How e-Invoicing Could Revolutionise Public Sector
Published in the Guardian, 14/Jan/2013.
Many other countries in Europe no longer use paper invoicing
because they believe electronic trading is so much more efficient.
Two Tory MPs say it's time Britain caught up. Electronic
invoicing could streamline government administration at a stroke,
save taxpayers billions of pounds and enable the government to use
its immense purchasing power to open new markets.
We believe electronic invoicing is a test case, offering the
government a chance to give a practical demonstration of British
digital leadership. Not only would e-invoicing save huge amounts of
taxpayers' money, it would, if implemented properly, stimulate the
almost instantaneous emergence of online services for e-invoicing
and the adoption of electronic open standards. Britain could become
a world leader in the field, creating thousands of new jobs and a
lasting boost to economic growth. Advocates of e-invoicing have
suggested that its full adoption by the government could result in
economic benefits of £22bn-£28bn a year for only modest levels of
In this age of austerity, e-invoicing is too good an opportunity
to miss. Yet we face an enemy from within: an often cumbersome
civil service bureaucracy that is slow to accept change. Britain
must escape the stranglehold of the political-bureaucratic
obsession that often places a premium on process over outcome. The
government must push on if Britain is to fulfil its potential and
become a global leader in a digital revolution, having the power to
increase national productivity overnight.
Britain already lags behind most of Europe and many of our
global competitors. In Denmark, paper invoicing has been banned in
the public sector since 2005. E-invoicing in the public sector has
been in operation in Sweden since 2008. The Finnish government has
accepted e-invoices only since January 2010. Britain must step up
its game. Embracing enterprise, innovation and technology holds the
key to releasing the economic growth and new jobs for which our
country is crying out. That process must begin with the process of
government itself. As individual consumers and businesses, we now
use e-invoicing every day . The benefits are simply too good to
But it's not all doom and gloom. Francis Maude, minister for the
Cabinet Office, and others in government have shown tenacity in
pursuing savings for taxpayers by eliminating waste and improving
public sector productivity. To introduce e-invoicing as the default
for public bodies will take strong political will. But be assured
that, as forward-thinking MPs with experience of business and
industry, we will do what we can to press for its introduction at
the earliest opportunity.
Adam Afriyie and Stephen McPartland are Conservative MPs for
Windsor and Stevenage respectively.
European Commission Requests Data on UK Public
The recently launched Single Market Act II contains, as one of
its key actions, an EU initiative on electronic invoicing
(e-invoicing). The planned initiative will aim to promote the
uptake and enhance the interoperability of e-invoicing in public
procurement across the EU. The expected benefits of such an
initiative include, among others, lower operating costs, shorter
payment delays, and a reduction in waste.
As part of the preparatory works, the European Commission has
just launched a public
consultation on public procurement e-invoicing in the EU. The
consultation seeks to gather information on the existing use of
e-invoicing and opinions on the planned launch of an EU initiative
in this area. The requested information will be of great assistance
to the Commission during the preparation of the initiative and will
ensure that it most accurately reflects market needs.
The consultation is open from the 22 October 2012 until 14
January 2013 inclusive. It consists of approximately 20
multiple-choice questions and should not take more than about 15
minutes to complete.
ACCA Publishes e-Invoicing Good Practises Discussion
The ACCA have published a discussion paper on
good practices in the adoption and promotion of e-invoicing
within EU member states. The paper presents the findings of a
high-level, pan-European consultation on good practices.
It draws on the views of expert professionals and stakeholders
in 21 EU member states to identify the initiatives, products and
policies that have worked well in promoting the use of e-invoicing.
It identifies the countries that are leaders in e-invoicing
adoption, as well as suggestions for how their success might be
UKeAG Respond to HMRC Proposed Changes to VAT Invoice
On 31st May, 2012, HMRC issued a technical note outlining
proposed changes to VAT invoicing rules to incorporate new EC
Directive 2010/45/EU. Under the new directive HMRC cannot impose
conditions in relation to the use of electronic invoices and has
proposed to change existing rules so that
'authenticity & integrity' of electronic invoices is achieved
by any business controls which create a reliable audit trail
between an invoice and a supply of goods or services.
Key to the challenge presented by the proposed changes is HMRC's
statement that "UK legislation will be amended to remove the
electronic signature and EDI requirements and make it clear that
the choice is one for business to make." While this statement may
seem logical under the EU's intention of individual Member States
no longer imposing conditions in relation to the use of electronic
invoices, it removes the two clearest working examples of ensuring
'authenticity and integrity' of tax compliant electronic invoices
within the UK, and within the wider EU community.
The UKeAG has urged HMRC to reconsider removing these two
popular examples of guaranteeing 'authenticity & integrity'
from the UK VAT invoice rules entirely and suggests the new rules
quote article 233 (2010/45/EU) in its entirety as to promote
working examples of compliant electronic invoicing. The full
response can be found here.
UKeAG Chair Presents to BASDA
Chris Godwin of STI Forum, and UKeAG Chair recently presented
how Europe is changing the landscape for invoicing at the recent
BASDA conference. Godwin explained that the Commission wants to see
e-invoicing become the predominant method of invoicing by 2020 and
how the Digital Single Market is an opportunity for software
developers. The presentation can be
PEPPOL meets the UK e-Invoicing Advocacy
In an ongoing effort to strengthen interoperability and process
automation across borders, PEPPOL and representatives from the
French government met UKeAG members, at an event hosted by the UK
government's Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
An overview of the PEPPOL project and several French pilot
implementations of cross-border eInvoicing were presented, along
with opportunities for leading service providers to implement
PEPPOL Access Points, facilitating cross-border eInvoicing between
the UK and France.
