Digitalizing your bills or invoices is one thing, but what is the real legal issue her? Are there any obligations today to move to paperless billing? And if so, are there any differences between the private and public spheres?
Paperless bills have been available for more than 20 years now, thanks, in particular, to the many advantages of going digital for your business (as we talked about in this news update about going paperless). Billing is no exception to the growing trend towards digitalization, and its increasing benefits. For example, going paperless with your bills saves production costs, productivity is increased, traceability and security are enhanced. Paperless invoices are now approached in the same fashion for many companies looking to improve their Corporate social responsibility (CSR), quality checks, or customer-relationship approach. As the demand for digital, on the whole, is increasing, this type of billing had to be codified. The primary goal here is to have an accurate record of both paper and electronic invoices.
In an ecological and process-simplification approach, the French State has, since 2013, passed several laws on the above issue. Whether public bills or policy guiding the relationships between companies, billing conditions are gradually changing. However, even if the electronic bill is spreading, legal inequalities still remain. The exchange of private/public or company billing is not always subject to the same rules.
Let’s first consider if going paperless is mandatory for everyone? Public sector and business-to-business enterprises alike?
Paperless billing within the public sector
In its most simple form: yes, all government suppliers have an obligation to use electronic invoices. As a result, paperless billing is mandatory in France. For contexts, out with France refer to our article on Factur-X.
As a reminder, the 26 June 2014 billing development order tells us that:
Article 1-I: “those under contract, as well as subcontractors, admitted to the direct payment of contracts concluded by the State, local authorities and public institutions send their invoices in electronic form”
Article 1-II “The State, local authorities and public institutions accept invoices in electronic form.”
To do this, the French State has set up a billing portal called Chorus Pro. This portal allows the filing, receipt, and transmission of electronic invoices in accordance with Section 2 of the above order.
To help businesses, especially smaller ones, a timetable for rollout was put in place. The requirement was for companies to follow the following schedule:
- Companies with more than 5,000 employees and the public were to comply by 1 January 2017
- Companies with 250 to 5,000 employees by 1 January 2018
- Companies with 10 to 250 employees from 1 January 2019
- And finally for TPEs (enterprises with less than 10 employees) from 1 January 2020
In addition, Article 222 of the Macron Act strengthened this first ordinance because it aimed to modernize the French economy. The goal was for the government to save money by overall reducing costs.
Of course, all billing rules must be respected both in terms of form and retention. However, an electronic invoice has some additional obligations such as:
- It has to retain its authenticity
- The integrity of the content cannot be changed.
- It must be fully legible
- The use of computerized data exchange (EDI), electronic signatures and/or reliable auditing must be maintained
Electronic invoices in B2B
Now we just have to know whether changing to paperless billing is mandatory between companies. The answer is no for the moment. However, the bill funds 2020 through Section 56 would change that response.
This bill echoes the Macron Law of 2015, which was abandoned because it would take time and resources to establish. The Finance Bill suggests that from 2023, companies will be obliged to issue their invoices electronically. As with private-public exchanges, a progressive timetable will exist. This schedule will require companies as determined by their size to shift to paperless invoices between 1 January 2023 and 1 January 2025.
As mentioned above, the shift towards paperless invoices entails obligations of form and preservation. Just like exchanges between the public and private sphere: authenticity, integrity, legibility, and set software tools will be mandatory. So, to comply, you’ll have to have some kind of reliable audit trail.
Even if today, this law is in a draft stage, there is a real desire to modernize billing by gradually reaching “zero-paper” procedures. That is why investing today in a high-performance paperless solution will allow you to anticipate these future obligations ahead of time. But paperless processes does not stop at being a legal issue. Going paperless will also allow you to improve your internal processes, save money by saving time, while additionally improving your customer experience. Choosing a digital solution today is therefore the answer to the various challenges of paperless invoices.
Tenor supports companies in their digitalization and paperless billing efforts by offering EDI, tax dematerialization, and EAI solution advice. Contact our experts today, to study your project and we can suggest ways to be compliant during or ahead of the legal necessity to go paperless.