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CEN agrees European e-invoicing standard syntax list

31/01/2017

European e-invoicing standard syntax list

In 2014, the European Union (EU) set out to create a cross-border e-invoicing standard to facilitate interoperability between different Member States. This proposal led to Directive 2014/55/EU, which set May 2017 as the deadline for the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) to determine this standard. Thereafter, all EU public bodies must be adapted to send and receive e-invoices with the new model before November 2018.

Although there are still some months ago before the new standard is finally published, the process continues to make headway. In fact, the CEN members have unanimously agreed that UBL and UN/CEFACT are the two syntaxes that shall set the future European standard. For now, this decision is included in a draft from last December. Now, the next step will be creating the technical specifications to facilitate its implementation.

After that, the CEN shall start up a trial period with the end-users. This pilot plan will assess the ease-of-use, the capacity for adaptation of the Public Sector and the possible costs of application of these two syntaxes. Then, as stated in the regulation: "The Commission shall submit a report on the test results to the European Parliament and the Council.” Finally, the European standard for e-invoicing will be published in the Official Journal of the European Union and, as of that point, the various government agencies will have to start adapting to it.

e-Invoicing in Europe

Many of the European Union Member States have already implemented e-invoicing of a compulsory nature between the public sector and its suppliers, with the aim of simplifying tax compliance and cutting economic costs. This is the case of Spain, Portugal, Italy or France. However, in each of these countries, the technical and legal requirements of this model are different, so interoperability between the states poses a challenge.

With the new European standard for e-invoicing, the EU aims to encourage public procurement and e-commerce in the cross-border scope. So, once it is definitively published, all States will have to accept e-invoices in the two syntax formats approved by CEN: UBL and UN/CEFACT This does not mean that the current standards in each country will cease to be valid. Models such as Facturae (Spain), FatturaPA (Italy) and other national standards will continue being used, but there will also be a higher standard that ensures global interoperability.

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