The EC Expert Group on e-Invoicing has approved its final report. It will be published in within the next weeks. The work has involved a total of close to 60 experts over nearly two years and has already had a significant effect on the activities both in the market uptake, in the standardization area and in the regulatory simplification and unification efforts by the EC and Member States.
The readers will see that the report is recommending rapid actions by all parties involved based on the fundamental principles of technology neutrality, substance over form and furthering of competition. The focus has from the beginning been on next-to-eliminating the thresholds for SMEs to move into digitalized business communicating - increasingly demanded by their trading partners and the public sectors. A very important step in this direction would be EU-wide implementation of the equal treatment principles (no additional demand on electronic invoices - in relation to less secure paper/fax/PDF invoices) in the new VAT-directive. WIthout this it will be more costly and much slower to move into a single market - and if for example digital signatures would stay mandatory - virtually impossible for law-abiding enterprises to exchange e-invoices bilaterally without use of service providers.
A rapid migration away from inputting information into unstructured form is needed. Also the wasteful practises of de-digitizing invoice information with print or pdf and then re-digitizing scant information left must end fast.
Both actions needed for direct productivity improvements and above all to rise to a new paradigm in all aspects of business administration. This will enable in practise totally automated accounting, reporting and VAT-payments in real time and producing new dimension of value for both customers and public authorities. We call it a Centurial Reform. Demontrating the huge benefits to SMEs should take away the last resistance to changing old habits - especially as it can be done without investments and IT-skills.
The new paradigm presents a real opportunity for EU to both improve productivity with much more than the impact of 25% cut in administrative costs by 2012 set as a goal by DG Enterprise (as such not realistic without mass digitalization) and also to continue to lead global standardization and rollouts in this fundamental area.