Last December 4th, the European Commission organised a CEF eInvoicing event in Brussels to inform about the four months countdown to the deadline to comply with the European Standard of e-Invoicing.

There were several presentations at the rhythm of ABBA (another good contribution from the Swedish delegation?) from relevant stakeholders in the eInvoicing community in Europe. You can already find the presentations on-line from here: https://ec.europa.eu/cefdigital/wiki/display/EINVCOMMUNITY/CEF+eInvoicing+Event+-+Four+months+until+the+European+standard+deadline

The room was full, so I assume there is still a lot of interest on the deployment of the new European Norm. There were good presentations, good rhythm and also some good questions and interesting debates, both in the forum and during the coffee breaks.

Nikita Stampa, Head of Unit for Innovative and eProcurement in DG GROW, started the event with good news on the issue about the Intellectual Property Rights of the Euroepan Norm. Currently the European Commission has signed an agreement with CEN that will eventually allow the dissemination of the EN for free, converting the EN16931 in a de facto open standard. Nikita also announced the CEF funding for the transition to eInvoicing that is around 6-7 M€ for 2019 and focusing on those countries lagging behind to catch up with the rest of Europe.

Following this introduction, an interesting panel on the views on the deployment of eInvoicing in different countries was led by Michael Scanlon. Belgium, Italy, Ireland and Sweden debated on the biggest challenges when deploying this service nationally.

Serge Libert from BOSA in Belgium was warning about the potential fragmentation on the formats and on the transmission infrastructure and insisted on the need to get the public sector ready.

Anna Elverheim pointed to the need to communicate to the SMEs the benefits on the use of eInvoicing.

Salvatore Stanziale from Italy explained that they will make B2B electronic invoicing mandatory because they did not see any other option to boost adoption.

Padraig Harte also indicated that promoting the awareness and communication is one of the biggest challenges to make the eInvoicing a successful story.

Irena Rivière-Osipov, eInvoicing Policy Officer in DG GROW explained that 9 countries have already transposed the Directive while 14 are about to do it before the deadline. Irena also explained that 25 countries had B2G solutions already deployed or under development. She added more information on the agreement with CEN, describing that it covers EN 16931-1 & CEN/TS 16931-2 and allows for unlimited and free access through National Standardization Bodies. Finally, she explained the CEF eInvoicing grants, with 19 proposals and 8,2 M€ requested in 2018-2 call (with 5 M€ available) and the new call in 2019 to be awarded during January and with 6-7 M€ to support Member States lagging behind in terms of uptake.

Caroline Corneau, CEF eInvoicing Project Manager, DIGIT made a more technical presentation on the works being done within the CEF. She explained the project on code lists, where the Electronic Address Schemes was published and on the VAT Exemption reason code which is still under consultation. She also explained the conformance testing service and the registry of services (CIUS) where there are already 8 CIUS plus 3 extensions included.

Before the coffee break, Andrea Caccia, chair of the TC434 explained the works currently in progress in the TC434. The CIUS methodology is still under development. He also explained that the corrigenda for the syntax bindings is available but still waiting for resolutions and clarifications on the code lists. Andrea also explained that the validation artefacts are on a Github repository owned by NEN but the tools are maintained by private editors, one of which is the one writing this post.

Just after the coffee, there was another panel on takeaways from national legislations. Sweden, Italy, Germany and Norway presented their national initiatives.

Sören Pedersen from DIGG detailed the plan implemented in Sweden to attain a successful deployment of electronic invoicing, mandatory to receive electronic invoices in public Government, mandatory to send for suppliers, no minimum thresholds, validation support tools and many other tools and services have been implemented in Sweden to achieve the goal of electronic invoicing.

Salvatore Stanzale presented the Italian initiative to make electronic invoicing mandatory for all. Unfortunately, it seems Italy is mandating FatturaPA, their own national standard instead of the European Norm, and instead of using an open network like PEPPOL, they are going to promote their own entry point.

Andreas Michalewicz from Hessen Ministry of Finance in Germany explained the complexity of the 16 German states and explained that each state must have its own legal regulation by November 2018. XRechnung is the CIUS of the European Norm that will be mandated for public entities and the PEPPOL network will be adopted across Germany.

André Hoddevik from DIFI in Norway explained the Norwegian regulation, where public entities will be required to receive EN electronic invoices by April 2019. The main lessons learnt by Norway are to make eInvoicing mandatory for public sector, to use European standards and to be part of the PEPPOL network.

After lunch, Martin Forsberg and Christian Vindinge from CEF presented the CEF eInvoicing workshops they are currently delivering across Europe and explained how member states can benefit from their hands-on experience.

A final breakout session was then initiated with different groups discussing on lessons learnt on the deployment of electronic invoicing nationally and after a discussion, and at 16:00, the event was closed down.

It was a rewarding event, seeing that things are starting to come together in Europe, but I think there are still some issues to be solved to get a real cross border and generic electronic invoicing landscape. Some member states are still using their national law to impose barriers avoiding a true European digital market. Countries with national formats or national architectures are missing the point. This is about building a European community, sharing a technical common language, and a common architecture to discover and exchange documents. I cannot understand why the same VAT Directive can be scattered into so many and incompatible national legislations.

If the VAT Directive, the European Norm on electronic invoicing and the PEPPOL architecture and principles do not fit your national legislation, why don’t you consider adapting your national legislation?

Oriol Bausà
B2B Router CEO