In 2014 the European Commission published Directive 2014/55/EU which has the objective of promoting the uptake of electronic invoicing in public procurement. The directive also aims to ensure interoperability and legal certainty between member states on this subject. Electronic invoicing has the benefit of allowing the automated generation, transmission, reception and processing of an invoice. The implementation of a common European Standard on electronic invoicing is a guarantee that these benefits are reached in the context of the European internal market.
On 28 June 2017, the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) published the semantic data model for the European standard on eInvoicing. A study on the practical application and implementation of the European e-Invoicing standard was also carried out, which confirmed the suitability of the newly created standard. The Directive stipulates an implementation deadline of 18 months at the national level and 30 months at the regional and local level. The creation of a European standard for eInvoicing in public procurement prevents Member States from creating their own different standards which would lead to increased complexity in term of cross-border interoperability.
The European Multi-Stakeholder Forum on Electronic Invoicing (EMSFEI) was created for this purpose and Malta is represented by employees from MEIB (Ministry for the Economy, Investment and Small Business). In March 2018 MEIB called a meeting and invited Maltese Social Partners such as GRTU, MEA, MBB, COC and others. During this meeting, background about the directive and its implementation was given and attendees were informed that a National Forum on eInvoicing would be created shortly. It was also announced that a new member on the EMSFEI must be nominated from amongst the stakeholders to join in the EMSFEI meetings in Brussels. It was noted that ideally this new member would have a technical background as the representatives from MEIB did not have this knowledge. The new member must also be from an organization which is listed in the Transparency Index. The only organist ions around the table that are listed were GRTU and MBB. Both organizations nominated a member and Marcel Mizzi from GRTU was selected to join the EMSFEI. Mizzi’s job will be to report details from the EMSFEI to the Maltese National eInvoicing Forum which has just been created and to relay the concerns of the Maltese Forum to the EMSFEI. Mr. Mizzi attended the seconf EMSFEI meeting on the 11th and 12th April 2018.
Electronic invoicing will at first only pertain to Government procurement and at the start it will be voluntary only and only on high value procurement, later on becoming obligatory. Eventually all business to business invoicing will be done electronically but this is still some years away and only envisaged to happen after the successful implementation of the B2G and G2B phases.
There are numerous issues with the implementation of this directive even during these early stages. Perhaps the most difficult one to solve is disseminating the standards. CEN, the organization that created the standard charges a fee for them. The fee varies from €20 in one Member state to €250 in another. The standards document is required by software development companies as they need to use it to create extensions to their existing applications so that they can produce and process electronic invoices. This was discussed at length during the EMSFEI meetings on the 11th and 12th April. Suggestions were made to mitigate the issues although because of the way the Commission works, some suggestions are irrelevant at this stage. However, it was decided that at least a detailed FAQ would be created to make legal licensing issues better to understand. The EMSFEI meets every 6 months and so far has met twice. The meetings also divide into sub groups, namely one group on “Guidance on the implementation of the EN and Directive”, another on “CIUS (Core Invoice Usage Specifications) and technical implementation” and a third group “Additional requirements and opportunities”. These groups break down the transposition, standards and eventual implementation into manageable chunks and these are then studied and discussed and recommendations are made. These groups will be dismissed when their work is completed and new ones created to tackle remaining issues.
Some member states are lagging behind while others have progressed ahead. Some do not even have the political backing and a Government entity that owns the eInvoicing initiative. The EMSFEI and its components are chasing these countries. CEF (Connecting Europe Facility), which is part of the EMSFEI forum is also organizing training sessions in the Member states themselves and webinars that may be accessed from anywhere. These are all free except for the cost of hosting the presenters. One will be organized shortly in Malta.