Scanning of inbound paper invoices in Europe


The rules on invoices digitization from paper support to electronic support are not harmonized across the European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA) countries.

After Directive 2010/45/EU and Explanatory notes on VAT invoicing rules, most if not all of the European countries allow for an invoice to be converted from paper to electronic form upon receipt, and to discard the paper version,  subject to certain conditions.

The general rule is to preserve authenticity, integrity and legibility as this preservation rule and these three requirements are the basis of equal treatment of paper invoices and electronic invoices.

Integrity and authenticity can be achieved through business controls  or electronic signatures, when applied to electronic invoices. So, current country by country requirements for invoice scanning varies from “no special requirements” to “electronic signature and something more”.

Some countries have developed a complete set of requirements for invoice scanning, being probably Spain the country in which those requirements are more detailed.

In other countries there are some paper documents scanning framework regulation which applies to any paper document and among them, paper invoices. In those countries it is interesting to know that both approaches can be applied for electronic paper invoices: the national VAT regulation after transposition of  Directive 2010/45/EU and the general regulation for paper documents scanning.

Countries that have published paper document scanning regulations are France, Germany, Italy or Luxembourg, among others.

One of the aspects which differs more is the time in which the invoices have to be kept, to be available in case of an audit or a tax inspection, ranging from 4 to 10 years, and more time in case of special assets.

If some scanning software solution could be used in as many countries as possible, this could be the preferred solution.

Such a invoice digitization software should include a combination of requirements that could be summarized as follows:
paper-invoice-scanning

  • Image quality requirements: resolution, contrast, perspective correction, focus, sharpness, illumination, clarity, faithfulness, completeness.
  • Continuous, uninterrupted  process from image capture to PDF generation including an electronic signature or electronic seal (other file formats are also possible).
  • Capture of relevant data from the invoice or receipt: name of the seller, VAT number, postal address, full amount, tax amount, to be preserved as proof of digitization.
  • Preservation of evidences of digitization process (guaranteeing that wrong captures can be hidden in the system but not deleted).
  • Inclusion of a search engine to facilitate the possibility to find any invoice complying with specific search criteria in case of tax audit or inspection.
  • Integration with company CRM

Some countries, such as Spain requires that those requirements are verified by an auditor, and then submitted to the tax agency which in turn can grant a certification code.

In other countries there are not specific requirements but companies can have peace of mind if they can count on a report stating that the software they are using complies with the national VAT regulation in what could be applied to invoices and receipts scanning.

These could be good reasons to contact EADTrust, which can inform comprehensively about invoice scanning requirements in any European country and certify that some specific software platform complies with the invoice scanning requirements of Country A or Country B.

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