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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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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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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Anyone who has been closely following SAF-T announcements over the past few years may be forgiven for thinking that it all seems rather like Groundhog Day.  Commencement dates and reporting requirements have been announced and subsequently amended and re-announced as the respective countries re-evaluate their needs and the readiness of companies to provide the data in the prescribed formats.

Earlier this month Poland announced that the changes planned for 1 July 2019, requiring mandatory filing of SAF-T information and the corresponding withdrawal of the requirement to submit a periodic VAT return, have now been deferred to January 2020. 

Also this month, Romania announced plans to become the eighth country to introduce SAF-T by introducing requirements for transactional reporting by the end of 2020.   

So, what is SAF-T, what is the latest position for countries which have introduced legislation and what lies ahead?

SAF-T – The Standard Audit File for Tax

The Standard Audit File for Tax (SAF-T) was developed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) with the aim of producing a standardised format for electronic exchange of accounting data from organisations to their national tax authority and external auditors.

The two key principles behind SAF-T are that;

  1. Organisations should be able to export information from their accounting systems (invoices, payments, general ledger journals and master files) into a standardised format and
  2. Tax authorities and external auditors should be able to make their tax inspections and audits more efficient and effective as a result of data being made available to them in that standardised format.

In 2005 the OECD released the first version of the SAF-T schema which provides details of what should be included in a SAF-T xml reporting file and how that data should be formatted and structured.  The original schema was based on the general ledger and details of invoices and payments, together with customer and supplier master files.  A second version of the SAF-T schema was released in 2010 to incorporate information about Inventory and Fixed Assets.

What the OECD have not defined, and what remains the responsibility for the tax administration in each country to decide, is the exact format in which the data is to be captured and when and how it is required to be sent to the tax administration.

Different approaches

What has emerged from those countries which have adopted SAF-T are three broad approaches;

In some cases, the mandate starts with a requirement to produce data on request and evolves through to periodic submissions.

Where are we now?

There are currently seven countries which have introduced legislation enforcing SAF-T requirements.

Portugal

Portugal was one of the first adopters and Portuguese entities have been required to extract data into the SAF-T file format (based on version 1 of the OECD SAF-T schema) since 2008 on an annual basis.  Further extensions to collect sales invoice data and other documents on a monthly basis followed in 2013.

Luxembourg

Luxembourg introduced the requirement to extract data in the relevant format in 2011.  It only applies to Luxembourg resident companies subject to the local chart of accounts and is only required to be submitted when requested by the tax authority.

France

France introduced a SAF-T requirement in 2014, using a proprietary format rather than the OECD standard SAF-T schema, requiring files to be submitted in txt format.  It is currently only required to be filed on demand when requested by the French tax authority.

Austria

Austria introduced SAF-T in 2009 and is currently only required on demand when requested by the tax authority.

Poland

Possibly the most significant implementor of SAF-T to date, with large companies having had to file monthly JPK (Jednolity Plik Kontrolny) returns since 2016.

Lithuania

Lithuania introduced the requirement to file the SAF-T based i.MAS on a phased basis, starting with the largest organisations in 2016 and working towards mandating SAF-T for all businesses by 2020.  The i.MAS comprises three parts, i.SAF reporting of sales and purchase invoices on a monthly basis, i.VAZ reporting of transport/consignment documents and the i.SAF-T accounting transaction report,  which is only required when requested by the tax authority.

Norway

SAF-T has been in place on a voluntary basis since 2017 and there are proposals to mandate it, on an ‘on-demand’ basis from January 2020.

What lies ahead for the future of SAF-T?

Countries which are receiving regular, transactional level details under SAF-T may look to reduce the periodic VAT return requirements.  This is because the need to prepare a VAT return summarising the details which the tax authority already receives on a transactional basis can be seen as unnecessary duplication. 

Poland is proposing that SAF-T data submissions will displace the need for filing a VAT return from January 2020.

Romania is proposing a phased transition to filing of transactional data from 2020, starting with large organisations, with a reduction in the VAT returns which are required to be filed.

 

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Split payments is one of the methods that European countries with a considerable VAT gap use to tackle it.  Across the EU, the VAT gap in the EU in 2016 was reported to be €147.1bn.

