The transition to e-invoicing means that instead of “when do we start?” many organizations are asking “how do we start?”

Case study E-Invoicing roadmap international publisher

By Richard Blom, project consultant and E-invoicing team member

While electronic communication has come leaps and bounds in recent years, invoicing methods have lagged behind. Although invoicing by email is commonplace nowadays, there are developments emerging in various countries, with electronic invoicing – or e-invoicing – starting to be required, alongside direct communication with local tax authorities.

The transition to e-invoicing means that instead of “when do we start?” many organizations are asking “how do we start?”. This case study looks at an international publisher, present in over 70 countries, that was looking for a future-proof approach to global e-invoicing.

The Client and the Assignment

This international organization operates around the globe and has customers in more than 70 countries. In these countries, the organization has to deal with all sorts of different legislation – including laws currently in force and still being drafted – with various frameworks and procedures to follow for invoicing. More and more customers are asking our client to submit invoices via “their portals” developed by “their software providers.” 

Furthermore, the organization’s employees around the world are flagging that local laws are changing rapidly, including when it comes to governing the (in some cases) mandatory submission of e-invoices to be processed through portals maintained by local tax authorities. Failure to ensure e-invoicing compliance can result in substantial penalties, or even in the closure of local branches. 

The client contact told us they needed an action plan that would provide a clear overview of the processes, risks and regulations for each country, meaning they could take the right actions on time in every country where they operate. One thing: With customers, suppliers and employees spread across more than 70 countries, what country do you start with and what do you need to do to comply with local legislation?

The client contact wanted a detailed plan for implementing an e-invoicing solution across their organization. Before we could draw up this plan, however, we had to ask a few questions, such as:

  • In which countries is e-invoicing already mandatory?
  • In which countries will e-invoicing soon become mandatory?
  • Which (specific) actions need to be taken so that e-invoicing can be set up in the country or countries in question?
  • What will happen if the organization fails to ensure compliance with e-invoicing requirements?
  • Which country or countries are the priority in terms of becoming compliant with e-invoicing requirements?

One of the main challenges of e-invoicing is the constantly evolving legal and regulatory landscape. For this reason, TriFinance decided to use an interactive online roadmap to set out the plan. Instead of a thick report, the roadmap is more of a website that is continually updated whenever a country’s legal and regulatory requirements are amended or its market conditions change.

The Challenge

The assignment from the client was to instantly deliver details on the current legal and regulatory landscape of each country. Based on the deviations found and the urgency of the order, we conducted an analysis and submitted an implementation plan. The main challenge with global e-invoicing is the lack of uniformity from one country to the next. Every country has its own invoicing methods and standards, specific requirements for software providers, and a number of exceptions to the legislation and regulations in force. 

The required information is mostly available in snippets from various different sources, so the quality and currentness of the information can often be considered dubious. A large proportion of the information we gathered came from companies that offer their own e-invoicing technology solutions. Not only were there concerns over the lack of independence of the sources, but the descriptions of complex e-invoicing processes were rarely sufficient and there were issues with language barriers.

Structuring Legislation
To ensure a consistent approach across the countries in question, we drew on many local sources of information, such as the relevant tax authorities and the responsible supervisory bodies. On the downside, however, the information from these sources was often unstructured and written in the local language. Bringing together this vast amount of information to produce a thoroughly well-balanced roadmap required a suitable project structure. 

Priority List
After all the relevant legislation was compiled, it was translated into a client-specific priority list. The hierarchy of this priority list is established based on the penalties and restrictions that apply in the countries in question, as well as which customers are obliged to use e-invoicing (consumers, companies, authorities). This was then combined with data on the number of invoices and the associated retail value to provide direct insights into the priority level.

The Result

The project led to the creation of an interactive website for the client. This included the roadmap, which was made up of the urgent actions for each country and how to best implement e-invoicing in that country, as well as the risks of not complying with legislation and regulations, and the severity of these risks. Using a website to present this information was perfect for the client because the organization’s employees had different requirements in terms of the level of detail, and the website offers unlimited possibilities for seeing the required information. 

After the interactive website was completed, we also supported the client in the transition to e-invoicing. As part of an additional assignment, for five countries we combined the external legislation and regulations of the target countries with the internal processes, invoicing flows and forms currently in place. 

In order to obtain a clear picture of the current situation, we conducted a number of interviews with employees in the organization’s relevant departments, such as Finance, IT, Sales, Tax and the back office. We then used the insights gained to draw up an opinion on the subsequent steps for implementing e-invoicing in these countries.

Client quote
“Great job! Compliments for the progress and the way the project is approached.” 

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