More than 170 countries throughout the world have implemented a VAT system, and some of the most recent adopters are the Gulf countries. In a bid to diversify economic resources, the Gulf countries have spent the past decade investigating other ways to finance its public services.

As a result, in 2016 the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council), consisting of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman, signed the Common VAT Agreement to introduce a VAT system at a rate of 5%.

The first step: VAT adoption across the GCC

Following the VAT agreement, Saudi Arabia and UAE implemented VAT in 2018. Bahrain followed with a VAT regime in 2019. Most recently Oman enforced a 5% VAT from April 2021, and looking ahead both Qatar and Kuwait are expected to enact VAT laws within the next year.

The second step: VAT digitization

After the implementation of VAT and the increase of VAT rate from 5% to 15%, Saudi Arabia has taken the next step to digitize the control mechanisms for VAT compliance.

The E-invoicing Regulation enacted in December 2020 sets out an obligation for all resident taxable persons to generate and store invoices electronically. This requirement will be enforced from 4 December 2021.

Saudi Arabia has made considerable progress since it first introduced VAT in 2018. The Saudi E-invoicing Regulation is expected to not only encourage digitization and automation for businesses, but also to achieve efficiency in VAT controls and better macro-economic data for its tax authority, a development which will likely be replicated by other GCC countries soon.

Considering the efforts involved in the digitization of government processes and the VAT implementation timeline, the next candidate for similar e-invoicing adoption would likely be the UAE. While there are currently no plans for a mandatory framework, the UAE has announced bold plans for general digitization. According to the UAE government website, “In 2021, Dubai Smart government will go completely paper-free, eliminating more than 1 billion pieces of paper used for government transactions every year, saving time, resources and the environment.”

The spread of VAT digitization is typically the second reform following VAT adoption. As Bahrain and Oman also have VAT systems in place, introduction of mandatory e-invoicing in the next a few years in these countries would not come as a surprise. The adoption of e-invoicing in Qatar and Kuwait would depend on the success of VAT implementation, therefore it is not easy to estimate when their VAT digitization journey will begin but there is no doubt that it will happen at some stage.

The next step for VAT adoption across the GCC

After the adoption of e-invoicing, the Gulf countries may continue to digitize other VAT processes, including VAT returns. Pre-population of VAT returns using the data collected through e-invoicing systems is another trend that the countries are moving towards.

Regardless of the shape and form of digitization, there will be many moving parts in terms of VAT and its execution. Businesses operating in the region should be prepared to invest in their VAT compliance processes to avoid unnecessary fines and reputational risk for non-compliance.

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A current mega-trend in VAT is continuous transaction controls (CTCs), whereby tax administrations increasingly request business transaction data in real-time, often pre-authorising data before a business can progress to the next step in the sales or purchase workflow.

When a tax authority introduces CTCs, companies tend to view this as an additional set of requirements to be implemented inside ERP or transaction automation software by IT experts. This kneejerk reaction is understandable as implementation timelines tend to be short and potential sanctions for non-compliance significant.

But businesses would do better to approach these changes as part of an ongoing journey to avoid inefficiencies and other risks. From a tax authority perspective, CTCs are not a standalone exercise but part of a wider digital transformation strategy where all data that can be legally accessed for audit purposes is transmitted to them electronically.

It’s all about the data

In many tax authorities’ vision of digitization, each category of data is received at ‘organic’ intervals that follow the natural cadence of data processing by the businesses and data needs of governments.

Tax administrations use digitization to access data more conveniently, on a more granular level, and more frequently.

A business that doesn’t consider this continuum from the old world of reporting and audit to the new world of automated data exchange risks over-focusing on the ‘how’ – the orchestration of messages to and from a CTC platform – rather than keeping a close eye on the ‘why’ – transparency of business operations.

Data received quicker and in a structured, machine-exploitable format is infinitely more valuable for tax administrations as it gives them an opportunity to perform deeper analysis of both varying taxpayer and third-party sources of data.

If your business data is incomplete or faulty, you are likely exposing yourself to increased audits, as your bad data is under scrutiny and more transparent to the taxman.

Put differently, in a digitized world of tax, garbage-in will translate to garbage-out.

