The European Commission approves the list of syntaxes for the electronic invoicing

The European Commission approves the list of syntaxes for the electronic invoicing


The European Commission, following its objective of promoting the uptake of electronic invoicing within its Member States, has published the official syntax list for the development and implementation of e-Invoicing based on the Assessment of the European Standard on electronic invoicing, according to Directive 2014/55/EU. The document can be read here.

The European Committee for Standardization (CEN) was asked to develop this e-Invoicing standard and to carry out the tests with respect to its practical application for an end user. The decision to limit the number of formats for the implementation of the semantic model is based on enabling simplification for both the market and its users.

The two approved syntaxes are:

  • UN/CEFACT Cross Industry Invoice XML message as specified in XML Schemas 16B (SCRDM — CII).
  • UBL invoice and credit note messages as defined in ISO/IEC 19845:2015.

An additional study was carried out referring to three main criteria which are fundamental for the standard:

  • Practicality: This criterion refers to elements such as being effective, useful, and suitable for a particular purpose or situation.
  • User-friendliness: This criterion involves an assessment of the easiness to use and to implement the standard, in particular considering existing systems, such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP).
  • Implementation costs: This criterion refers to the implementation costs to be borne by end-users (contracting authorities and their suppliers) for supporting the standard, covering the full set of identified scenarios.

After the tests, results have confirmed that no technical problems have been identified and, that after analyzing the common elements of the e-Invoices which cover the majority of business and legal requirements, these formats are of great value for the establishment of user-friendly and cost-efficient e-Invoicing systems. However, the costs will depend on the level of maturity and the architecture chosen by each country. Two different architectures for e-Invoicing in public procurement can be identified:

  • A central hub (or a combination of several hubs) that receives all e-Invoices from suppliers and dispatches them to the relevant contracting entity/authority (centralized system). This is the model used, for example, in Spain or France.
  • A distributed system where the e-Invoices have to be sent by the suppliers directly to the relevant contracting entity/authority (distributed system).

How will it impact on businesses?

The main goal of this European framework is to guarantee the semantic interoperability. The benefits of electronic invoicing are maximized when the generation, sending, transmission, reception and processing of an invoice can be fully automated.

Many of the European Union Member States have already implemented e-Invoicing of a compulsory nature between the public sector and its suppliers, with the aim of simplifying tax compliance and cutting economic costs. This is the case of Spain, Portugal, Italy, or France. However, in each of these countries, the technical and legal requirements of this model are different, so interoperability between the states poses a challenge.

With the new European standard for e-Invoicing, the EU aims to encourage public procurement and e-commerce in the cross-border scope. So all States will have to accept e-invoices in the two syntax formats approved by CEN: UBL and UN/CEFACT This does not mean that the current standards in each country will cease to be valid. Models such as Facturae (Spain), FatturaPA (Italy) and other national standards will continue being used, but there will also be a higher standard that ensures global interoperability.

According to SMEs and its evolution in digital transformation, the use of European standards will simplify compliance throughout the different national requirements.

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