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To E-Invoice Or Not To E-Invoice: Europe’s New Question

Electronic invoicing continues to make news, especially on an international level. More countries are beginning to implement the digital option in an effort to eliminate paper and create a more streamlined business process. But what exactly are the benefits, and which countries are making the biggest pushes for e-invoicing?

The United Kingdom and Italy are making headlines lately in the e-invoicing world. In an effort to make businesses more cost-effective and ensure that companies can cut back on paper statements, several European governments are working to integrate e-invoicing systems.

The U.K.’s E-Invoicing Push

Earlier this week, online B2B networking specialist Tradeshift partnered with the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) in a move will allow Tradeshift’s platform to connect NHS hospitals, pharmacies and surgery centers with their suppliers.

NHS SBS director of finance Simon Murphy told Computer Weekly that, “conceptually no one can argue with e-invoicing … nobody we’ve spoken to has not seen the sense in it.

Murphy is not alone in his opinions, particularly in the U.K.  This is likely was major contributing factor in the national government’s decision to launch an inquiry report into e-invoicing. Specifically, the investigation wanted to discover how the technology could save the UK public sector money by enabling more efficient procurement and payment processes.

Stephen McPartland MP led the report, and said in a statement that by streamlining UK government administrative processes at a stroke, electronic invoicing could save the public sector and its suppliers a minimum of £2 billion (3.3 billion USD) per annum.

“By enabling government to use its immense purchasing power, e-invoicing could open up new markets throughout the country and help drive innovation and economic growth,” McPartland said.

Furthermore, one of the key recommendations in the report was that the UK government should encourage transparency and greater efficiency by establishing defined targets for e-invoicing in the public sector. This could include showing how much they pay by e-invoicing – and how quickly they pay – in their annual reports, according to the researchers.

Italy Speeds Up Its E-Invoicing Train

Along for the ride into a brighter e-invoiced future – Italy. Starting tomorrow, June 6, 2014, Italian ministries, the Tax Agency and state security bodies, as well as their suppliers will be required to use e-invoicing. The full rollout for e-invoicing in the Italian Sector will be complete by March 31, 2015, with other public agencies and their suppliers being required to join the movement within the next nine months.

As explained by a recent E-Invoicing Platform article, a major goal of this Italian government measure is to combat tax avoidance, which can be done through the payment traceability guarantees provided by electronic billing.

“To ensure this monitoring, invoice receipts must include the Codice identificativo di gara (CIG) and Codice unico di Progetto (CUP) in the cases stipulated by law,” the news source explained. “In the event of failure to provide this data properly, as provided by law, the authorities may stop the payment of invoices.”

Following in Italy’s footsteps is Estonia, which is considering launching its own mandate that requires organizations in the country to use e-invoicing. Another E-Invoicing Platform article stated that the Estonian Ministry of Finance plans to work with AS Ernst and Young Baltic to interview approximately 50,000 companies and 800 institutions from late May to mid-September to determine the best way to move forward in a digital push.

Can You Argue Against E-Invoicing?

The answer is seemingly “No.” At least, it is becoming more difficult to do so, especially in European countries. The 2014 Billentis Report showed that European invoice/receipt volume has now surpassed 34 billion. Additionally, the research revealed that the federal administrations of many European countries could save billions of Euros from implementing electronic billing processes.

“The looming regulatory changes for the EU, make it clear that early adoption of electronic invoicing, is critical for SMEs wanting to remain competitive within the lucrative public procurement sector,” Andrej Glezl, CEO of Datamolino, a SaaS solution said in a company statement discussing the Billentis Report.

Regardless of where a country currently stands, it’s obvious that the e-invoicing train is gaining steam, and governments need to keep themselves informed to make the most cost-effective decisions.

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