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Expert opinion

An overview on the E-Invoicing Directive 2014/55/EU

Tuesday 30 May 2017 | 11:07 AM CET

Peter Potgieser (Red), eBCG: There are two areas to be addressed - work to support the acceptance and implementation of the standard and work of a `standard development` nature.

A previous article from the B2B Fintech: Payments, Supply Chain Finance & E-invoicing Guide 2017 has described the background leading to the development of the European Standard EN 16931-1 'Electronic invoicing - Part 1: Semantic data model of the core elements of an electronic invoice' . This EN is to be seen as a contribution to the objective 'e-Invoicing predominant in 2020' as expressed by the European Commission.

This article will take a brief look at the areas where further work is needed to help achieve this objective. There are two areas to be addressed: work to support the acceptance and implementation of the standard and work of a 'standard development' nature.

For the former, topics like user support come to mind, where for instance a website, help-desk, guidance on interpretation of terminology and roadmap for the EN and its supporting documents should be made available. Here the availability of the document containing the EN and the supporting documents should not be overlooked - they are usually not publicly available.

Furthermore, 'infrastructure' is a relevant topic. While in one EU member state it is allowed to send electronic invoices in a file attached to an e-mail, in another member state (or while using a particular inter-community communications infrastructure) this is not permitted, meaning that the exchange of electronic invoices between entities in the different communities is hampered.

Assuming that regulatory measures can help overcome the above hindrances, it will be clear that different ways of use of the standard will also be a limiting factor for the acceptance. Therefore, it is necessary that the least possible amount of 'Core Invoice Usage Specifications' (CIUS) to be developed: the more communities use an own CIUS, the more difficult the inter-community exchange of electronic invoices compliant with the EN will be. Similarly, regarding extensions, they must be bilaterally agreed upon between senders and receivers (using a methodology described in a Technical Specification accompanying the EN). In principle, this allows for many different extensions.

For obvious reasons, this number should be limited to a minimum, where implementation and quality control should use the methodology drafted by CEN/TC 434 as part of its deliverables. It is already recognised that there is a need for common extensions of a multi-sectoral nature at European level, to help prevent fragmentation and duplication. The administrative processes around this should be facilitated using the so-called Registry Services. Such services, that could also serve the maintenance of necessary code lists or character sets, allow for better retrieval and reuse of specifications like CIUS or an extension that already have been agreed upon.

Although the roots for the EN are in a Directive considering use in business-to-government ('B2G') environment, where regulatory measures ensure proper conditions at the receiving end, the EN has been developed with usage in the business-to-business ('B2B') environment in mind. Providing a proper and timely follow-up to the topics briefly mentioned here is a ' conditio sine qua non' complement to support the real B2B use.

About Peter Potgieser

Peter Potgieser leads the ‘Activity Group Standardisation’ in the EMSFEI; he is the Chair of the CEN e-Business Coordination Group, an advisory group of the European Standardisation Organisation CEN. The Group addresses e-Business standardisation activities and provides advice on their relations and dependencies within CEN.

About The eBusiness Co-ordination Group (eBCG)

The eBusiness Co-ordination Group (eBCG) is an advisory group of CEN. The Group will provide a focal point concerning eBusiness standardization issues.