We recently launched the 13th Edition of our annual Trends report, the industry’s most comprehensive study of global VAT mandates and compliance controls. Trends provides a comprehensive look at the world’s regulatory landscape highlighting how governments across the world are enacting complex new policies and controls to close tax gaps and collect the revenue owed. These policies and protocols impact all companies in the countries where they trade no matter where they are headquartered.

This year’s report looks at how large-scale investments in digitization technology in recent years have enabled tax authorities in much of the world to enforce real-time data analysis and always-on enforcement. Driven by new technology and capabilities, governments are now into every aspect of business operations and are ever-present in company data.

Businesses are increasingly having to send what amounts to all their live sales and supply chain data as well as all the content from their accounting systems to tax administrations. This access to finance ledgers creates unprecedented opportunities for tax administrations to triangulate a company’s transaction source data with their accounting treatment and the actual movement of goods and money flows.

The European VAT landscape

After years of Latin America leading with innovation in these legislative areas, Europe is starting to accelerate the digitization of tax reporting. Our Trends report highlights the key developments and regulations that will continue to make an impact in 2022, including:

According to Christiaan van der Valk, lead author of Trends, governments already have all the evidence and capabilities they need to drive aggressive programs toward real-time oversight and enforcement. These programs exist in most of South and Central America and are rapidly spreading across countries in Europe such as France, Germany and Belgium as well as Asia and parts of Africa. Governments are moving quickly to enforce these standards and failure to comply can lead to business disruptions and even stoppages.

This new level of imposed transparency is forcing businesses to adapt how they track and implement e-invoicing and data mandate changes all over the world. To remain compliant, companies need a continuous and systematic approach to requirement monitoring.

Trends is the most comprehensive report of its kind. It provides an objective view of the VAT landscape with unbiased analysis from our team of tax and regulatory experts.  The pace of change for tax and regulation continues to accelerate and this report will help you prepare.

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Contact us or download Trends to keep up with the changing regulatory landscape for VAT.

The Northern Ireland Protocol regarding goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland continues to cause problems, leading to calls to suspend it via Article 16. But at the same time, some NI politicians are looking to capitalise on the possibility of inward investment by companies that can benefit from being in both the UK and the Single Market at the same time. This will be an interesting circle to square.

For goods moving from Great Britain to the EU, it has been necessary to review supply chains and VAT compliance, especially where the GB supplier is required to import the goods. Here we have the issue of theory clashing with reality, requiring plans to be revised.

Many UK suppliers selling goods into the EU decided that a good approach would be to obtain a VAT number in the Netherlands and then import the goods under an Article 23 licence to defer the import VAT to the VAT return – a straight-forward scheme to set up and manage. However, under the Union Customs Code, anyone who imports goods into the EU is required either to be established in the EU or to appoint an “indirect customs agent” who is established in the EU. 

Upon accepting such an appointment, the EU entity becomes jointly liable with the importer for the VAT and duty that is due. Not surprisingly, it is difficult to find businesses that will offer such a service. In 2020, the body representing freight forwarders in Germany suggested that no such appointments should be accepted because of the financial risk. For many UK businesses, the only solution has been to establish a company in the EU, often the Netherlands, to import in their name.

Brexit also caused issues for GB businesses that supply equipment required to be installed in factories or other premises – such as parts of manufacturing production lines.

Within the Single Market there is a simplification for such supplies. The vendor can move the goods to another Member State to install them with the customer accounting for the acquisition tax due on the goods. This is because there is no need for the supplier to have a local VAT number in the Member State where the goods are installed.

Following Brexit, suppliers shipping goods from Great Britain to the EU for installation are no longer able to use this simplification. Instead, the GB supplier must now import the goods into the EU and then make a sale. If the goods are imported and installed in a Member State where the extended reverse charge applies to the sale, there will be a cash flow issue regarding the paid import VAT. Claims need to be made under the 13th Directive and, if the Member State concerned applies the concept of “reciprocity”, then the claim may be denied. 

“Reciprocity” allows a Member State to refuse VAT refunds to taxpayers from third countries which do not allow VAT refunds to taxpayers of the Member State. The Member State normally publishes a list of third countries that can submit claims where reciprocity is invoked.

