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Study on the electronic invoicing in Europe

Date de publication : 20.07.22

ComptabilitéGestion | PilotageInternationalPME

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The study focused on the following countries: Italy, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Netherlands, Poland, United Kingdom and France.

As a reminder, electronic invoicing was introduced at the European level by Directive 2001/115/EC as adapted by Directive 2006/112/EC (the VAT Directive). These directives deal with the conditions to be met for issuing electronic invoices, but do not cover their communication to the tax authorities. As a result, electronic invoices exist in all of the European countries examined and are often mandatory for public service contracts. However, reporting obligations to the tax authorities are much more heterogeneous.

Electronic invoices : summary of the countries examined

CountryObligation to issue electronic invoicesDisclosure to the tax authorities
ItalySince January 2019 for domestic B to B transactions and from January 2022 onward for intra EU sales and purchasesSales invoices transmitted within 12 days (SDI portal)
SpainSince January 2015 with government agencies for transactions > €5,000, Current draft legislation (November 2021) concerns B to B sales, with a different implementation deadline for companies with revenue > €8 million (1 year) and the others (3 years)Since June 2017, companies with revenue of more than €6 million have been required to transmit electronic files of purchases and sales invoices every 4 days. These files are created from mandatory VAT registers incorporated into accounting systems
PortugalFor suppliers to government agencies, since April 2020 (large companies) and from June 2022 for the othersSince 2014, obligation to transmit the electronic sales file (SAFT) each month within 12 days
BelgiumSince 2019 for sales to government agencies.No obligation or proposals
NetherlandsSince July 2017 for sales to government agencies.No proposals to date.
PolandSince 2019, government agencies have been required to accept electronic invoices. Proposal underway to make electronic invoices mandatory from 1 April 2023, via the national KSeF platform.Since January 2018, electronic SAFT-T files transmitted on a monthly or quarterly basis. As of January 2022, invoices sent or received via the KSeF platform have been forwarded to the tax authorities.
United KingdomNo obligation.No proposals.
FranceSince January 2020 with government agencies From January 2024 for B to B sales of large companies, then 2025 for medium-sized companies and finally 2026 for SMEs.From January 2024, mandatory transmission to the tax authorities.

In summary

Italy is currently the only country in Europe to introduce an obligation to issue electronic invoices coupled with reporting obligations to the tax authorities to strengthen VAT controls. Poland and France are expected to be next, given the legislation underway.

The other southern countries (Portugal and Spain) have already implemented stronger VAT controls, without relying on the general obligation to issue electronic invoices. These controls involve the frequent transmission to the tax authorities of electronic files of sales and purchases invoices created from records incorporated into their information systems. Poland also has a similar system based on SAF-T files.

For these countries and Italy, the tax authorities therefore have the means to carry out systematic automated controls of the VAT returns filed. We understand from our local contacts that these controls are not in place in Italy and to a lesser extent in Spain where VAT returns are pre-populated by the authorities (for companies with revenue > €6 million).

Lastly, the other countries examined (Germany, Benelux and the United Kingdom) are very minimalist on this issue, both in terms of the obligation to issue electronic invoices and regarding future goals for periodic transmission of electronic information enabling the tax authorities to enhance their controls.

To discover : Did you say reliable audit trail ?

Electronic invoicing in Italy

The Italian electronic invoicing system, the SDI, is a benchmark in Europe due to the large-scale use of this platform in the public and private sectors.

Date of implementationTransactions involved
1 January 2019Domestic B to B sales.
1 January 2022B to B sales with other countries in the EU (intra EU purchases and sales)

Issuing and transmitting invoices

Electronic invoices are generated from accounting software as an XML file, which is imported into the tax authority’s SDI portal. Invoices must be sent to the tax authorities within 12 days.

The Customer can go to the SDI portal to view and download the supplier invoices relevant to it. At the same time, the company generally sends its customer a “courtesy” invoice in PDF format.

Use of this data by the tax authorities

To date, this data has not been used directly by the tax authorities to:

  • Automate systematic controls on company returns;
  • Pre-populate VAT returns.

Electronic invoicing compliance in Spain

On 30 November 2021, the Council of Ministers approved draft legislation laying down an obligation to issue electronic invoices for B to B sales within 1 year for companies with revenue of over €8 million and 3 years for the others.

The draft has to be approved by Congress and the Senate.

Date of implementationTransactions involved
1 January 2015Sales to public service providers for amounts greater than €5,000.
Since January 2022Obligatory for B to B sales in the Basque region
1 June 2017B to B sales and purchases by companies with annual revenues of more than €6 million: obligation to send invoice files to the tax authorities.

Issuing and transmitting invoices

Companies with revenue of more than €6 million are required to keep computer VAT records that are incorporated into their accounting system.

XML files based on these records are imported every 4 days into the SII portal of the tax authorities:

  • A sales invoice file within 4 days of the date of issue;
  • A purchase invoice file within 4 days of the date on which invoices are booked.

Use of this data by the tax authorities

This data is used to pre-populate VAT returns.

To date, the authorities have not introduced systematic automated controls to verify companies’ returns.

Electronic invoicing in Portugal

Like other countries in Europe, electronic invoicing in Portugal is only mandatory for public contracts, in accordance with European Directive 2014/55/EU. To date, there has not been any draft legislation aimed at going further.

Date of implementationTransactions involved
June 2022Sales to public institutions
Since 2014All companies are required to send a SAFT file of sales invoices to the tax authorities each month

Issuing and transmitting invoices

Sales invoices are issued from invoicing software that must be approved by the tax authorities and that can be used to produce the SAFT files to be sent each month to the tax authorities within 12 days of the end of the month.

The SAFT file is transmitted by importing it into the tax authorities’ portal.

If the invoice is not compliant, the tax authorities may reject the declared VAT and the deductibility of expenses.

PDF invoices are sent to customers at the same time.

Use of this data by the tax authorities

The tax authorities automatically check the consistency of the SAFT file and the VAT returns.

VAT returns are not pre-populated.

Electronic invoicing compliance in Poland

A proposal is underway to make the use of KSeF mandatory from 1 April 2023 for all taxpayers subject to VAT and for sales subject to VAT in Poland. This proposal was approved by the European Commission (August 2021) as it includes derogations from Directive 2006/112/EC.

The implementation date remains dependent on, in particular, laws still to be voted on and further development of the tax authorities’ digital solution, which is in the test phase.

The aim is for all invoices to be provided to the tax authorities.

Date of implementationTransactions involved
Since 2019The state and public services are required to accept electronic invoices on the PEF platform
Since January 2022Implementation of a structured and unified electronic invoicing system (KSeF) based on a tax authority platform for issuing electronic invoices. The use of this platform is currently not mandatory (and therefore rarely used).

Issuing and transmitting invoices

Since January 2018, companies have been required to send electronic ASFT-T files to the tax authorities on a monthly or quarterly basis. These files relate in particular to accounting, inventories, bank statements, revenue and VAT data.

Where a company uses the KSeF platform, it starts by issuing invoices on its computer system, which are sent to the KSeF platform via API where each invoice is verified (format, information included) and assigned an invoice number.

Customers are not required to accept electronic invoices and may ask for PDFs.

A propos de L'auteur

Frédéric Mortamais


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