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France: How the EU’s 2nd Largest Economy Plans to go CTC

Anna Nordén
November 13, 2020

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.

    • By 1 January 2023, large companies will be subject to the e-invoice issuance and also the e-reporting mandate
    • For medium-sized companies these obligations will apply from 1 January 2024
    • The smallest companies would have until 1 January 2025 to comply

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.

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Author

Anna Nordén

As Principal, Regulatory Affairs at Sovos, Anna Nordén pursues government relations and other public affairs work to anticipate new regulatory trends and laws. In tight collaboration with colleagues in both Strategy and Regulatory Analysis and Design, her long practice and expertise are instrumental in guiding both Sovos and legislators as new tax control reforms are rolled out across the globe.
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