Pre Brexit, there was no need for the UK to be on such a list, so this now represents a real risk. Some Member States, including Spain, added the UK to their list immediately following Brexit. If these subtle complexities are not considered before a transaction is agreed the cashflow consequences could be severe – so planning is essential.

Businesses also have to ensure that they are prepared for changes which came into effect on 1 January 2022.

Under the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, goods exported from Great Britain to the EU with a UK origin are free of import duty. In some situations, exporters require information from their suppliers about the origin of the goods they are supplying.

Until 31 December 2021, an exporter of goods from Great Britain to the EU did not need to hold a supplier’s declaration when making a statement on origin to be used by the customer to claim the zero-duty rate on imports into the EU. It is enough that the exporter is confident that the origin rules are met and make every effort to get supplier declarations retrospectively.

Suppose a UK exporter finds that a supplier statement is not available retrospectively. In that case, they must inform the EU customer who will have to consider the impact on the imports they have made.

If an exporter cannot comply with an official request for verification of the origin of the goods being the UK, the EU customer will be liable to pay the full duty rate retrospectively.

From 1 January 2022, an exporter must hold a supplier’s declaration, when required, when making the statement on origin declaration to the customer or the full rate of Customs Duty is payable. This significant change to the rules will impact all businesses exporting to the EU, including e-commerce retailers selling goods above EUR150.    

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The EU e-Commerce VAT Package is nearly six months old and businesses should have submitted their first Union One Stop Shop (OSS) return by the end of October 2021. Union OSS provides a welcome simplification to the requirement to be registered for VAT in multiple Member States when making intra-EU B2C supplies of goods and services.

Whilst a simplification, there are several conditions that need to be met on an ongoing basis to continues its use. The European Commission produced a number of guides on the application of Union OSS prior to its introduction which provided guidance on its operation. However, there are still several questions about how Union OSS interacts with other compliance obligations in place for e-commerce sellers around the EU.

Union OSS – interaction with Intrastat

Intrastat is the EU’s mechanism to provide details of intra-EU trade in the absence of customs borders. It’s made up of two components: dispatches declarations submitted in the Member State where the transport starts and arrivals declarations in the Member State of delivery.

E-commerce businesses selling intra-EU goods have long had to comply with Intrastat obligations when they exceeded the reporting thresholds. For lots of businesses an obligation arose in the Member State from where the goods are dispatched given that goods were delivered to multiple other EU countries, so thresholds were often exceeded.

In addition, larger e-commerce sellers also had obligations to submit arrivals declarations in the country of delivery of the goods even though they were not the purchaser of the goods. The very largest may also have had obligations to submit dispatches declarations in the Member State of their customer because of returned goods.

There is no mention of Intrastat in any of the European Commission’s guides about OSS so no guidance is provided on how it will apply when a business adopts Union OSS. Furthermore, many Member States do not currently seem to have a finalised position on the interaction with Union OSS.

The position in the Member State of dispatch of the goods seems clear but there are potentially complexities when goods are dispatched from more than one Member State especially if there is no VAT registration in that country. Whilst this is unlikely, there are circumstances where no VAT registration is required or even allowed.

The real complexity is with regards to Intrastat arrivals declarations. The principle of Union OSS is that no VAT registration is required in the Member State of the customer for intra-EU supplies. There may be other reasons for a VAT registration there but for many e-commerce sellers, they will not have to be registered in the Member State of delivery.

This raises the question of whether arrivals declarations are required in those territories. Some Intrastat authorities have provided guidance and those that have are taking different routes. Some are clear it is not required for arrivals when using Union OSS whilst others still require declarations to be made even though there is no local VAT registration in place.

We continue to monitor the situation and will update further as more information is available.

Unions OSS and other declarations

E-commerce sellers of goods can have other compliance and tax obligations in the countries to which they deliver goods. These include meeting local country rules with regards to environmental taxes. For example in Romania there is a requirement for e-commerce sellers to submit Environmental Fund returns even if the business has opted to use Union OSS. This creates complexity as the Romanian VAT number is normally used to file the returns. A separate registration seems to be possible to ensure compliance with the environmental regulations.