Poland introduced voluntary VAT split payments in July 2018. Since then around 25% of taxpayers have adopted this payment method.  This equates to 400,000 out of 1.6 million taxpayers currently active on the Polish market. However, only 9% of the total amount of VAT has been paid using this mechanism since last year.

The VAT split payment mechanism means that the amount of commodities or supplies for consideration is being paid to the taxable person into one account, while the VAT amount charged in the underline transaction is deposited in a different bank account designated for this purpose.

On May 16, 2019 the Ministry of Finance published draft legislation which intends to introduce mandatory split payments from September 1, 2019. Poland received temporary approval, valid until 2022, from the European Commission on February 18, 2019, subject to introducing some limitations to the mandate. Consequently, split payments will apply to (and substitute) reverse charge transactions and those with purchaser tax liability; it will also apply to 150 selected goods and services, such as car parts, coal, fuel, waste and some electronic equipment.  In addition, to comply with the mandate, the value of the transaction must exceed the threshold of PLN 15,000 (approximately €3,500). The Ministry of Finance reported that the selected industries are those where state tax administration observes the highest tax avoidance. 

Since July 2018, taxpayers complained that the way in which split payment is regulated influences their financial liquidity. The bank account to which VAT is paid belongs to the taxpayer, however, its freedom to spend this money is currently limited to paying VAT. With the planned amendments, taxpayers will be able to pay other state charges from the VAT accounts, such as social security charges and other tax liabilities including income tax, excise and customs duties.

Split payments will also apply to non-resident companies subject to VAT in Poland, who are settling transactions by means of bank transfers, and are otherwise in scope of the mandate as per the general rules. Based on the Ministry of Finance estimates, there are around 550 such companies, 150 of which do not even have a local bank account. Complying with the local split payment regime will be more of a challenge for these companies.

Sanctions for non-compliance may affect both the supplier and buyer. Suppliers may be charged with 100% of the VAT due for not including a mandatory statement on the invoice which is subject to split payment (in Polish: "mechanizm podzielonej płatności"). Buyers may be penalised in the same way for not paying VAT to the VAT account, alternatively they may be deprived of the right for tax deduction.

Split payment was either introduced or is being considered in three other European countries. Italy and Romania both introduced a split payment mandate for certain businesses from 2015 and 2018 respectively. In the UK, public consultations were held throughout 2018 with a view to introducing split payments.  From April 2019 Romania withdrew mandatory split payments, following the November 2018 order of the European Commission which concluded that the mandate is disproportionate. It will now maintain a voluntary split payment regime.

 

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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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More than six months ago the Greek authorities announced their intention to introduce mandatory e-invoicing and e-bookkeeping rules, and enough information is now available to assess what the proposed rules will mean for Greece.

Although formal legislation has yet to be published, it’s expected the new e-invoicing measures by the Independent Public Revenue Authority, the Greek authority responsible for all tax matters (AADE; in Greek, “ΑΑΔΕ”), will be mandated by January 2020.

The Director of AADE recently stated that e-invoicing is incomplete without e-reporting, so the proposed rules must encompass both areas of tax compliance. By January 2020 the goal is for reporting to occur in real-time at the same time as the invoice is issued. The new rules would make e-invoicing and e-reporting mandatory, with a real-time connection from the invoicing system (by transmission of all relevant invoice data) to the electronic system (TaxisNet) of the Greek tax authorities.

Scope of reform

e-invoicing

So far, no real action has been taken regarding the implementation of the new e-invoicing system, e.g. the e-invoicing process, e-invoice format requirements and the software systems to connect to the tax authority have not yet been defined. However, the Ministry of Finance recently published a Decision establishing certification requirements and describing the certification process and responsibilities for e-invoicing service providers, who would be able to perform services of issuance, delivery and archiving on behalf of the taxable person.