How to prepare for CTCS – automation is key

Many companies already have the magic formula to fix these data issues at their fingertips. Start by preparing for this wave of VAT digitization with a project to analyse internal data issues and work with upstream internal and external stakeholders – including suppliers – to fix them.

Tools designed to introduce automated controls for VAT filing processes can help achieve better insight into the upstream data issues that need ironing out. These same tools can also help you through the CTC journey by re-using data extraction and integration methods set up for VAT reporting for CTC transmission, thereby creating better data governance and keeping a connection between these two naturally linked processes.

A lot of bad data stems from residual paper-based processes such as paper or PDF supplier invoices or customer purchase orders. Taking measures now to switch to automated processes based on structured, fully machine-readable alternatives will make a big difference.

Improving invoice data is not the only challenge. With the inevitable broadening of document types to be submitted under CTC rules (from invoice to buy-side approval messages, to transport documents and payment status data) tax administrations will cross-check more and more of your data, as well as trading partners’ and third parties’ data — think financial institutions, customs, and other available data points.

Tax administrations are unlikely to stop their digitization efforts at indirect tax. Mandates to introduce The Standard Audit File for Tax (SAF-T ) and similar e-accounting requirements show how quickly countries are moving away from the old world of tax and onsite audits.

All this data, from multiple sources with strong authentication, will paint an increasingly detailed and undeniable picture of your business operations. It is just a matter of time before corporate income tax returns will be pre-filled by tax administrations who expect little to no legitimate changes from your side.

‘Substance over form’ is a popular aphorism in the world of tax. As more business applications and data streams become readily accessible by tax administrations, you need to start considering data quality and consistency as a first step towards thriving in the world of digitized tax enforcement.

Aim for more, not less, insight into your business than the taxman

In the end, tax administrations want to understand your business. They don’t just want data, they want meaningful information on what you do, why you do it, how you trade, with whom and when. This is also exactly what your owners and management want.

So the ultimate goals are the same between businesses and tax administrations – it’s just that businesses will often prioritise operational efficiency and financial objectives whereas tax administrations focus on getting the best, most objective information possible.

Tax administrations introducing CTCs as an objective may be a blessing in disguise, and there are benefits of introducing better analytics to your business to comply with tax administration requirements.

The real value lies in real-time insight into business operations and financial indicators such as cash management or supply chain weaknesses. This level of instant insight into your own business also enables you to always be one step ahead, leaving you in control of the picture your data is providing to governments.

CTCs are the natural next step on a journey to a brave new world of business transparency.

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The General Authority of Zakat and Tax’s (GAZT) previously published draft rules on ‘Controls, Requirements, Technical Specifications and Procedural Rules for Implementing the Provisions of the E-Invoicing Regulation’ aimed to define technical and procedural requirements and controls for the upcoming e-invoicing mandate. GAZT recently finalized and published the draft e-invoicing rules in Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, the name of the tax authority has changed due to the merger of the General Authority of Zakat and Tax (GAZT) and the General Authority of Customs to form the Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority (ZATCA).

The finalised rules include a change to the go live date of the second phase from 1 June 2022 to 1 January 2023. They revealed the time limit to report B2C (simplified) invoices to the tax authority´s platform for the second phase.

According to the final rules, the Saudi Arabia e-invoicing system will have two main phases.

Saudi Arabia E-Invoicing System: The First Phase

The first phase begins on 4 December 2021 and requires all resident taxpayers to generate, amend and store e-invoices and electronic notes (credit and debit notes).

The final rules state businesses must generate e-invoices and their associated notes in a structured electronic format. Data in PDF or Word format are therefore not e-invoices. The first phase does not require a specific electronic format. However, such invoices and notes must contain all necessary information. The first phase requires B2C invoices to include a QR code.

There are a number of prohibited functionalities for e-invoicing solutions for the first phase:

Saudi Arabia E-Invoicing System: The Second Phase

The second phase will bring the additional requirement for taxpayers to transmit e-invoices in addition to electronic notes to the ZATCA.

The final rules state the second phase will begin 1 January 2023 and will be rolled-out in different stages. A clearance regime is prescribed for B2B invoices while B2C invoices must be reported to the tax authority platform within 24 hours of issuance.