The discussion that followed focused primarily on legal and
governance aspects, which are the key points to be addressed by the
Open PEPPOL Association over the coming months.
UK government representatives were particularly interested in
increasing SME participation in public procurement, considering
that SMEs account for over 99% of all enterprises in the
Update on the EU Multi-Stakeholder Forum
Emmanouil Schizas. Association of Chartered Certified
The European Multi-Stakeholder Forum on E-Invoicing met for the
second time on 6 March, in Brussels. Delegates were welcomed by
Silvia Adrian Ţicău MEP, the European Parliament's rapporteur on
e-invoicing, who discussed the Parliament's response to the European Commission's E-government action plan 2011-15. Other
plenary presentations included a review of the Danish experience of
mandating e-invoicing, a very thorough overview of PEPPOL and a
discussion of the Commission's explanatory notes on VAT invoicing rules.
The UK is leading the EMSF Working Group 2, whose job it is to
identify best practices in Europe. In the group's break-out session
delegates were updated on the progress of the consultation and
first findings were sanity-checked; a tentative list of the most
common models of e-invoicing adoption was produced and 'model
leaders' were nominated to collect case studies of good practice.
Underlining the importance of this agenda, the Commission was
represented in the session by Michel Catinat, head of unit "ICT for
Competitiveness and Industrial Innovation" at the European
Commission's Directorate-General for Enterprise and Industry (DG
The EMSF will meet again on 25 September 2012.
UK government still cool about e-invoicing and failing
to capitalise on money funded by tax payers
Susie West. Shared Services Link.
I attended my first UK e-Invoicing Advisory Group (UKeAG)
meeting yesterday. It's a body of experts, service providers and
influencers looking to forge relationships with policy-makers
within the UK government.
The intended outcome of a forged relationship is that the UK
government catches up with governments like Denmark, US, Greece,
Brazil and Mexico and start requesting, even mandating e-invoicing
amongst their own suppliers.
The ripple out effect of this is that e-invoicing will become an
'no-brainer' project for multinationals and SMEs across the nation.
It will become an obvious business-move for British based
The issue the UK faces as a nation is that the government is
just not beating the e-invoicing drum.
We see pockets of adoption in the UK public sector with parts of
the NHS and councils.
But is this 'bottom up' approach working?
So far the UK's volume of electronic invoices is 'average'.
Nigel Taylor, a spokesperson for the UKeAG, said that if the UK
government embraced e-invoicing, it would be looking at savings of
£3 billion per annum.
If e-invoicing was encouraged, better still mandated, by the UK
government, a whole swathe of the country's paper invoices would
What does this mean to you as businesses? It means you'll trade
with your trading partners in an environmental, economic, efficient
way which results in cost savings and cleaner processes.
And should the UK government embrace e-invoicing, what does that
mean to you as a UK tax payer?
It means the tax you pay, which is hard-earned, is being spent
in an intelligent, efficient way, which fails to be the case the
longer the UK government remain cool about engaging in
How to save a billion - scrap those invoices
The public sector could be missing out on as much as £3 billion
a year in savings by failing to switch over to electronic
invoicing, an industry group has said.
Nigel Taylor, head of e-invoicing solutions at e-commerce
specialist GXS and a spokesperson for the UK e-Invoicing Advocacy
Group, made the claim to a House of Commons meeting of the
Conservative Technology Forum.
E-invoicing is the removal of paper from the invoicing process,
either by use of web-based forms or data exchange between buyer and
supplier systems. Already widely used in the corporate sector and
spreading to smaller businesses, it saves money by removing the
need to hire people to print, handle, match and store paper
Speaking after the House of Commons session, Taylor told
UKAuthority.com that by extrapolating from European research it
could be estimated that the savings available to the UK public
sector as a are more than £1bn a year and could be as much as £3
bn. But he said the practice was currently only "dotted around here
and there" in the public sector, partly due to people's bad past
experiences with implementing complex e-procurement systems, of
which e-invoicing was often viewed as a part.
"In the past, government has focused on e-procurement, but
e-procurement is quite a difficult thing to put in place compared
to e-invoicing - it touches all areas of a business, with all
stakeholders involved", Taylor said.
"So perhaps this level of difficulty has put public bodies off
"E-invoicing can be part of e-procurement but It is the easiest
place to start as it doesn't require big changes to internal
There is a lack of awareness of the potential benefits of
e-invoicing, he said, which range from saving money on staff costs;
freeing up staff to move to front line services; combating fraud;
gaining access to valuable live data showing the organisation's
current financial position; carbon footprint reduction; and the
fact that it can make it easier for small businesses to supply
public bodies, and facilitate their being paid within 10 days as
mandated by the government.
UK public sector pioneers of e-invoicing are few and far between
but include the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham, which
according to the UK eInvoicing Advocacy Group is aiming for cost
savings of at least £100,000 a year; Birmingham Primary Care Shared
Service Agency (BPCSSA), a body providing finance and procurement
services to three Primary Care Trusts and one NHS Trust in
Birmingham; and the BBC, though no major central government
departments have yet made the switch.