SMEs to join the networked economy - ahead of their global competitors. When it is easy join, they will also help large enterprises to massively increase producitivity, the public sector to save tax payers' money and all of us together reduce CO2 substantially. Not to talk about the shrinking-workforce-dilemma - huge need for fast "learning-by-doing-digitally" - up to 30 billion pieces of invoices being ideal tool. All this the necessary step to next levels in the Real Time Economy. How can there be any future for manual invoicing?

Make it easier than paper - not more difficult!

With equal treatment we now have the keys to make invoicing easier - it looked like going the other way with technology-specific legislation. The EG will for its part work hard on describing that this will actually be the case in a Code of Practice document.

"E-invoice or NO invoice - you choose."

SME: "I have been told by several of my customers to stop sending paper or e-mail invoices. What should I do?"

Typical answer: "Contact the nearest e-invoicing service provider (any e-bank should also offer it) - and you will have a feed-in portal right away - key in invoice there, or send simple exel file, use simple print-file or ask your accounting service to do it for you - not difficult."

SME: "Butbut - we have heard that VAT and other tax people ask for a lot more - in some countries digital signatures are even in the law -( still most tend to keep sending e-mail invoices just like paper mail before....)."

Answer: "Please be active in your organisations and via politicians who increasingly understand that more competitive  business is the base for European wellbeing and sustainable growth. This means - among other things - that the EU directive for equal treatment should now be understood as a fundamental simplification and adopted all over the place right away. It is really important to have laws that actually can be followed in practice."

Now even my suppliers..

SME: "Now even my regular suppliers have started to suggest e-invoices! I usually just call them (just across the border) and the goods arrive and the invoice in the snailmail soon after. Do I now need to change my behavior?

Answer: "No. Just like before you check the invoice (now coming to your e-bank or e-invoice service) - and make up your mind if it is correct - and then you pay it. And just like you (or your accounting service) today store your paper invoices together with the rest of your accounting (in accordance with local legislation),  you store your electronic documents. There are several good and cost-efficient methods for storing electronic documents."

Demystify the whole thing - enhance productivity now - futureproof

By demystifying e-invoicing we can take further productivity steps on the widest scale. Investments in the current downturn need to both help enterprises survive - but equally much be directed towards the structural challenges - mainly demographic - awaiting around the corner. If we fail to realize that then we have not only borrowed billions for our children to repay - but consumed the seed potatoes..

Comments: (1)

Michael Wright
Michael Wright - Striata | Secure Document Delivery - London 03 February, 2009, 12:13

For many of us involved in the eBilling and eInvoicing industry, the question of a Malcolm Gladwell "Tipping Point" has been the subject of much discussion.

There is a general agreement about the inevitability of the eBilling and eInvoicing - and the key to the concept moving from the minor to the major leagues has been the widespread adoption by SME businesses.

A prerequisite has always been the removal of any regulatory obstacles or even the hint of anything that would reduce the legality of an electronic invoice.

As Bo points out, "With DG Taxud's Equal Treatment initiative" electronic documents are now afforded the same treatment as their traditional paper counterparts.

What has begun with a trickle should now turn into a flood with every organisation moving from paper to electronic billing, especially the SME's.

I'd encourage them to start sooner rather than later - it requires a bit of BPR within the accounting function - but the long term benefits are now tangible and within anyone reach. 

The only loser in this process is the Postal Services - with the USPS proposing a change in the mail delivery from 6 days to 5 days to save costs in the light of a reduction of 9 billion mail items in 2008 alone. 

If there was any indication that email and eBilling is slowly taking hold - this is it.

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