As a result of the second phase requirements, the Saudi e-invoicing system will be classified as a CTC e-invoicing system from 1 January 2023. All e-invoices must be issued in UBL based XML format. Tax invoices can be distributed in XML or PDF/A-3 (with embedded XML) format. Taxpayers must distribute simplified invoices (i.e. B2C) in paper form.

In the second phase, a compliant e-invoicing solution must have the following features:

The second stage will furthermore bring additional prohibited functionalities for e-invoicing solutions on top of requirements mentioned in the first phase:

What’s next for Saudi Arabia’s e-invoicing system?

After publishing the final rules, the ZATCA is organising workshops to inform relevant stakeholders in the industry.

Some of the details remain unclear at this point, however the Saudi authorities have been very successful in communicating the long-term goals of the implementation of its e-invoicing system, as well as making clear documentation available and providing opportunities for feedback on the documentation published for each phase. We expect provision of the necessary guidance within the near future.

Take Action

Contact us to discuss your Saudi Arabia VAT requirements. In addition, to find out more about what we believe the future holds, download VAT Trends: Toward Continuous Transaction Controls.

France is introducing continuous transaction controls (CTC). From 2023, France will implement a mandatory B2B e-invoicing clearance and e-reporting obligation. With these comprehensive requirements, alongside the B2G e-invoicing obligation that is already mandatory, the government aims to increase efficiency, cut costs, and fight fraud. Find out more.

France shows a solid understanding of this complex CTC subject, but some questions remain.

Introduction

France announces VAT changes spurred on by international reforms for continuous controls of VAT transactions (“Continuous Transaction Controls” or “CTCs”). The French government aims to increase efficiency, cut costs and fight fraud through the roll-out of mandatory B2B e-invoice clearance. This coupled with an e-reporting obligation gives the tax administration all relevant data for B2B and B2C transactions. This will start with large companies.

A mixed CTC system

In the report ‘VAT in the Digital Age in France’ ( La TVA à l’ère du digital en France), la Direction General des Finances Publiques – or DG-FIP – describes its aim to implement this mixed solution. Whereby mandatory clearance of e-invoices (ideally for all invoices, without exceptions such as threshold amounts etc) will lay the foundation.

This will provide the tax authority with data relating to any domestic B2B transaction. However, in order to effectively be able to combat fraud, including the carousel type, this is not enough; they need access to all transaction data. Therefore, data that the tax authority will not receive as part of the e-invoice clearance process – notably B2C invoices and invoices issued by foreign suppliers that will not be subject to a domestic French mandate, as well as certain payment data – will be subject to a complementary e-reporting obligation. (The requirement to report this latter data electronically does not mean that the underlying invoices must be e-invoices; parties can still transmit in paper between themselves.)

The Clearance architecture

The report describes how the DG-FIP has considered two potential models for the e-invoice clearance process. This is via the central Chorus Pro portal (currently the clearance point for all B2G invoices). These are the V and the Y model.

In the V model there is one public platform that serves as the clearance point; the central Chorus Pro platform is the only authorized platform via which the invoice can be transmitted to the buyer, or where applicable, the buyer’s service provider.

The Y model includes in addition to the central platform certified third-party service providers, which are authorized to clear and transmit invoices between the transacting parties. This alternative is the preferred option by the service provider community. For that reason – and as this model is more resilient because it is not exposed to a single point of failure – the report appears to favour the Y model.

Timeline

As to the timeline, starting in January 2023, all companies must be able to receive electronic invoices via the centralized system. When it comes to issuance, a similar roll out as for the B2G e-invoice mandate is envisaged, starting with large companies.

Challenges and road ahead

The report lays a good foundation for the deployment of this mixed CTC system. However many issues will need to be clarified to allow for smooth implementation. Some of which quite fundamental.

      • The proposed model means that the French tax administration needs to think through the details of service provider certification.
      • The relationship between the proposed high-level CTC scheme with pre-existing rules around e-invoicing integrity and authenticity. The French version of SAF-T (FEC) and digital VAT reporting options need to be clarified. On that last topic, the French budget law for 2020 that initiated this move towards CTCs suggested that prefilled VAT returns are among the key objectives, even if this does not feature prominently in the DG-FIP report.
      • Some questions remain about the central archiving facility associated with the CTC scheme.
      • The proposed central e-invoicing address directory requires careful design (including maintenance) and implementation.