There is also potentially an issue in Hungary with the retail tax that is payable by businesses with a turnover in excess of HUF 500 million. There is still a liability to pay the tax even if there is no VAT registration because of Union OSS. Affected businesses will need to ensure that they remain compliant.

Teething problems can be expected with any new regime but there is an argument that some of these should have been predicted and clear guidance provided, especially for Intrastat. It is clear that some authorities have not considered the matter at all prior to Union OSS’s introduction. We will continue to monitor the situation and provide further updates when more information is available.

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Get in touch to discuss your Union OSS queries with our tax experts and follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter to keep up-to-date with regulatory news and updates.

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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Download VAT Trends: Toward Continuous Transaction Controls for other perspectives on the future of tax. Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter to keep up-to-date with regulatory news and developments.

 

In this blog, we provide an insight into continuous transaction controls (CTCs) and the terminology often associated with them.

With growing VAT gaps the world over, more tax authorities are introducing increasingly stringent controls. Their aim is to increase efficiency, prevent fraud and increase revenue.

One of the ways governments can gain greater insight into a company’s transactions is by introducing CTCs. These mandates require companies to send their invoice data to the tax authority in real-time or near-real-time. One popular CTC method requires an invoice to be cleared before it can be issued or paid. In this way, the tax authority has not only visibility but actually asserts a degree of operational control over business transactions.

What is VAT?

The basic principle of VAT (value-added tax) is that the government gets a percentage of the value added at each step of an economic chain. The chain ends with the consumption of the goods or services by an individual. VAT is paid by all parties in the chain including the end customer. However only businesses can deduct their input tax.

Many governments use invoices as primary evidence in determining “indirect” taxes owed to them by companies. VAT is by far the most significant indirect tax for nearly all the world’s trading nations. Many countries with VAT see the tax contribute more than 30% of all public revenue.

What is the VAT gap?

The VAT gap is the overall difference between expected VAT revenues and the amount actually collected.

In Europe, the VAT gap amounts to approximately €140 billion every year according to the latest report from the European Commission. This amount represents a loss of 11% of the expected VAT revenue in the block. Globally we estimate VAT due but not collected by governments because of errors and fraud could be as high as half a trillion EUR. This is similar to the GDP of countries like Norway, Austria or Nigeria. The VAT gap represents some 15-30% of VAT due worldwide.

What are Continuous Transaction Controls?

Continuous transaction controls is an approach to tax enforcement. It’s based on the electronic submission of transactional data from a taxpayer’s systems to a platform designated by the tax administration, that takes place just before/during or just after the actual exchange of such data between the parties to the underlying transaction.

A popular CTC is often referred to as the ‘clearance model’ because the invoice data is effectively cleared by the tax administration and in near or real-time. In addition, CTCs can be a strong tool for obtaining unprecedented amounts of economic data that can be used to inform fiscal and monetary policy.

Where did CTCs begin?

The first steps toward this radically different means of enforcement began in Latin American within years of the early 2000s. Other emerging economies such as Turkey followed suit a decade later. Many countries in LatAm now have stable CTC systems. These require a huge amount of data for VAT enforcement from invoices. Other key data – such as payment status or transport documents – may also be harvested and pre-approved directly at the time of the transaction.

What is e-invoicing

Electronic or e-invoicing is the sending, receipt and storage of invoices in electronic format without the use of paper invoices for tax compliance or evidence purposes. Scanning incoming invoices or exchanging e-invoice messages in parallel to paper-based invoices is not electronic invoicing from a legal perspective. E-invoicing is often required as part of a CTC mandate, but this doesn’t have to be the case; in India, for example, the invoice must be cleared by the tax administration, but it’s not mandatory to subsequently exchange the invoice in a digital format.

The objective of CTCs and e-invoicing mandates is often to use business data that is controlled at the source, during the actual transactions, to prefill or replace VAT returns. This means that businesses must maintain a holistic understanding of the evolution of CTCs and their use by tax administrations for their technology and organisational planning.

What’s on the horizon?

As more governments realise the revenue and economic statistics benefits that introducing these tighter controls bring, we’re seeing more mandates on the horizon. We expect the rise of indirect tax regimes based on CTCs to accelerate sharply in the coming five to 10 years. Our expectation is that most countries that currently have VAT, GST or similar indirect taxes will have adopted such controls fully, or partially, by 2030.

