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5 min read

E-invoicing also without government obligations a smart move

For a long time it has looked as if e-invoicing would be enforced by laws and regulations. That does not turn out to be the case, at least for the time being. Nevertheless, it is very attractive for companies to switch to e-invoicing, says Danny Kind, Senior Product Manager E-invoicing from ICreative. "Especially if they comply with the applicable requirements for billing data, so that both the customer and the supplier benefit."

'E-invoicing from 2017 onwards a fait accompli' barely a few months ago, there was still a lot of article about e-invoicing. 'Fake news' was not, not at all, because indeed suppliers of the Dutch central government have been obliged since the beginning of this year to send electronic invoices in XML format. But the practice is simply more stubborn. "The national government has itself to take steps towards fully data-driven invoice processing and still seems to be running smoothly towards the business community, and the big flywheel effect towards the business sector is still unavoidable", says Danny Kind, Senior Product E-invoicing from ICreative, a company that supports those electronic invoices that want to receive and / or send.

In addition, the lower Dutch authorities themselves do not yet have to switch to e-invoicing, although this is in the air. For a long time it looked as if all public authorities in the Netherlands would be obliged to receive and process e-invoices in November 2018, but that date has been postponed by at least 6 months. "When it is required, it is unknown," says Kind. This depends on when the e-invoicing standard is officially published: 18 months, after which it would become mandatory according to the European Directive 2014/55 / ​​EU. "Where initially it was expected that the official publication would be achieved in May 2017, it is now expected that the publication of the standard will take place in October 2017, from which it follows that the definitive effective date of the obligation as of April 2019 would be a fact. "

Data is the new oil

The adoption of e-invoicing in the business sector should in principle not depend on Dutch or European laws and regulations. In business, it is often called that data is the new oil. Besides the mechanical automation of the last 200 years, there is currently clearly a second automation in the field of information and intelligence. Business processes are becoming more and more automated, but this can only be realized if information is available in data form. Invoice processing is a good example of this. Invoices can be sent and received on paper or as a PDF. But as a data file, an invoice can be processed directly and quickly by accounting software or purchase-to-pay automation software.

E-invoicing can ideally take place entirely automatically, without human intervention. This means that invoices are processed and paid for faster by the customer, which leads to a decrease in the number of debtors' days and a lesser burden on working capital. The costs for managing the invoice flow on the customer side can decrease by 25 to 50 percent if all invoices are processed electronically. With e-invoicing, there is better insight in the workflow and invoicing process within the organization, both on the customer and the supplier side, and thus also better control: it means that invoices are no longer lost or delayed, better insight into debtors and creditors portfolio and better working capital management. All benefits that also occur without the government.

Babylonian confusion

So you would say: e-invoicing brings with it so many advantages that the coûte que coûte is attractive to import it. Nevertheless, it is still not that fast with e-invoicing. According to a survey conducted by Statistics Netherlands in 2016, 80 percent of Dutch SMEs still sent paper invoices, 16 percent PDF files by e-mail and only 4 percent e-invoices in UBL format. These percentages will now be different, but if 10 percent of the companies send and process e-invoices, it's a lot. Do not all those companies see that they are failing themselves? Also, says Kind: "We are all busy with projects that are underway - busy with the issues of the day - a subject such as e-invoicing often gets lowest priority, especially because it is difficult to predict how e-invoicing should be set up in advance. and what costs can be saved. "

Danny Kind, ICreative: "A lot of information can be automatically added based on the available data on the invoice"

Something else is involved, says Kind, namely that there is not one standard for e-invoices and that every customer is free to request additional invoice information from her suppliers. "Each sector has its own requirements with regard to billing data, they often want project numbers on an invoice, agencies send personnel information and energy companies use meter readings, and more and more customers expect their suppliers to place a part of the billing code on the invoice. In itself quite understandable, but it will be difficult to implement one standard The invoicing system of the supplier usually only contains the legally required invoice data and is generally arranged Extra fields can not be added in such an ERP system Let alone if not one customer, but several customers suddenly require several additional billing information. " A Babylonian speech confusion, in short.

Legal standard

If companies adhered to the statutory billing requirements, this problem would obviously be off track. The result would be a significant increase in the number of e-invoices. And if a customer wants more information than is required by law on an invoice? "Even then, the customer can process the incoming e-invoices automatically, but he only has to add the desired information himself, so he has to do some extra work, but with the rise of robotics, this does not have to be a manual work. added on the basis of the available data on the invoice "

If everyone adheres to the legal billing requirements, it is possible that as a customer you do not receive all the desired (coding) information. On the other hand, you get nine out of ten suppliers to deliver e-invoices, according to Kind "And with nine out of ten suppliers achieve an efficiency boost of 90%, offers much more advantage than with just one supplier an efficiency reduction of 100%. the remaining suppliers continue to submit invoices on paper or PDF. " Companies that want to introduce e-invoicing do well to agree with their suppliers to comply with the statutory billing requirements.

Invoice operators

And as long as this does not happen on a large scale? As long as the Babylonian confusion of tongues in the field of e-invoicing continues to exist because different invoicing requirements and format standards are used? "Well, there are dozens of languages ​​in Europe, but in the European Parliament people can easily communicate with each other thanks to the intervention of interpreters, as with several invoices," says Kind.

Companies such as ICreative and other so-called 'e-invoice operators' or 'billing service providers' can ensure that companies receive invoices as they wish, regardless of the format in which the invoices were originally drawn up by the supplier. From paper or PDF to XML (e-invoice), or from one XML format to another XML format. And moreover, standardized. Everything is possible. In theory, every company can receive e-invoices from day one, regardless of whether their suppliers want to go with it. It is an interim solution, but one that falls into the category of total relief. A solution that is also cheaper than introducing, validating, coding and matching invoices yourself.

If e-invoicing becomes truly established and everyone speaks the same "language", the e-invoice operators will of course lose their position, but that is far from the case - if it ever happens.

About ICreative

As Basware and Kofax partner, ICreative delivers purchase to pay and e-invoicing solutions to large corporations and institutions. Our solutions offer more control on business spend and less complexity of the purchase to pay process.