Real-time reporting

By comparison, more progress has been made for implementing real-time reporting. AADE has published the technical specifications for transmission of invoice data – however, the scope of the reporting framework covers other tax as well as invoice data – e.g. income tax – to the government portal (TaxisNet) and invoice data will need to be reported on a daily basis (instead of periodically as currently). These technical specifications apply to the connection from the so-called Greek “electronic fiscal devices” – which is the most commonly used compliant method for issuing (and ensuring integrity and authenticity of) B2C invoices in Greece – to TaxisNet, as well as the data transmission software operated by e-invoicing service providers.

For B2B invoices, whose integrity and authenticity can be guaranteed by any method of the EU Directive, no technical specifications have been published yet. Further clarification and legislative action by the tax administration is required. Details about service providers’ software systems and the government infrastructure are expected to be finalised by mid-2019.

Until the implementation of the new reporting framework whereby invoice data will be reported in real-time at the same time as the invoice is issued, AADE is working on the alternative that invoice data will be reported on a regular basis by the issuer only, and not the buyer, which should minimise the overall reporting workload and ensure uniqueness of data. The buyer will be able to amend the relevant reporting field on TaxisNet where there is insufficient invoice data from the supplier.

B2G transactions

On 29 October 2018 the Government published a Bill to transpose the Directive 2014/55/EU on e-invoicing in public procurement; it however still needs to be approved. The Bill makes e-invoicing mandatory for both the supplier and the buyer/government in public procurement scenarios as of 1 April 2019.

Opportunity for structural change

AADE has clearly stated that mandatory e-invoicing would be incomplete without some type of combined transactional reporting; data should be created once and not several times as is currently the case. Therefore, we expect a type of “clearance” e-invoicing model in Greece, however at this stage it’s still too early to categorise the reform as being similar to Italy (“real” clearance e-invoicing) or more like Hungary (real-time reporting as soon as the invoice has been issued). Clearly, Greece is in line with the EU paradigm shift towards increased governmental control over transactional data and recognises the benefits of tighter tax compliance and in taking steps to close its tax gap.

Even if the new measures aren’t particularly welcomed by many individuals in Greece – much in the spirit of a well-held opposition against EU austerity measures which have led to riots and social unrest in the past – these new measures are well positioned to provide the Greek tax administration and government with an opportunity for structural change. The use of technology will enable more effective tax controls and enforcement as well as a more efficient tax environment for business, leading to a positive knock-on effect for future restructuring and rebuilding of the Greek economy.

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Companies struggling to meet Italy’s electronic invoicing deadline of January 1 will get some relief from financial penalties if they can’t immediately issue invoices at the moment of supply, but it seems the Italian Tax Authority will not delay rolling out the system.

The government had stated that invoices that did not comply with the new mandate after January 1 would be subject to penalties ranging from 90 to 180 percent of the applicable tax. The tax authority will consider invoices not correctly formatted or not issued through the new SDI reporting system to be non-compliant.

But many businesses, especially smaller firms, have had trouble transitioning from their existing processes to the new e-invoicing framework that requires real-time e-invoice clearance through the state-operated Sistema di Interscambio, or SDI, platform.

In response to business concerns, the government is opening up to a grace period of sorts: Instead of postponing the e-invoicing roll-out as such, Italy will waive penalties for delayed clearance transmission. Furthermore, as of July 2019, Italy will loosen the main rule for when an invoice must be issued, which effectively will allow businesses more flexibility in the e-invoicing process.

Businesses get a grace period for Italian electronic invoicing penalties

The new rules on penalties allow for a short grace period. The tax authority will not apply penalties for e-invoices that are issued and cleared by the SDI within the VAT liquidation period to which the invoice belongs – in other words, by the 15th of the following month in which the invoice should be issued and consequently cleared (according to  Decree n. 100 from 1998, updated in 2018). For e-invoices that the SDI issues and clears by the end of the following VAT liquidation period (usually the end of the following month), the tax authority will reduce the penalty by 80 percent.

For example, if a business can’t transmit invoices in compliance on January 1, it can delay the clearance transmission of an invoice that should have been issued to February 15 without any penalties for the delay. If the business still needs more time, it can delay the clearance transmission of invoices through the SDI until March 15 and pay an 80 percent reduction of the regular penalty.