Looking ahead, as of today we know that in Europe within the next few years that France, Bulgaria and also Poland will all introduce CTCs. Saudi Arabia has also recently published rules for e-invoicing and many others will follow suit.

Upcoming mandates present an opportunity for a company’s digital transformation rather than a challenge. If viewed with the right mindset. But, as with all change, preparation is key. Global companies should allow enough time and resources to strategically plan for upcoming CTC and other VAT digitization requirements. A global VAT compliance solution will suit their needs both today and into the future as the wave of mandates gains momentum across the globe.

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With coverage across more than 60 countries, contact us to discuss your VAT e-invoicing VAT requirements.

Sovos recently sponsored a benchmark report with SAP Insider to better understand how SAP customers are adapting their strategies and technology investments to evolve their finance and accounting organizations. This blog hits on some of the key points covered in the report and offers some direct responses made by survey respondents, as well as conclusions made by the report author. To get the full report, please download your complimentary copy of SAP S/4HANA Finance and Central Finance: State of the Market.

In this year’s benchmark report, research found that most companies are focused on reducing complexity and cost as a primary driver of their overall finance and accounting, including tax, strategies. With this reduction, they are working to solve their biggest pain point which continues to be a lack of visibility into financial transactions and reporting.

The survey revealed several key strategies and investments that SAPinsiders are prioritizing to evolve their finance and accounting processes and organizations. The number one driver of finance and accounting strategy in 2021 is to reduce cost and complexity. This was named by 57% of our audience as the top driver of their finance and accounting strategy. This jumped 24% from last year. To support their top drivers, a majority (56%) of the finance and accounting teams in the study plan to increase their use of automation in 2021.

Clean and harmonized data and a centralized single point of truth are the most important requirements that SAPinsiders are prioritizing. 83% of survey respondents report that clean data is important or very important, while 80% highlight the significance of the Universal Journal in centralizing critical information.

How do technology and tax intersect?

Continued complexity within core financial and accounting systems is limiting organizations’ ability to adapt rapidly to changing business conditions and provide real-time visibility into operations. That is why the number one driver of finance and accounting strategy based on this year’s survey is the pressure to cut both cost and complexity.

Survey responses and interviews with customers about their largest sources of pain consistently mention system and process complexity as one of their most significant challenges. Respondents are focused on addressing this obstacle in a variety of ways such as through investments in analytics, automation, centralization, and system consolidation.

This directly impacts how companies approach tax as rapidly changing global tax laws and mandates often have organizations playing catch up to ensure they are charging and remitting the proper amounts of tax to each country in which they operate. Failure to do this can lead to costly audits, potential fines and penalties and damage to brand reputation.

Why move to SAP S/4HANA Finance?

Simplicity, speed, and easy access to data were among the top benefits cited by survey respondents who have completed or nearly completed their move to SAP S/4HANA Finance. Several mentioned the ease with which they can go from high-level reports and drill down to the document or line-item level, making it easier to understand the numbers and perform in-depth analysis quickly. This directly aligns with the pain points that were identified in the benchmark report survey.

Why now?

What is clear from this survey and subsequent report is that complexity across all layers of finance is having a direct impact on a companies’ ability to function at the highest operational level possible and is threating to impact the bottom line.

Accounting for tax early in your migration strategies and technology upgrades is a key component to ensuring that you are prepared to handle the challenges of modern tax on an international scale. For companies that operate on a multi-national basis, having a centralized approach to tax with enhanced visibility and reporting capabilities is imperative to achieving and remaining compliant no matter how many changes to tax law are introduced every year.

Please download the full report for a more detailed explanation of these critical areas of focus.

 

Take Action

Ready to learn more about the impact SAP S/4HANA Finance can have on your tax organization? Download your complementary copy of the SAP S/4HANA Finance and Central Finance: State of the Market report for all the latest information.

As detailed within our annual report VAT Trends: Toward Continuous Transaction Controls, there’s an increasing shift toward destination taxability which applies to certain cross-border trades.

In the old world of paper-based trade and commerce, the enforcement of tax borders, between or within countries, was mostly a matter of physical customs controls. To ease trade and optimise resources, many countries have historically applied ‘de minimis’ rules. These set specific limits (e.g. EUR 10-22 applied in the European Union) below which imported goods had an exemption from VAT.