The report proposes a progressive and pedagogical deployment. This will ensure that businesses will manage this -for some radical – shift to electronic invoicing and reporting. The ICC’s practice principles on CTC are referenced, specifically noting the importance of early notice and ICC’s advice to give businesses at least 12-18 months to prepare. The first deadline comes up in just over two years’ time. It leaves only 6-12 months for the French tax administration to work out all details and get the relevant laws, decrees and guidelines adopted. This is if business should have what ICC believes is a reasonable time to adapt.

myDATA updates

On 22 June, the joint Ministerial Decision that sets forth the myDATA framework was published. The decision specifies, among other things, the scope of application and applicable exemptions, the data to be transmitted, transmission methods and procedures, applicable deadlines and how transactions should be characterized.

Starting from January 2021, the required data must be reported to the myDATA platform in real-time. For information relevant to the year 2020, taxpayers have been awarded more breathing room: until the end of this year, the required data can be reported within 5 days after the issuance of an invoice, but not later than the 20th of the following month.

The implementation of myDATA will be performed in a phased manner, with ERP-based reporting of outbound and inbound data with their respective classifications starting from 1 October 2020. If a myDATA accredited e-invoicing service provider (according to the rules of the new framework) is used for e-invoicing, the reporting to myDATA through a service provider is possible from 20 July 2020.

A closer look at e-invoicing developments

To encourage businesses to adopt e-invoicing, the Ministry of Finance, through a draft bill published on 19 June, provided a number of incentives for businesses to use e-invoicing facilitated through service providers until the end of 2022.

The incentives provided are:

Based on these recent developments, it is clear that the Greek government wishes to promote the adoption of e-invoicing in Greece but does not yet go so far as to make it mandatory. A decision specifying the details of the e-invoicing scheme is expected to be published by the IAPR in the very near future.

With two weeks to go until the first mandatory phase of the Indian e-invoicing reform go live, the GST Council slammed the breaks. Or at least, bring it to a significant temporary standstill of 6 months. As a result, the India e-invoicing reform is now postponed until 1 October 2020

Following a long list of complaints — both from the private sector toward the GST Council, as well as from the GST Council vis-á-vis the IT infrastructure provider that powers the GST Network, Infosys — the council decided to revisit the 1 April go-live in a recent meeting held today, Saturday 14 March.

GST Council Decisions

The GST council made a number of important decisions, including most notably:

The decisions made in the 39th meeting of the GST Council will require either that the legislative framework (Notifications) published in early December be amended or entirely replaced with new ones to reflect the new reality. However, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect even further delays to the roll out of this reform. This given to the recent economic volatility triggered by the ongoing pandemic. Only once both global markets as well as the underlying technical platforms of the GST control reform seem to stabilize will the post-October timeline of the roll out be fully certain.

 

For those following the ongoing tax control reform in India, 2019 has been a very eventful year for Indian e-invoicing. Starting last spring, a group of government and public administration bodies have convened regularly with the mission of proposing a new way of controlling GST compliance through the introduction of mandatory e-invoicing. Given the vast impact such a reform would have on not just the Indian but the global economy, these discussions, often carried out behind closed doors, have triggered a large number of rumours, sometimes leading to misinformation on the market.

Navigating the information deficit

So far, not much information of a formal or binding nature has been published or made available to the public. After the public consultation held earlier this autumn, a high-level whitepaper describing the envisaged e-invoicing process was published; however, since then nothing formal or binding has been released. A recent media note made available by the relevant authorities to the press indicated that the timeline envisaged by the government for the roll-out would be:

1 January 2020: voluntary for businesses with a turnover of Rs.500 Crore or more;

1 February 2020: voluntary for businesses with turnover of Rs.100 Crore or more;

1 April 2020: mandatory for both of the above categories and voluntary for businesses with a turnover of less than Rs. 100 Crore.

While the clarity was welcomed, this timeline was not yet binding, and as a result, taxpayers were left with little information on how to meet the requirements of the tax control reform, and no binding indication of when they need to comply. However, this situation is now currently being remedied, and we are seeing the first codification into law.

