We’ve discussed the advantages of electronic invoice in an earlier article on our blog. In short, electronic invoices are handier, faster and clearer than their paper siblings. So it does make sense for small businesses to switch to electronic invoices. But that doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want? Legally, there are a couple of aspects you need to take into account to have valid electronic invoices.
The authenticity of the invoice’s origin has to be guaranteed. This means that, someone who sends an e-Invoice, must be able to show that he or she was the one who drafted the invoice. And the receiver has to be able to show which supplier he got the invoice from. In earlier days, you needed an electronic signature or and EDI-system (Electronic Data Interchange, a system to exchange company documents) to do this. But that is no longer mandatory. Nowadays, when the VAT-people pay you a visit, you can use any reliable trace to show the authenticity of invoices.
The integrity of the invoice has to be guaranteed as well. This means that the invoice can not be altered in any way, because this is considere fraudulent. The easiest way to prevent this is to send your invoice in PDF-format. Contrary to a regular Word document, it’s more difficult (but not impossible) to change PDF’s after they’ve been drafted.
The invoice details (name, address, VAT number, …) have to be clearly legible on paper and on screen, without readers having to go out of their way to do so. Messages from EDI platforms, XML-messages and structured text messages are not considered legible as such (but they can all be transferred to legible formats). Of course, invoices should also remain legible in the future, even if technologies change.
The receiver has to accept the e-Invoice, meaning he should be capable of receiving the invoice. This acceptance doesn’t have to be made explicit in a separate document. Usually, payment of the first e-Invoice is taken as a sign that the customer accepts these types of invoices.
Do you have further questions about electronic invoicing? The government has set up a great web portal with a very extensive FAQ-section (NL or FR only). Chances are they’ll have all the info you need.