Cross-border services, which couldn’t, or not easily, be checked at the border would often escape VAT collection altogether or be taxed in the country of the service provider. There has been a huge increase in cross-border trade in low-value goods and digital services over the last decade. As a result, tax administrations are taking significant measures to tax these supplies in the country of consumption/destination.

VAT treatment of B2C digital/electronic supplies by foreign suppliers

Since the 2015 publication of the OECD/G20’s Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) Project Action 1 Report on Addressing the Tax Challenges of the Digital Economy, most OECD and G20 countries have adopted rules for the VAT treatment of B2C digital/electronic supplies by foreign suppliers. The International VAT/GST Guidelines issued in conjunction with the Project Action 1 Report recommend the following approaches for collecting VAT/GST on B2C sales of electronic services by foreign suppliers:

Many industrialised and emerging countries have since passed laws on this OECD guidance; most apply to B2C transactions only, although some of these jurisdictions have imposed obligations that apply or could apply to both B2B and B2C transactions.

For low value goods, the OECD has made similar recommendations providing for both a vendor and an intermediary-based collection model. The destination-based taxability trend affects many different areas of consumption tax, including the following examples.

EU E-Commerce VAT Package and Digital Services

The EU has been gradually introducing new rules for VAT on services. This is to ensure more accurately accrues to the country of consumption. From 1 January 2015, and as part of this change, where the supply of digital services is taxed changes. It will be taxed in the private end customer’s EU location, has their permanent address or usually resides. These changes sit beside the introduction of the One Stop Shop (OSS) system which aims to facilitate reporting for taxable persons and their representatives or intermediaries. Under the EU e-commerce VAT package scheduled to take effect from 1 July 2021, all services and all goods including e-commerce based imports are subject to intricate regulations that include changes to the way customs in all Member States operate.

With this shift toward destination taxability for certain cross-border transactions it’s key that companies fully understand the impact. That is not only on their business processes but also comply with changing rules and regulations.

Take Action

Get in touch to discuss your VAT obligations for cross-border trade. To find out more about the future of VAT, download our report VAT Trends: Toward Continuous Transaction Controls.

The Colombian electronic invoicing system is reaching maturity level. Since its inception in 2018, Colombia has been steadily consolidating and expanding the mandate to make it more stable, reliable and comprehensive.

As a result of the enactment of the recent Resolution 000013/2021, the Colombian tax administration (DIAN), officially expanded the electronic invoicing mandate to also include payroll transactions. This expansion follows the pattern established by Mexico, Brazil and other countries that already expanded the electronic invoicing mandate to payroll transactions as well.

The Support Document for Electronic Payroll is known locally in Colombia as Documento Soporte de Nomina Electronica or also simply as Nomina Electronica. It is a new digital document intended to support and validate the payroll related costs and deductions of income tax and the VAT credits (if applicable) when businesses make payments resulting from labor, legal, and other similar types of relations (pensions).

In simple terms, labour cost transactions should be reported under this new digital system for them to be valid. This is whenever employers make payments for wages, salaries, reimbursements, pensions etc.

Who is required to comply with the electronic payroll mandate?

Employers paying wages under a labor relation, where payments are reported as expenses for income tax purposes or as deductible taxes for VAT, need to comply. However, there are important exceptions derived from that legal framework. For instance, public offices, non-for-profit entities or taxpayers under the simplified regime are not currently required to comply. Consequently, they do not need to use such payments for deductions of income tax or VAT.

Schedule of deployment

The DIAN established an implementation schedule based on the number of employees the taxpayer has in the payroll. There are four stages or groups subject to the following deadlines:

Group Deadline to start the generation and remittance of the document Number of employees
From Up to
1 1 September 2021 More than 250 employees101
2 1 October 2021 101 250
3 1 November 2021 11 100
4 1 December 2021 1 10

Deadline for remittance

As the Nomina Electronica is required to be reported monthly, the payments for each month should be reported by the 10th day of the next month as a result. The adjustment notes should be reported within the same deadline, once they have been made by the employer.

Reporting elements of the electronic payroll mandate

There are two basic types of reports that are parts of this mandate: the Support Document of the electronic payroll, and – when necessary – the Adjustment Note.