Italy eases timing of electronic invoicing issuance

Italy is also loosening its requirement for the timing of issuing an invoice. Since 1972, Italian VAT law has stated that suppliers must issue invoices to the government at the point of supply. However, beginning in July, suppliers will be able to issue invoices through the SDI platform within 10 days of supply. Invoices not cleared by SDI are not valid for fiscal purposes, so taking 10 days to issue an invoice could cause delays in receiving payment.

For companies doing business in Italy, the relief is welcome, but it is also a sign that Italian e-invoicing is moving forward on schedule. That means companies with Italian operations need to get their systems ready to comply with the new mandate or face penalties by mid-February.

Takeaways: What this means for doing business in Italy

What is also clear from the latest developments is that e-invoicing regulations in Italy can change at any time. The problem becomes exponentially more difficult to solve when businesses figure in similar changes happening all over the world. Adopting a system that automates e-invoicing and provides a single source of truth for data in both accounts payable and accounts receivable is essential.

Take Action

Sovos has been keeping companies in compliance in Italy for more than a decade. Find out how Sovos saves clients from penalties, cancelled shipments and other potentially expensive e-invoicing pitfalls.

Companies dealing with complex sales and use tax determination, VAT regulations and other tax challenges across the globe know that SAP alone is not equipped to support the varying requirements from country to country. As SAP sunsets support and updates for ECC and R3, companies must move to HANA to keep their systems up to date. With this inevitable change to S/4HANA or HANA Enterprise Cloud, now is the perfect time to step back and develop a comprehensive strategy to managing tax worldwide.

SAP users must migrate to HANA by 2025, but a majority have not yet started the process. Since the move requires major changes to ERP infrastructure, SAP users with global operations should take advantage of the unique opportunity to be more strategic in their implementation. With the right approach, companies can future-proof their solutions in a way that ensures they can keep pace with constant changes in tax regulations throughout Latin America, Europe and beyond.

Learn how to minimise business disruption during an SAP S/4HANA upgrade project in the wake of modern tax: Read Preparing SAP S/4HANA for Continuous Tax Compliance and don’t let the requirements of modern tax derail your company.

Governments around the world are implementing technology for tax enforcement. In order to keep up, companies must make the digitisation of tax a core pillar of their HANA migrations.

In the move to HANA, companies must consider the new world of tax, which includes:

The move to S/4HANA or HANA Enterprise Cloud requires companies to move all of their processes, customisations and third-party add-ons to the new platform. As such, there are several critical considerations.

What to migrate, and when

Since most companies’ SAP ERP systems have been built and customised over many years, many will benefit from a phased approach to HANA implementation. The less customised modules, such as Financial Accounting (FI) and Controlling (CO) will be easier to move than Materials Management (MM) or Sales and Distribution (SD), which will need a long-term plan for customisations.

What to do with customisations and third-party apps

Many SAP configurations have become a patchwork of customised code and bolt-on applications. This is especially true when it comes to sales and use tax determination, e-invoicing, and VAT compliance and reporting, since requirements are vastly different in every jurisdiction a company operates. The move to HANA gives companies the opportunity to consolidate, eliminating local configurations in favour of a global strategy. Companies that proactively plan can help to ensure that the next 15 years are simplified, without the constantly changing configurations needed in the previous 15 years as governments have gone digital.

Take Action

With an upcoming migration to SAP HANA, businesses must consider a solution that maintains SAP as the central source of the truth while keeping pace with constant regulatory change. Learn how Sovos is helping companies do just that, safeguarding the value of their HANA implementation here.

Countries within the European Union (EU) are losing billions of euros in value-added tax (VAT) every year because of VAT fraud, VAT evasion, VAT avoidance and inadequate tax collection systems. As of 2016, the VAT gap in the EU was 159.5 billion euros, or 14% of the total expected VAT revenue for the EU. As a result, EU countries have been introducing several measures to increase VAT compliance and make their VAT systems more fraud-proof. One such measure is the split payment mechanism.

What are Split Payments?

