Billing goes electronic: everything you need to know Billing goes electronic: everything you need to know

Billing goes electronic: everything you need to know

From 31 March 2015, no more paper

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06 June 2014 marked our official entrance in the era of electronic billing, which has marked the move from paper to digital. Elimination of paper, lower administrative costs and a faster process are just some of the advantages brought about by this change.

The bill (or invoice) is the administrative document that certifies and protects all commercial activities. The billing process starts with the issue by the supplier of the service and concludes with the archiving of the document, or, more specifically, its storage in accordance with legislative obligations (also required for tax audits), both by the supplier and the customer.

If up until a short while ago, an economic transaction was protected by the paper document, for a few months now, technology has brought about some major, important innovations.

Let's take a look, step-by-step, to better understand what is happening.

The 2008 financial law introduced the obligation to issue, transmit, store and archive the invoices issued by the Public Administration and with national public entities, in digital format

As from 06 June 2014, operations have begun:  only some entities of the central public administration (ministries, social security entities) have started to no longer accept invoices in paper format, only authorising electronic versions.

As from 31 March 2015, the whole of the public administration, including local offices, will not longer be accepting any invoices not in electronic form.

What does this mean for businesses? What are the advantages?

What's new?

There are three essential new factors: the first is that the invoice is no longer sent by the supplier directly to the client, but rather the supplier sends it to the Interchange System (or SDI), an application platform managed by SOGEI on behalf of the State General Accounting Department. The Interchange System then sends it to the addressee public entity, after having validated it.

The second new factor is that it will no longer be possible to prepare invoices in any format. All invoices must be prepared according to a specific, single electronic format.

The third new factor is that, as the originals are electronic files, the electronic invoices cannot be printed out and kept in a traditional cabinet, but rather are stored in a Computerised Document Storage System (formerly the "Substitute Storage").

The legislation comes under the scope of all the procedures envisaged by the Digital Agenda, to simplify the procedures between PA and citizens: the introduction of electronic processes in fact streamlines the procedures that some time ago took a while to be completed.
Moreover, this change is part of the European Union guidelines encouraging Member States to equip themselves with an appropriate legislative, organisational and technological framework to manage the entire buying cycle in technological form.

Requirements

Italy is one of the first countries to have adopted the technology for this procedure.

The electronic invoice is technically an electronic XML file(eXtensible Markup Language).
In order to be accepted, the invoice must have the following characteristics:

  • it must be unchangeable and unalterable (implemented by means of the inclusion of a digital signature of the issuer)
  • it must state the date of issue
  • it must be authentic with intact contents

The law also establishes that in order to simplify matters for businesses, accredited intermediaries can be used to send and store the invoices.

Advantages

Clearly, the main advantage of the move made away from paper invoices and towards electronic ones is the simplification of the document computerisation process.

The electronic invoice, however, also enables the following to be achieved:

  • automation of the entire process: administrative, accounting, managerial and financial
  • speeding up envisaged payment terms
  • connecting both incoming and outgoing invoices with automatic data and information extractors so as toprocess data on customers and suppliers and all other accounting data
  • constant monitoring of costs incurred by the State General Accounting Department, as it is interfaced with SDI

The computerised invoice, using the metalanguage for description of the XML data, thereby goes from being a simple tax documentto being a real tax software object: in thus doing, controls, both during issue and thereafter, are much quicker and more secure. For example, the start date of payment terms is precisely defined.

The issue of the invoice: the signed Olivetti offer

If it is a known fact that electronic billing can facilitate relations between businesses and the PA, the only initial obstacle is the cost for integration with the corporate software, particularly for small and medium enterprises.

Olivetti offers itself as an intermediary in accordance with the law for both private businesses and the public administration, with a cloud solution for electronic billing, based on the consolidated computerisation platform Hub Documentale Olivetti (HDO) and provided through the Italian Cloud of Telecom Italia.
The function is simple: the invoices issued by the business management system are sent to the Olivetti platform and, if necessary, if non-compliant, transformed into digital format in accordance with the rules laid down by the legislation. The solution is not a piece of software but rather a cloud service, available immediately and which zeros the initial costs for the adaptation of the business infrastructure.

Fattura Digitale di Nuvola Store

Telecom Italia has also launched the new Digital Invoicing service, which enables professionals and small businesses to adjust to the legislation obliging all public administrations to accept and pay only electronic invoices. This solution is developed in collaboration through the cloud marketplace of digital services, the Telecom Italia Nuvola Store

What does it enable? With this service, electronic invoices can be created, issued and stored for all PAs, and invoices compiled, managed and tracked along with notifications of the Tax Authority Interchange System, by means of a user-friendly web interface also available from mobile devices.

The Digital Invoicing service, which is being promoted until 31 March at the starting price of 6.5 euros per month, is available in four different profiles, designed to suit the various different needs and which also include a offer dedicated to chartered accountants. It can be purchased by debit to a Telecom Italia account or by credit card.

The service completes the range offered by Telecom Italia in relation to electronic billing, which also includes a solution for medium/large enterprises named Nuvola IT Paperless Flow.