Support Document of Electronic Payroll or Nomina Electronica

This electronic document contains the information supporting the payments made to employees as wages and other compensations, deductions and the difference between them made by the employer, as reported in the payroll. The employer must then generate and transmit the document to the DIAN using the XML format established in the technical documentation included in the regulation 000037/2021.

Adjustment Notes

In this mandate there are no credit notes as we know them in the electronic invoice system of Colombia. However, when an employer needs to make corrections to the Support Document of Electronic Payroll reported to the DIAN, it can issue what we know as Adjustment Notes (or Notas de Ajuste) where the employer will be allowed to correct any value previously reported to the DIAN via the Nomina Electronica.

Content and structure of the reports

Employers must submit reports to the DIAN individualised for each beneficiary receiving payments from the employers. As a result, the report requires the provision of some mandatory information for the DIAN to validate. This includes the proper identification of the report itself, the reporting party, in addition to the employees, wages or other payments employees, date, numbering, software etc.

Another mandatory information element that is worth mentioning is the CUNE or Unique Code of Electronic Payroll Support Document. This is a unique identifier for each Electronic Payroll Support Document. It will allow exact identification of each report or the Adjustment Notes issued after it. However, there is some additional optional information that can be provided depending on the needs or convenience of the employer making the report.

From a technical perspective, neither the Support Document of the Electronic Payroll nor the Adjustment Notes are based on the UBL 2.1 structure used in Colombia for the electronic invoice. This is because the UBL standard does not include modules for payroll transactions or reports. Therefore, the DIAN has based its architecture in a different XML standard. Each report requires a digital signature. For that, the taxpayer can use the same digital certificate used for signing electronic invoices.

Generation, transmission and validation

The current regulations do not require that the Nomina Electronica or the Adjustment Notes should be generated by a particular software solution or by a software provider authorized by the DIAN. Taxpayers have the option to generate the report using their own solution. That is a market solution or a solution that the DIAN will provide for small taxpayers. However, all reports should strictly follow the technical documentation issued by the DIAN within the Resolution 000037/2021. The remittance of those documents is electronic, using the webservices specified by the DIAN.

After making the transmission, the DIAN then validates the document. They will then report back the corresponding application response to the taxpayer, indicating its acceptance and validation. Only then, will the amounts reported in the payroll document are valid expenses for the deduction.

Penalties and sanctions

Non-compliance with electronic payroll in Colombia will be subject to the same fines and penalties established for not complying with the electronic invoicing mandate, as defined in Art. 652-1 of the Tax Code of Colombia (Estatuto Tributario). But the most important implication of non-compliance is that any payment not reported by the employer, will not be allowed as expenses for income tax or VAT purposes when applicable.

Take Action

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This blog is an excerpt from Sovos’ Annual VAT Trends report. Please click here to download your complimentary copy in full.

VAT requirements and their relative importance for businesses have changed significantly in recent years. For data that is transactional in nature, the overall VAT trend is clearly toward various forms of continuous transaction controls (CTCs).

The first steps toward this radically different mode of enforcement, known as the “clearance model”, began in Latin America in the early 2000s. Other emerging economies, such as Turkey, followed suit a decade later. And today, many countries in the Latin American region now have stable CTC systems where a significant amount of the data required for VAT enforcement is based on invoices. Other key data is harvested and pre-approved directly at the time of the transaction.

Common clearance system features

There are several high-level features and processes that many clearance systems have in common.

However, many variations exist on this reference model in practice; many countries with a clearance system have implemented extensions and variations on these “standard” processes:

1. OK TO ISSUE: Typically, the process starts with the supplier sending the invoice in a specified format to the tax authorities or a state agent licensed to act on its behalf. This invoice is ordinarily signed with a secret private key corresponding to a public certificate issued to the supplier.

2. OK/NOT OK: The tax authority or state agent (for example, an accredited or licensed operator) will typically verify the signed supplier invoice and clear it by registering it under a unique identification number in its internal platform. In some countries, a proof of clearance is returned, which can be as simple as a unique transaction ID, possibly with a timestamp. In some cases, it’s digitally signed by the tax authority/state agent. The proof of clearance may be detached from the invoice or added to it.