The first pieces of legislation make an entrance

On December 13, 2019, a set of Notifications (No. 67-72/2019) introducing amendments to the existing GST legislation framework were released and are currently awaiting publication in the Gazette of India. In a nutshell, these Notifications:

These Notifications issued on December 13 will be the first of many pieces of documentation that are needed to formally clarify the details of the upcoming e-invoicing reform. More important still, they serve as a clear indication that the relevant Indian authorities are nearing the end of what has been an analytical and consultative design period, and that they now instead are transitioning into a period of preparation for the first roll-out.

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Learn more about Sovos e-invoicing solutions.

Back in June this year, many heads were turned when the French Minister of Public Accounts and Action, Gérald Darmanin, went on record stating that the French Government has the intention of making e-invoicing mandatory also for B2B transactions. Now it seems that the Government – spearheaded on this topic by Minister Darmanin as well as by the Minister of Finance Bruno Le Maire – has moved from word to action. The French Finance Bill for 2020, formally presented after the meeting of the Council of Ministers on 27 September, codifies the plan to extend the B2G e-invoicing obligation in force today to cover also B2B e-invoices.  

What’s new?

In just three short paragraphs, the draft finance law outlines the major principles for the budding reform. While much is left to be clarified by later decrees, art. 56 of the Finance Bill introduces the main rule that electronic form for invoices will be mandatory and that, as a result, paper invoices will no longer be permitted. It also introduces language that means that e-invoices most likely also will be cleared by the tax authority, or otherwise have the data transmitted to the tax authority to enable control of the VAT on the invoice. France will effectively, and not surprisingly, be joining the ranks of other countries such as Mexico, Turkey, Italy and Brazil, who have implemented measures to tackle its VAT gap through real-time VAT control mechanisms. 

The timeline of the roll-out of the mandate will, just like the roll-out of the B2G mandate currently in force, be scheduled in stages; gradually becoming applicable for companies depending on the size of the business. The first stage of the mandate will begin on 1 January 2023, and according to the bill the entire economy should be up-and-running under the new e-invoicing system no later than 1 January 2025.  

The Government also states that it, during the course of next year, will present a report to parliament, the Assemblée Nationale, presenting how the reform will be carried out as well as the underlying analysis of which method and what regulations constitute the most appropriate technical, legal and operational solution, particularly as regards the clearance/transmission of invoice data to the tax administration.

What’s next?

In addition to the analysis and drafting of both laws and reports that the Government announced, it’s also clear that one more critical element needs to be covered before the reform becomes a reality: Brussels.  

Ever since Italy went down this same path and became the first EU country to introduce mandatory clearance B2B e-invoicing, many parallels have been drawn between the two countries. They share a similar situation in terms of VAT gap and IT infrastructures, which have made many experts (rightly) assume that France would follow down the path Italy set out. However, in order to lawfully do so, Italy had to seek and obtain permission from the EU Council to deviate from the provisions of the EU VAT Directive (2006/112/EC). The French Government has acknowledged that it will need to do the same.  

Take Action

Want to learn more? For a continued and in-depth analysis of the French e-invoicing reform and its challenges, please join a webinar hosted by Christiaan van der Valk, e-invoicing expert and VP of Strategy at Sovos, on this topic on 3 October.

Inscrivez-vous ici si vous désirez rejoindre le webinaire de Christiaan van der Valk le 3 Octobre.

As more and more countries across the world depend on VAT, GST or other indirect taxes as the single most significant source of public revenue, governments are increasingly asking themselves what technical means they can use to ensure that they maximise the collection of the taxes due under the new tax regimes. India is the most recent such example.

GST was introduced in India in July 2017, following many years of discussions and negotiations between different stakeholders in the country. The reform has entailed significant simplifications and streamlining of taxation in India. While the road to roll-out of the tax was bumpy, it was by international comparison very quick. Nearly two years down the road, the roll-out is widely viewed as a success, and it appears as if the government is ready to take the GST success story one step further by introducing real-time tax controls to the B2B e-invoicing process.

India on the road to real-time tax enforcement

Earlier this spring, the Indian GST Council announced the formation of a special committee with the purpose of investigating a potential Indian implementation of a mandatory B2B e-invoicing system: the “Committee of Officers on generation of electronic invoice through GST Portal” (CoO).