The split payment mechanism changes how VAT is generally collected by making the payment for the tax base (i.e., product price net of VAT) separate from that for the VAT amount. There are variations of the split payment mechanism, but generally, an invoice is paid by the customer to two separate accounts: The net amount is paid to the supplier’s business bank account, and the VAT amount is paid directly to a dedicated bank account of the supplier, called a VAT account. In practice, a single payment will be made and it will be divided by the bank.

Split payments are regarded as a measure to combat VAT fraud and non-compliance by removing the opportunity for suppliers to charge VAT and disappear without declaring or paying it to the tax authority (‘missing trader fraud’). It digresses from the mainstream of VAT collection in the EU, which relies on vendor-based collection of VAT and on periodic remittance of VAT by registered traders.

The European Commission completed a comprehensive study of split payments in December 2017 to design and assess legally and technically feasible scenarios for a split payment mechanism as a VAT collection tool. The study found:

“….no strong evidence that the benefits of split payment would outweigh its costs. The main identified effects were that a wider scope of split payment would potentially provide a larger decrease of the VAT gap, but would also significantly increase the related administrative costs.” [source]

EU Countries with Split Payment Mechanism

Despite the European Commission’s inconclusive assessment, split payment mechanisms are currently in place around the world, primarily outside of the EU. In the EU, Italy and Romania have implemented split payment mechanisms while Poland plans to implement it, and the UK has started to consider it. 

Italy has employed a split payment mechanism since January 1, 2015 for payments to public authorities under Law 23/12/2014, n. 190 (Stability Law). It has been expanded several times, most recently on January 1, 2018.  Currently, it applies to supplies of goods and services rendered to several categories of public bodies, such as public economic entities, special companies, foundations and their subsidiaries, as well as companies included in the FTSE MIB index. As per the design of the system in Italy, suppliers charge Italian VAT on goods and services made to the entities listed above. These customers then “split” the payment of the invoice: they pay the taxable amount to the suppliers and pay the VAT to an allocated VAT bank account of the treasury.

In Poland, split payments are scheduled to be implemented as of July 1, 2018. Unlike Italy, Poland’s scheme will not require customers to make two separate payments. Instead, Poland will require a single payment executed to the bank who will then split the payment into two separate bank accounts: one account for the amount net of VAT to be paid to the supplier’s business bank account, and the other account for the VAT amount to be paid directly to a dedicated VAT bank account of the supplier.

The scope of Poland’s split payment mandate is much broader than Italy’s as it will apply to all VAT registered businesses. On the other hand, the Polish split payment mechanism will be optional as the buyer may but does not have to apply it.

In Romania, a split payment mechanism has been implemented since January 1, 2018 for companies which exceed certain thresholds for outstanding VAT liabilities. Under the Romanian split payment mechanism, obligated VAT registrants are required to open separate bank accounts for the collection and payment of VAT. The VAT split payment applies to all their taxable supplies of goods and services, for which the place of supply is in Romania. Similar to Italy but unlike Poland, the split payment mechanism is mandatory. The suppliers charge Romanian VAT on goods and services, then the split payment is made by the business customer, who transfers the VAT directly to the VAT bank account of the supplier. The VAT bank account of the supplier can only be used for output and input VAT payments.

The UK has held a public consultation on adopting anti-VAT fraud split payment mechanism for eCommerce. The split payment mechanism would require the VAT due on online supplies to be paid directly to the UK tax authorities at the time of purchase. The UK is debating several issues:

HMRC has made an initial proposal with respect to how the split payment mechanism would function, titled “Alternative method of VAT collection – split payment,” and is seeking public comment until June 29, 2018. HMRC’s proposal would have the merchant identify and make the split payment for transactions relating to UK residents, and have payment service providers identify and fulfill the split payment for transactions relating to non-UK residents. There would be an approved register of payment companies (both merchants and payment service providers) who could split payments. With respect to overseas sellers, for each payment, the card issuer would check if an approved payment company will be responsible for splitting that payment. If so, the card issuer would pass the payment in full to the payment company. The payment company would then split out the VAT, pay it directly to the HMRC, and pass on the balance to the overseas seller’s bank account. If not, then the card issuer would have to split out the VAT, pay it directly to the HMRC, and pass on the balance to the unapproved payment company which would then pass on that amount to the overseas seller’s bank. Finally, the HMRC would credit the seller’s UK VAT bank account with the output VAT thus collected.