3. VALID: Upon receipt of the invoice, the buyer is often obligated or encouraged to check with the tax authority or its agent that the invoice received was issued in compliance with applicable requirements. In general, the buyer usually handles integrity and authenticity control using crypto tools, also used to verify a signed proof of clearance. In other cases, the tax authority or agent completes the clearance check online.

4. OK/NOT OK: If the buyer has used an online system to perform the validation described in the previous step, the tax authority or state agent will re-turn an OK/not OK response to the buyer.

The first “clearance” implementations were in countries like Chile, Mexico and Brazil between 2000 and 2010. They were inspired by this high-level process template. Countries that subsequently introduced similar systems, in Latin America and worldwide, take greater liberties with this basic process model.

Global expansion of CTCs

Europe and other countries passed through a stage allowing original VAT invoices to be electronic. This is without changing the basics of the VAT law enforcement model. This phase of voluntary e-invoicing without process re-engineering is “post audit” e-invoicing. The moment a tax administration audit comes into play is post-transaction. In a post audit system, the tax authority has no operational role in the invoicing process. It relies heavily on periodic reports transmitted by the taxpayer.

Largely due to the staggering improvements in revenue collection and economic transparency demonstrated by countries with existing CTC regimes, countries in Europe, Asia and Africa have also started moving away from post audit regulation to adopting CTC-inspired approaches.

Many EU Member States, for example, are moving toward CTCs not by imposing “clearance” e-invoicing but by making existing VAT reporting processes more granular and more frequent via CTC reporting. These countries will eventually adopt requirements for real-time or near-real-time invoice transmission. This is as well as electronic transmission of other transaction and accounting data to the tax authority. However, it’s not a foregone conclusion that they’ll all take these regimes to the extreme of invoice clearance.

CTC reporting from a purely technical perspective often looks like clearance e-invoicing, but these regimes are separate from invoicing rules. In addition, they don’t necessarily require the invoice as exchanged between the supplier and the buyer to be electronic.

The impact of CTCs on business

The VAT trend towards CTCs is obvious, but situations in individual countries and regions remain fluid. It’s important to align your company with local expertise that understands the nuances of your business and what regulations and rules you’re subject to.

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VAT accounts for 15-40% of all public revenue globally. We estimate that the global VAT gap – i.e. lost VAT revenue due to errors and fraud – could be as high as half a trillion Euros. The GDP of countries like Norway, Austria or Nigeria are at a similar level and this VAT gap is big enough to significantly impact the economy of many countries. For this reason, tax authorities globally are taking steps to boost lost revenue through VAT digitization.

Up until recently, VAT requirements have traditionally followed three broad categories.

1. Invoice and storage requirements

At a high level, the requirements that apply during the processing of business transactions break down into requirements related to:

2. Periodic reporting requirements

These are reports for business transaction data in summary or aggregate form or full data from individual invoices. Historically such reporting requirements have often been monthly, with certain less-common reports being quarterly or yearly.

3. Audit requirements

These occur when, during the mandatory retention period for invoices and other records and books, which is typically seven to ten years, a tax authority request access to such records to assess their correspondence to reports.

The trend toward continuous transaction controls (CTCs)

The requirement types listed above, and their relative importance for both business and tax authorities, have changed significantly in recent years. The overall trend is clearly toward various forms of CTCs.

This radically different mode of enforcement, known as the “clearance model” began in Latin America over 15 years ago. Other emerging economies, like Turkey, followed a decade later. Many countries in Latin America now have stable CTC systems where a large amount of the data required for VAT enforcement is based on invoices and other key data is harvested (and often pre-approved) directly at the time of the transaction.

Europe and other countries went through a stage where original VAT invoices could be electronic without changing the basics of the VAT law enforcement model. This phase of voluntary e-invoicing without process re-engineering is often known as “post-audit” e-invoicing. In a post-audit system, the tax authority has no operational role in the invoicing process relying heavily on periodic reports transmitted by the taxpayer. Being able to demonstrate the integrity and authenticity of e-invoices from the moment of issuance until the end of the mandatory storage period is key for trading partners in post audit regimes.

