The European Commission has set out a series of actions designed to encourage broad-scale adoption of electronic invoicing by 2020.
The EC says that providing invoice data electronically and in a format could allow businesses to benefit from shorter payment delays, fewer errors, reduced printing and postage costs because it facilitate business process integration from purchase to payment, without manual intervention.
However, the Commission argues that currently, exchanging e-invoices is often complex and costly, in particular across borders and for SMEs.
As part of its 'Digital Agenda for Europe' initiative, it is focusing its efforts on removing barriers to broad-scale adoption, setting four priorities:
- Ensuring a consistent legal environment for e-invoicing
- Achieving mass market adoption by getting SMEs onboard
- Stimulating an environment that creates maximum reach between trading partners exchanging invoices
- Promoting a common e-invoicing standard
To help meet these, in 2011 the Commission will propose a revision of the e-signature Directive to provide cross-border recognition of secure electronic authentication systems.
It also plans to launch two new projects in the framework of the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme (CIP) to help specific sectors to agree on interoperable processes for the electronic exchange of data and documents along the different steps of the supply chain.
Meanwhile, the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) should develop a code of practice including consistent terminology and clearly defined roles and responsibilities for actors involved in e-invoicing, says the EC. CEN should design implementation guidelines for a cross-industry invoice data model and collaborate with international standards organisations, such as UN/CEFACT and ISO.
The Commission is also inviting member states to establish national multi-stakeholder fora by June 2011 and will complement this by setting up its own forum at EU level.
Michel Barnier, Commissioner, Internal Market and Services, says: "E-invoicing has the potential to make a big difference, for businesses, consumers, and European trade as a whole. The benefits in terms of saving time and money are fully in line with our Europe 2020 strategy and with the Digital Agenda for Europe in particular."