Impact of Split Payment on Companies

Under a split payment mechanism, suppliers may suffer negative cash flow. Although funds within the VAT account belong to the supplier, the supplier will not be able to use them freely. Such funds may be spent only in specific ways prescribed by the regulatory regime. In Poland, businesses can use the funds only to pay invoiced VAT to the VAT account of the invoice issuer, and to pay VAT to the tax authorities.

In Italy, a large delay has been observed on processing refunds to businesses (up to 90 days after quarterly VAT refund request). This hiatus allows authorities to hold input VAT for a longer period of time, earning interest for the government, while affecting the cash flow of Italian businesses. To fully estimate the cash flow implications of a split payment system, one must consider the costs of borrowing for the businesses and for the government.

The European Commission considered a variety of factors and models of split payment mechanism to determine impacts on businesses. The impact of split payments on different types of businesses varies depending on a number of factors, including the type of transaction, where the liability lies for the payment, whether the transaction is cross-border, and compliance costs that businesses will bear to implement split payment best practices. 

Take Action

Split payments are emerging as a new VAT collection mechanism in the European Union.  Businesses need to continue to stay alert and adaptive in the ever-changing landscape of VAT compliance. Contact us to know how we can help your business to stay on top of VAT Compliance landscape.

Overview

The main indirect tax of Mexico is the Value Added Tax (locally known as IVA), which generally applies to all imports, supplies of goods, and the provision of services by a taxable person unless specifically exempted by a particular law. The tax is imposed by the federal government of Mexico and ordinarily applies on each level of the commercialisation chain. This tax has been applied in Mexico since 1980.

Click here to read "Why the New Process for Cancelling E-Invoices in Mexico Matters"

Tax Rate

Mexico applies a single standard rate of 16% across the country. However, there is also a 0% rate applicable to exports and the local supply of certain goods and services. Sales of ice, fresh water, machinery and raw materials for manufacturers, books, newspapers, magazines by their editors, medicines, as well as the supply of services to eligible manufacturers, are subject to the 0% rate.

It is worth mentioning that until December 2013, Mexico applied a reduced rate of 11% in Mexican Border states of Baja California Norte, Baja California Sur, Quintana Roo, the municipalities of Caborca and Cananea, and in the bordering regions of the Colorado River in the state of Sonora. This was an effort largely to attract businesses to these areas and because the sales tax in the U.S. border states was half of the IVA in Mexico. These regions were commonly referred as the “maquiladora zones.”

That 11% reduced rate was revoked starting January 1, 2014, and substituted with a broader regime of incentives aimed at the manufacturing companies located in that region.

Taxable Base and Exemptions

As mentioned before, the Mexican IVA applies to all goods and services unless specifically exempted by the law. There is a wide variety of goods and services exempt from the tax, including:

Credit-Debit Mechanism

The Mexican IVA doesn’t differ much from IVA in other countries in that it allows the taxpayer to deduct the IVA that has been paid to the taxpayer’s suppliers or IVA that the taxpayer has paid himself at the time of importing goods that were subject to the tax. In addition to the IVA paid on imports and local purchases, the taxpayer also has the right to credit the IVA withheld by clients that are required to apply the reverse charge system that we are going to examine later.

In those instances where the taxpayer cannot use all the credit that has been accumulated on its purchases, the remaining amount can be carried over to later periods or eventually even to request a reimbursement from the government.

Taxable Event and Periodic Payment

One of the unique characteristics of the Mexican IVA is that when determining the taxable event, the law requires the taxpayer to use the cash accounting method rather than the accrual accounting method. What this basically means is that IVA on a sale is considered due when the seller is effectively paid, rather than when the invoice has been issued, the service provided or the good has been supplied. If the seller does not get paid, no tax liability exists either.

In general, the Mexican IVA should be paid on a monthly basis, no later than the 17th day of the month after the taxable event occurred.

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Take Action

Learn how other mandates in Latin America affect your business and how you can overcome challenges by downloading the Definitive Guide to Latin American Compliance.

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