E-invoicing – what does the tax authority expect

One of the major changes introduced from 1 January 2013 is the simplification of the rules on electronic invoicing. Consistent with the provisions of Directive 2010/45/EU, the new rules could help companies lower costs and improve their competitiveness. The amendments are also naturally intended to prevent a further increase in the administrative burdens related to paper-based invoicing. The tax authorities of Member States have to move with the times too, and we can now say that the hegemony of paper-based documentation is coming to an end.
Aside from the compulsory content, the issue of both printed and electronic invoices must guarantee that
1.    the origin of the invoice remains credible,
2.    the integrity of the data is maintained, and
3.    the invoice remains legible (to the human eye – software capable of reading the invoice must be kept)
from the date of issue until the end of the period the invoice must be retained for.
These three conditions can be met using any business control procedure that creates a reliable control link between the invoice and the supply of the product or service.
What is not yet known is which procedures will comply with this requirement, alongside the two statutory methods listed separately in the VAT Act: invoice with a qualified electronic signature and data created and forwarded in an electronic data interchange system (EDI). These business procedures call for the required level of care and diligence from taxpayers and the proper documentation of processes in anticipation of an inspection.
Besides the invoice, the taxpayer must be able to present all other documents designed to substantiate the authenticity of the transaction, such as order forms, receipt slips, electronic materials sent by email without an error message, certificates of completion, clear identification of the contracting partner – an e-mail address alone is not enough. The purpose here is to employ information technology procedures (closed system, data preservation/archiving that may not subsequently be modified, queryable database in relation to forwarding electronic invoices) to ensure the three conditions above can be verified on both sides, and for the simplifications not to result in even more paper documents being required for verification purposes.
It is important to note that consent from the invoice recipient is required for the issuance of an electronic invoice, which does not necessarily have to be in the form of prior written confirmation (acceptance and payment of the invoice signifies consent from the recipient).
Care must be taken to ensure that during tax inspections conducted in subsequent years the relevant devices and software must still be available so that the tax authority can check the existence and authenticity of the documents, even after upgrades to technology have been made.

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