The European Commission is consulting on the role of e-invoicing in business and procurement with the aim to overcome the barriers created by the lack of interoperability between the national e-invoicing systems in the field of public procurement and to stimulate the take-up of e-invoicing in the EU
The consultation will close on 14th January 2013
Over the past decade or so, ICT tools have permeated many aspects of business and procurement. Many business processes have been automated. In recent years, automation has also started to appear in invoicing, in the form of structured electronic invoicing (e-invoicing) messages, which eliminate the need for human intervention. A number of EU Member States have legislated in this field, some of them making electronic invoicing mandatory for public procurement, i.e. in business-to-government (B2G) transactions. This has led to the establishment of several separate national e-invoicing systems, operating on the basis of different – often national – standards. Since invoicing is an integral part of any purchase contract, the multiplication of e-invoicing standards in public procurement creates additional complexity and costs for firms which enter into cross-border contracts with public authorities from other Member States. The result is a fragmentation of the internal market.
In addition, despite its recent progress, e-invoicing still accounts for only a small fraction of all invoicing activities in the EU (between 5 and 15%, depending on the source). By most accounts, this fraction is even lower in public procurement. The reality is that manual procedures and paper documents still predominate, and this implies higher processing costs, longer payment delays, and a greater impact on the environment through excess waste. These economic and social costs affect all stakeholders, and are especially regrettable in the current economic climate. Fortunately, e-invoicing offers immediate benefits in all of these areas.
The European Commission is therefore considering ways to overcome the barriers created by the lack of interoperability between the national e-invoicing systems in the field of public procurement and to stimulate the take-up of e-invoicing in the EU. In view of the decision of several Member States to make e-invoicing mandatory for their public procurement, the extension of this requirement to all public procurement in the EU is one of the options under consideration. Since public authorities are the largest purchasers in the EU, they could act as a driving force for the broader take-up of e-invoicing in Europe – in the B2G sector initially, but, through spill-over effects, potentially also in the B2B sector.
The objective of this consultation is therefore to gather views and information on the use of electronic invoicing in public procurement, i.e. in the B2G sector, and on the perceived need of action at EU level. Input is also sought as to the most appropriate solutions to promote the uptake of B2G e-invoicing and to enhance interoperability between the various national and proprietary systems.