Following India’s recent public consultation looking at the proposed introduction of an e-invoicing regime, the GST council has now released a white paper on the architecture of the new framework and also provided answers to a number of outstanding questions.

From 1 January 2020, taxpayers in India can start to use the new e-invoicing framework, which relies on connectivity to the GST system for reporting of all B2B invoice data.  The first part of the roll-out starting from this date will be voluntary for businesses.  It will only become mandatory at a later stage, the timing of which is still to be communicated by the relevant authorities.

The new e-invoicing system, considered to be not only a tax reform but also a business reform, has two key aims:

Under the e-invoicing system, taxpayers will be obliged to create the e-invoice in the structured JSON format and transmit it to the Invoice Registration Portal (IRP). The IRP will then check the e-invoice according to the requirements of the schema and determine if a duplicate record is already registered on the GST system.

After this check, the IRP will digitally sign the e-invoice, assign a unique number – the invoice registration number (IRN) – to the invoice and create a QR code, before submitting the invoice to the GST system. The QR code will help to authenticate the e-invoice by the seller and buyer and to confirm that the invoice is successfully registered in the GST system. Connection to the portal is needed to see all the e-invoice data and to view all the details online. A digital signature by the taxpayer is not mandatory, but it is permitted before submission to the IRP.

An IRN can also be generated by the seller with the required parameters, which would then be validated by the IRP and transmitted to the GST System if it meets the predefined criteria.

Once the e-invoice has been cleared by the IRP, it will be transmitted to both the seller and the buyer by email.

Taxpayers can use several methods to connect to the IRP including web, API, SMS, mobile app, offline tool or GSP based.

The IRP keeps the e-invoices for just 24 hours as its main function is to validate and assign the IRN. Invoices submitted to the GST system will be archived for the whole financial year by the GST system and taxpayers must keep the IRN for each invoice to ensure compliance.

The new system will simplify the preparation of Goods and Services Tax (GST) returns by auto-populating the returns with the data from the e-invoices. The GST System will update the ANX-1 of the seller (sales registers) and ANX-2 of the buyer (purchase register).

Data from the e-invoice will also be used as a basis to populate the current e-waybill (auto-generation of Part-A), where only the vehicle registration number will need to be added in Part-B of the e-waybill.

Whilst the white paper has provided some guidance for businesses ahead of the introduction of this e-invoicing framework, there are still some grey areas to be addressed in the coming months, including the timeline for submitting e-invoices.

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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.

Last month, we made some predictions on how the outcome of the recent elections would impact the agenda of the Independent Authority of Public Revenues (IAPR) on the envisaged e-invoicing and e-reporting reform. It looks as if the newly elected government is fully in-line with the IAPR agenda to implement e-reporting and bookkeeping (mandatory e-invoicing is still in the agenda but at a later stage) and its proposed model, as announced yesterday by the minister of Finance during parliamentary discussions.

The IAPR has made great progress towards the implementation of the e-reporting scheme (named “Epopis”) by publishing, just yesterday, the technical specifications and schemas for the transmission of data to the IAPR platform. The IAPR reporting platform now has a name, “myDATA,” meaning Digital Accounting and Tax Application. It is worth noting that no legal documentation has been made available yet.

Having made available enough information on the process and the technical details, the IAPR has launched a public consultation to receive inputs from businesses and interested stakeholders on the proposed e-reporting scheme that will be open until 6 September 2019.

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.

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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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To help reduce delays in the payment of invoices, the French authorities by Ordinance No. 2019-359 of 24 April 2019 have clarified their invoicing rules to include two new mandatory content requirements.  These are in addition to those already in place.

The two new requirements stipulated in the France invoice mandate are:

1) To provide the billing address of the buyer and the seller if it is different from their office / home address and

2) To include the purchase order number if it has been previously established by the customer.

The addition of this extra information on the invoice should help businesses which have their head office in one location and the invoicing department located in another.  It should ensure that invoices are sent directly to the billing address and speed up the payment process by adding a purchase order number where this has previously been created.

In addition, the Ordinance has also considered it necessary and aligned commercial legislation and tax legislation to provide a single date of issue of the invoice to ensure legal certainty for both trading parties. According to the Ordinance, the date of issue of the invoice is set to be the day the products or services are delivered.

The cost of non-compliance

Failure to include this mandatory information on the invoice, incurs an administrative penalty of up to €75,000 for an individual and up to €375,000 for a business.

 

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The Danish government has introduced new law creating a state-owned insurance scheme for compensation for losses arising from a terrorist attack using chemical, biological, nuclear and radioactive (CBNR) weapons. The scheme comes into effect on 1 July 2019. There had been concerns that CBNR terror coverage available in the market was limited and, as it is not a mandatory cover, many insurers were considering whether to continue to offer it at all.

In basic terms, under the new scheme, the financial risk of a CBNR attack in Denmark will initially be borne by the State, but those costs are subsequently recovered from policyholders. It is the way those amounts are recovered, however, which will be of interest to tax managers. Following a CBNR attack and the State paying claims, a 5% levy will be applied to policies covering fire risks in relation to buildings, land, moveable property, railway vehicles, motor vehicles and ships.

Insurers will be required to collect the additional amount from their policyholders along with the first premium of the next calendar year. This will then be remitted in to a fund on a quarterly basis until the cost of the claims are fully recovered by the State, at which point the contributions will cease and any excess amounts held by the fund will be refunded to policyholders proportionally.

This way of funding terrorism cover is a less common approach. Additional (re)insurance pools, such as Pool Re in the UK or ongoing charges including the Victim of Terrorism Contributions to the Fonds de Garantie in France, are more frequently used forms of funding.

This ‘after the event’ method of collection means that hopefully the levy will never need to be collected. However, insurers writing risks in Denmark should be aware of their potential obligations under the new law.

