Dematerialization of invoices – what the law states

20 June 2012

There are two dematerialization types of invoices: by structured message (EDI) or by signed document (such as signed PDF).

We will deal here with the signed documents of the PDF type.

In Europe the EU has defined a regulatory framework and it is for each Member State to decide its transposition into national law.

This transposition is sometimes accompanied by additional provisions. For example, the French tax authority recommends using the PDF-A format.

Cloobiz produces invoices in accordance with the European standard and respects at the least the provisions of Belgium, France and Luxembourg.

Here are some elements that will explain this complex topic.

To start with, several aspects need to be addressed: signature, preservation and sending of documents.

Invoices can be sent electronically as soon as their authenticity of origin and integrity of their content are guaranteed with an electronic signature. Invoices sent this way substitute the original invoices.

The standard electronic signature does not suffice, the content integrity needs to be guaranteed as well and this throughout the whole legal preservation period.

Several solutions meet this requirement at the moment. The two main solutions are:

  • A signature with a long-term certified validity and associated with a time-stamp, also certified. This is what cloobiz offers and so each invoice preserves its integrity in the long term. The issuer AND the recipient have at their disposal a self-sufficient document.
  • A signature guaranteeing the authenticity of the document but not its integrity. The issuer as well as the recipient must then ensure legal storing of invoices. Since the legal storing is difficult to implement, this is usually trusted to a third party.

This electronic sending can take place only if the recipient accepts it. Either explicitly through a service or interchange contract or implicitly provided that a reasonable period be granted to the recipient in order to demand the paper invoice.