e-Invoicing in public procurement in Europe

e-Invoicing in public procurement in Europe

25/10/2018

In less than six months, from April 18, 2019, all European public administrations must be able to accept invoices in electronic format from their suppliers. For years, Europe has been committed to a technological leap enabled by e-Procurement, in other words, electronic management of the entire business process between the public sector and its suppliers.

To this end, Directive 2014/55/EU lays the foundations of a standardized model with common formats so that any supplier in any country can work with any European public administration and, in this way, contribute to the development of cross-border trade. The two syntaxes used by the CEN (European Committee for Standardization) are as follows:

  • UNO/CEFACT XML billing message as specified in the XML 16B schemas (SCRDM — CII).
  • UBL messages for invoices and credit notes as defined in the ISO/IEC 19845:2015 standard.

Thanks to the definition of open standards, companies can negotiate electronically with any buyer in the European public sector and carry out procurement processes. This way, the possibilities for procurement, and therefore doing business, are greater.

Although EDI has been widely implemented in European businesses for years now, the challenge for the immediate future is about achieving interoperability among countries, as each region has its own technical specifications and formats.

With the aim of promoting interoperability, the European network PEPPOL was devised and developed based on an infrastructure between certified access points and applicable both in the public and private spheres and worldwide. In addition, PEPPOL proposes the use of UBL standards for data exchange.

Accreditation as a PEPPOL Access Point or authorized third party allows Edicom to link up with the PEPPOL platform, through which private companies and governments in Europe can exchange any kind of e-documents. In addition, Edicom holds SMP (Service Metadata Publisher) certification, allowing it to manage its own identifier infrastructure in the PEPPOL network connected to the SML (Service Metadata Locator).

How to send e-invoices to the Public Administration?

There are two different architectures in terms of how they work for e-invoicing operations, which are already in force in several countries:

  • A central HUB that receives all the e-invoices from suppliers and forwards them to the corresponding public institution. This model is used, for example, in Italy (SdI) France (Chorus Pro) or Spain (Facturae).
  • A distribution system where suppliers must send their electronic invoices directly to the public administration concerned. In other words, a decentralized solution.

EDICOM has created a comprehensive platform for e-invoicing with Public Administrations, through which connection can be established with any public body in the European Union. The platform deploys a two-way communication channel that automates invoice submission, as well as the reception of status responses that provide valuable information on the life cycle of invoices. This Public Administration HUB can link up with all public administrations, whether local, regional or supranational.

Platform operation

Managing your e-invoicing with Public Administrations of the European Union in compliance with national specifications can pose a challenge for global companies. To simplify this situation, EDICOM has developed a B2B2G global electronic communications platform with e-Invoicing and VAT Compliance capabilities.

This platform allows the sending of electronic invoices to any Public Administration from a single solution with three basic features:

  • Automation. The solution integrates with the company's ERP to automate the VAT return and any other tax communication.
  • Centralization. The platform is suitable for tax compliance in more than 70 countries worldwide, so it is possible to centralize all procedures in a single solution.
  • Globalization. EDICOM Platform is ready for e-VAT returns, e-invoicing and any other business or tax communications.

The solution integrates with the company's ERP, deploying its mapping systems to automatically “translate” the information generated in the system into the electronic format required.

The data are then syntactically and semantically validated to ensure that the file correctly complies with the specifications of the destination country.

Once the message is validated, mechanisms are applied to ensure its legal value. For example, electronic signature, a time stamp or other certificates.

Finally, the EDICOM Platform delivers the message to the public agency through the system in place in each country, applying the necessary protocols in each case (web service, AS2, HTTPS, FTP…). The solution also receives responses from the administration offices reporting the processing status of each invoice.

The entire process is automatic, performed in a matter of seconds and totally transparent to the user. This means that accounting and admin departments can continue to work from their usual management systems.

eIDAS trust services to guarantee document integrity

In an increasingly digital Europe, citizens, businesses and the public sector need a regulatory framework that provides security and legal certainty in the e-activities taking place daily in both public and private environments. These security mechanisms are covered in Regulation Nº. 910/2014 on electronic identification and trust services for e-transactions in the domestic market, known as eIDAS.

EDICOM is a qualified provider of trust services for the issuance of qualified e-certificates for e-signature and electronic seal services, issuing of time stamps and qualified service for the preservation of qualified electronic stamps. We provide legal and judicial validity to the documents, granting them the status of burden of proof before third parties in the scope of the European Union.

Thanks to certification of the qualified preservation service for qualified electronic seals, EDICOM has the capacity to preserve the legal conditions of documents and files archived with assurances of authenticity and integrity over time.

Advantages of starting to use e-invoicing

For businesses, using e-invoicing means:

  • Cost savings: The initial investment involved in its implementation, and which gives rise to doubt in some SMEs, is quickly recovered with each invoice issued. We must remember that with this technology we totally eliminate the costs of paper, printing and sending. Moreover, the Administration Department’s productivity increases, as thanks to the automation of this process the staff have more time for other tasks.
  • Automation and integration in invoice receipt processes: The documents’ electronic origin allows automatic integration and registration in the system, leaving them ready for payment with practically no human intervention.
  • Greater efficiency and removal of human error: As a result of automation and fully integrated processing. Electronic invoices can be automatically generated and transmitted from the service provider to the recipient. This way, the lion’s share of the economic benefits is not due to savings on printed material and shipping costs, but rather to the total automation and integration of the process between the business partners, from purchase order to payment.
  • Faster delivery and bill collection times: The efficiency of sending and reception processes, their immediacy and practical elimination of errors in invoice generation and accounting all help reduce the time taken in collection.
  • Enhanced security: Invoices are sent using private networks or specific protocols such as AS2, FTPS, WebServices and VANs (Value Added Networks), etc. In addition, digital signature systems ensure the integrity, source and authenticity of these invoices.
  • Quick, secure and legal archiving: The original signed documents are safeguarded for at least the time stipulated by current legislation. This reduces archiving costs and also makes it easier to check up on old bills.

e-Invoicing Platform

A single solution that lets you issue electronic invoices in any country worldwide

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Resources

E-Invoicing with the Public Administration in France
Learn about the public sector fiscal dematerialization project in France.