More specifically, the CoO has been tasked with analysing and comparing the South Korean clearance system to similar systems in Latin America in order to understand global best practices and also to assess to what extent the existing Indian state-controlled platform – the GST Network – can serve as the central hub in a clearance-style e-invoicing process.

In late May, the CoO formed two sub-committees to continue working on parallel tracks: one on legal and policy matters and the other on the development of technical requirements. During the past few weeks, work has progressed in these working groups as well as in public-private consultations.

The committee is getting close to concluding the initial deliberations, but its closing recommendations have not yet been published in a final report. As a result, no draft laws, draft invoice schemas or draft process frameworks have yet been made public; however, results are expected to be published this summer.

What would the system look like?

While it’s still too early to describe what the Indian e-invoicing system will look like with any real certainty, speculation has naturally already begun. The CoO was specifically asked to investigate how the current eWaybill system could be recycled into a mandatory e-invoicing system, and it is therefore very likely that the new framework will bear strong similarities to the eWaybill process.

Such similarities include the principle of real-time or near-real-time generation of invoice number ranges by a central platform, which must then be included on the invoice document in order for it to constitute a fiscally valid invoice. In other words, this type of system would not entail issuance of the invoice on a clearance portal, such as in Italy, but constitute a somewhat softer version of a clearance e-invoicing system.

What’s next?

E-invoicing has been a legal possibility and practical reality in India for a number of years now, and as a result many companies are up and running with PDF-based e-invoicing in the country. Given the size of the Indian economy and the role it plays in global manufacturing, any major e-invoicing reform will have significant impact, not just on local businesses but on international commerce as a whole.

On 21 June, the GST Council is set to discuss the general topic of tax controls and how to increase tax collection through modernised compliance requirements. It remains to be seen if the GST Council is ready to formally decide on the introduction of mandatory e-invoicing in the country, or if it is ready to publish a high-level framework for basic considerations such as scope, dates for entry force and high-level technical principles.

If not, there’s still no reason to worry that a decision will be delayed; if anything, it would be wise to expect the opposite: the government has repeatedly displayed the ability to get things done with remarkable speed. Strengthened as the prime minister is after the recent elections not even a month ago, there’s every reason to believe that this project won’t be an exception.

Take Action

Learn how Sovos helps companies handle e-invoicing and other mandates all over the world. To find out more about what we believe the future holds, download the Sovos eBook on trends: e-invoicing compliance

Italy has been at the forefront of B2G e-invoicing in Europe ever since the central e-invoicing platform SDI (Sistema di Interscambio) was rolled out and made mandatory for all suppliers to the public sector in 2014.

While a number of its European neighbours are slowly catching up, Italy is continuing to improve the integration of new technologies with the public administration’s processes. Its latest move is to make e-orders mandatory in public procurement. By leveraging the successful use of the public administrations’ Purchase Orders Routing Node platform (Nodo di Smistamento degli Ordini, or NSO) in the Emilia-Romagna region, Italy is now extending the functionality throughout the country.

E-ordering for purchases beyond healthcare products

As of 1 October 2019, all purchase orders from the Italian National Health System (Servizio Sanitario Nazionale, or SSN) must be delivered to and received by suppliers through the NSO platform. The suppliers affected by the mandate will be required to receive e-orders from public entities; the public administration will not proceed with the liquidation and payment of invoices issued by non-compliant companies. It is noteworthy that the mandate covers all purchase orders made by entities associated with the SSN, including office supplies and electronics, and not just health-related products.

In addition to mandatory receipt of e-orders, suppliers will also be able to send messages to the public administration. In cases where suppliers and the public administration have previously agreed, the supplying company may send pre-filled e-orders to the public administration buyer, which will confirm or reject the proposed supply.

Foreign suppliers and the new e-ordering mandate

Moreover, foreign suppliers must also comply with this mandate. The NSO mandate will have some impact on e-invoicing for Italian public administrations seeing as certain e-order data must be included in the e-invoices that are transmitted through the SDI.

The NSO system is built upon the existing SDI infrastructure, and as a result, the communication with the NSO requires similar channel accreditation as the SDI. Suppliers and intermediaries already performing the transmission of messages through the SDI platform are required to comply with complementary accreditation requirements, which are yet to be published. Furthermore, the technical specifications show that PEPPOL intermediaries may interact with the NSO platform through an Access Point service accredited with the NSO.