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Beyond the implications outlined in our last blog, Decree-Law 28/2019 (the Decree-Law)  impacts areas beyond invoicing, introducing modifications to both archiving and the reporting of tax data.

Mandatory electronic archiving

A novelty of the Decree-Law is the explicit introduction of an obligation to archive electronic invoices in electronic format which in turn further promotes the adoption of electronic formats. Portugal has chosen a closed system in which by law the invoice must remain in the same format in which it was issued. This means that even those companies who are not engaged in e-invoicing, but who receive an electronic invoice from a supplier, will have to acquire and maintain an electronic archive. The alternative would be to reject the invoice and request a printed version. For archiving, the law does not allow for the invoice format to change. 

The law also establishes archiving requirements:

It is mandatory for taxpayers to report to the tax authority the location of the electronic archive. All taxpayers must comply with the transition rules of the Decree-Law within 30 days from when it comes into force – i.e. by 17 March 2019.

SAF-T (PT) filing changes

As well as the e-archiving rules, changes have been introduced to the reporting of invoice data to the tax authority through SAF-T (PT) files by modifying provisions set in Decreto -Lei n.º 198/2012 regarding the time of filing the SAFT-T (PT) file. Until now, taxpayers could file the SAF-T file to fulfill reporting obligations until the 25th of the following month of issuing the invoice.

A reduced time to report comes into force according to the following schedule:

Taxpayers can still choose to report in real-time through webservice integration instead of uploading the SAF-T (PT) file.  The Decree-Law enhanced this option as taxpayers who choose to report in this way are not obliged to print B2C issued invoices unless it is explicitly requested by the buyer and provided they comply with the requirement of inserting the unique invoice code to the invoice and use certified invoicing software.

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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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The Common Reporting Standard (CRS) is fast becoming the global standard for tax information reporting outside the United States. As more countries adopt CRS, and as penalties for late, incorrect or missed CRS filings become more severe, financial institutions need to know what their compliance requirements are. The following are clarification and detail about what insurers need to know about CRS reporting obligations.

Establishing Key Terms

Under the CRS, the term “Financial Institution” means a Custodial Institution, a Depository Institution, an Investment Entity, or a Specified Insurance Company.  (CRS, Section VIII: Defined Terms, A.3).

 A “Specified Insurance Company” is “any Entity that is an insurance company (or the holding company of an insurance company) that issues, or is obligated to make payments with respect to, A Cash Value Insurance Contract or an Annuity Contract.” (Section VIII, A.8).  Insurance companies that only provide general insurance or term life insurance will not be specified insurance companies, nor will reinsurance companies that only provide indemnity reinsurance contracts.

Typically, an insurance company meets the criteria of a Specified Insurance Company if:

Insurance companies that provide only general insurance or term life insurance are typically not classified as FIs; likewise, reinsurance companies which provide only indemnity reinsurance contracts and insurance brokers are typically not considered to be FIs.

Of the five types of financial accounts that must be reported under CRS, two relate to insurance companies: annuity contracts and cash value insurance contracts.

Reporting Requirements

Under the CRS, all reporting FIs have the obligation to report the following:

The CRS does note that in reporting account balances or values, that Cash Value Insurance Contracts and Annuity Contracts, FIs should report the Cash Value or surrender value of the contracts.  (Section I, A.4).  

In order to meet the requirement to report residence of the account owner, insurers who provide Cash Value Insurance Contracts may rely on the current residence address in its records until  1) there is a change of circumstances that causes the FI to know or have reason to know that the residence address is incorrect or unreliable, or 2) that the time of pay-out (whether full or partial)  or maturity of the Cash Value Insurance Contract.

Insurance companies do not have to report, review, or identify a pre-existing individual account that is a Cash Value Insurance Contract or an Annuity Contract provided that the FI’s jurisdiction prevents FIs from selling contracts to residents of that jurisdiction.

Due Diligence Requirements

The CRS establishes an alternative due diligence procedure for Cash Value Insurance Contracts and Annuity Contracts in Paragraph B of the Special Due Diligence Rules.  The CRS advises that a reporting FI may presume that an individual beneficiary (other than the owner) of a Cash Value Insurance Contract or Annuity Contract receiving a death benefit is not a reportable person, and that FIs may treat such accounts as other than a reportable account unless the reporting FI has actual knowledge or reason to know that the beneficiary is a reportable person. If the beneficiary is a reportable person, the FI is required to follow the procedures established in paragraph B of Section III.

The Commentary to the CRS notes that an alternative procedure similar to the above may be necessary for certain employer-sponsored group insurance contracts or annuity contracts.  In such cases, the Commentary suggests adding a provision to account for group insurance contracts. In cases where such group insurance plans exist, the Commentary advises a provision to state something similar to the following: “A Reporting Financial Institution may treat a Financial Account that is a member’s interest in a Group Cash Value Insurance Contract or Group Annuity Contract as a Financial Account that is not a Reportable Account until the date on which an amount is payable to the employee/certificate holder or beneficiary, if the Financial Account that is a member’s interest in a Group Cash Value Insurance Contract or Group Annuity Contract meets the following requirements: 

(Commentary on Section VII, paragraph 13; pg. 153). The last provision is provided if the Financial Institution does not have a direct relationship with the employee/certificate holder at inception of the contract and thus may not be able to obtain documentation regarding their residence.

Conclusion

Insurers who fall under the definition of Financial Institution provided by the CRS are obligated to report on Cash Value Contracts and Annuity Contracts, so long as such contracts are allowed in the jurisdiction the FI is reporting from. These FIs have an obligation to comply with the due diligence requirements that the CRS imposes on them, and can make use of an alternate procedure to comply.

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