Largely due to the staggering improvements in revenue collection and economic transparency from countries with existing CTC regimes, countries in Europe, Asia and Africa have also started adopting similar schemes. This rapid adoption of CTCs in many additional countries doesn’t follow the same simple path of quick migration of the early adopters. In fact, as the trend spreads around the world, it’s becoming increasingly clear there will be many different models adding to the complexity and challenges faced by multinational companies today.

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We recently launched the 12th Edition of our Annual Trends Report. We put a spotlight on current and near-term legal requirements across regions and VAT compliance domains.  The report, “VAT Trends: Toward Continuous Transaction Controls” is authored by a team of international tax compliance experts and provides a comprehensive look at the regulatory landscape as governments across the globe are enacting complex new policies to enforce VAT mandates, obtain unprecedented insight into economic data and close revenue gaps.

Central to this year’s edition is our focus on four emerging tax mega-trends with potential to drive change in the way multinational businesses approach regulatory reporting and manage tax compliance.

The Four Tax Mega-Trends

The mega-trends include:

  1. Continuous Transaction Controls (CTCs) – Countries with existing CTC regimes are seeing improvements in revenue collection and economic transparency. Now, other countries in Europe, Asia and Africa are moving away from post-audit regulation to adoption of these CTC-inspired approaches.
  2. A shift toward destination taxability for certain cross-border transactions – Cross-border services have historically often escaped VAT collection in the country of the consumer. Due to a large increase of cross-border trade in low-value goods and digital services over the past decade, administrations are taking significant measures to tax such supplies in the country of consumption or destination.
  3. Aggregator liability – With the increase of tax reporting or e-invoicing obligations across different taxpayer categories, tax administrations are increasingly looking for ways to concentrate tax reporting liability in platforms that naturally aggregate large numbers of transactions already.  Ecommerce marketplaces and business transaction management cloud vendors will increasingly be on the hook for sending data from companies on their networks to the government, potentially even inheriting liability for paying their taxes.
  4. E-accounting and e-assessment – Combining CTCs with obligations to synchronize entire accounting ledgers makes onsite audit necessary only in cases showing major anomalies across these rich data sources. Over time, the objective is for VAT returns and other tax reports to be prefilled by the tax administration based on taxpayers’ own, strongly authenticated source system data.

According to Christiaan van der Valk, lead author of the report and vice president of strategy at Sovos, continuous transaction controls have emerged as the primary concern for multinational companies looking to ensure tax compliance despite growing diversity in VAT enforcement approaches. Tax authorities are steadfast in their commitment to closing the VAT gap. As a result they will use all tools at their disposal to collect revenue owed. This holds especially true for the aftermath of COVID-19, when governments are expected to face unprecedented budget shortfalls.

VAT Trends: Toward Continuous Transaction Controls

Beyond the mega-trends, our report includes a major review of country and regional requirement profiles. These profiles provide a snapshot of current and near-term planned legal requirements across the different VAT compliance domains. The report also examines how governments have embraced digital transformation to speed revenue collection, decrease fraud and narrow VAT gaps.

“VAT Trends: Toward Continuous Transaction Controls” is the most comprehensive report of its kind. It provides an objective view of the VAT landscape with unbiased analysis from tax and regulatory experts with years of experience navigating the world’s most complex tax environments. If you are a tax, IT or legal professional working with multi-national companies, we strongly encourage you to download and become familiar with the subject-matter contained within. The pace of change for tax and regulatory environments is accelerating and this report will get you prepared.

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.

Is India postponing the mandatory implementation deadline for e-invoicing? For more than a year, India has been on the path to digitizing tax controls, with the first mandatory go-live for transmission of invoice data to a governmental portal scheduled for 1 April 2020. The very high pace of the roll-out of this reform made many taxpayers concerned that they might not realistically be able to meet the implementation deadline. As a result, leading many to hope that the Indian authorities might instead chose to postpone the go live date.

The latest news from India is that it looks as if these authorities may indeed consider a delay. Or at least discuss the possibility of – a delay to the go-live date. According to The Economic Times, the Indian government is going to discuss whether there is a need to defer the implementation deadline in the next meeting of GST Council, which is scheduled for the 14th of March. So far, a 3-month deferral is an option. This means that should the GST Council grant a delay, the first go-live would take place in July 2020.

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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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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.  

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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.

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.

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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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