Take Action

Learn how Sovos helps companies handle e-invoicing and other mandates in Italy and all over the world. To find out more about what we believe the future holds, download the Sovos eBook on Trends: e-invoicing compliance.

On 15 February 2019, Portugal published Decree-Law 28/2019 regarding the processing, archiving and dematerialisation of invoices and other tax related documents including:

The decree aims to consolidate rules and to promote the adoption of electronic means of dealing with tax documentation and archiving. It also aims to eliminate tax fraud by tightening controls through the identification of invoicing software, identifying where invoicing terminals are located, the mandatory obligation to include a unique document code (UUID) in the tax document and, finally, identifying the location of the transaction.

According to the Decree-Law, invoices (paper or electronic) must be processed using certified invoicing software, which must, amongst other things, complete the invoice’s content in line with the VAT law. Simplified invoices (issued for less than €100 Euro) can, however, be processed by “other electronic invoicing means” such as cash machines. The Decree-Law also regulates contingency situations where the invoice must be based on pre-printed documents.

What’s new?

Scope extended for mandatory use of certified invoicing software

Having to use invoicing software that has been certified by the tax authority is not new in Portugal. However, the changes in the new Decree-Law mean that more taxpayers must now comply with the obligation as the mandate threshold has reduced.  Previously it only affected companies (with a permanent establishment in Portugal) with a revenue in the previous year of €100K.  It now includes companies with a revenue of over €75K (applicable during 2019) and reduces to €50K from 2020.

Unique invoice code

The decree also mandates that from 1 January 2020, invoices must carry a unique invoice code (UUID) following the government’s requirements. The code will also be represented as a QR code on printed invoices. Both requirements are new and software providers will have to adapt their solutions in the future to meet these new legal requirements.

Prior authorisation of invoice series

Another new requirement set by the Decree-Law is that taxpayers must communicate to the tax authority the invoice series used by each establishment before issuing any invoice. The tax authority will assign to each series a code that must be included in the new mandatory UUID. While not the same, a similar requirement applies in many other countries, more specifically, in countries that have introduced a clearance model. In fact, Latin American countries with a clearance system often require taxpayers to either request prior invoice ranges from the tax authority, or to have an invoice series authorised by the tax authority, or to have the numeration done directly by the tax authority in connection with the clearance process. A good example of the first scenario is in Chile or Colombia, where taxpayers must request prior authorisation of an invoice range by the Chilean tax authority. An example of the second process is Mexico, where the invoice is numbered by the state agent that intervenes in the clearance process. However, such a requirement is new in the EU context, demonstrating once more that Europe is drawing inspiration from Latin America’s success in closing their VAT gap.

Guaranteeing integrity and authenticity in paper and electronic invoices

When it comes to guaranteeing the integrity and authenticity of invoices, it is worth noting that the decree deviates from the Directive 2010/45/EU as the possibility to use business controls provides a reliable audit trail (hereinafter BCAT) as a method of guaranteeing integrity and authenticity is expressly limited to paper-based invoices only. Furthermore, such controls must be properly documented.

For electronic invoices (ie those that are issued and received electronically) integrity and authenticity are guaranteed when one of the following methods is used: qualified e-signature; qualified e-seal in accordance with e-IDAS Regulation; or electronic data interexchange (EDI) with secure and documented processes to ensure integrity and authenticity. Taxpayers have until 31 December 2020 to migrate to the new methods of guaranteeing integrity and authenticity for electronic invoices.

Portugal is implementing its own vision when it comes to guarantees of integrity and authenticity putting itself, once more, closer to Latin American clearance countries where such guarantees are only achieved by digitally signing e-invoices. The distinction between methods (BCAT for paper invoices vs. e-signatures and EDI for electronic invoices) is an explicit preference of e-signatures and EDI over BCAT methods as the most efficient way to guarantee e-invoice integrity and authenticity.

New obligations

In addition to the new invoicing requirements, the Decree-Law imposes taxpayers with new obligations to notify the tax authority with additional information. This includes:

Taxpayers who have already carried out activities subject to VAT must present the above-mentioned information by 30 June 2019.

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