While the tax authorities’ guidelines are not yet final, they shed some light on the tax authorities’ expectations with respect to e-invoicing.
Legislation (known in English as the “3rd Amended Finance Act for 2012”) implements provisions of Directive 2010/45/EC concerning the transmission methods for electronic invoices, as from 1 January 2013.
The new e-invoicing provisions generally allow equal treatment for paper invoices and electronic invoices—provided that taxable persons establish reliable audit trails that allow for authenticity of origin, integrity of the content, and legibility of invoices.
The tax authorities’ draft guidelines regarding the new e-invoicing rules include the following points:
- The draft guidelines confirm that an invoice sent in any format (paper, PDF, Word document, Excel, email, etc.) constitutes an original invoice, provided that there is a reliable and documented audit trail.
- Taxpayers must have documentation describing: (1) the nature of the verifications performed; and (2) the persons in charge of such verifications and their respective duties. The purpose of this documentation is to demonstrate that the information contained in the invoice matches all other elements relating to the transaction (e.g., contracts, order forms, delivery slips, accounting entries, etc.). The requirement to establish a reliable and documented audit trail concerns both purchase and sale invoices.
- The draft guidelines specify that the requirement to establish an audit trail applies to all taxable persons, except for those using a qualified electronic signature or an EDI (electronic data interchange) solution.
It has been observed that taxable persons using an electronic signature solution based on a “non-qualified” certificate need to switch to a “qualified” signature. Otherwise, they will need to establish an audit trail. Still, observers expect that the tax authorities would be lenient with respect to these taxpayers during tax audits concerning the time needed to switch from a non-compliant solution to a compliant solution.
Importance of audit trail
Lastly, the French tax authorities have expressly indicated that an invoice’s validity depends on the quality of the audit trail established. In this regard, a right to deduct value added tax (VAT) could be rejected if the audit trail is considered to be non-compliant.
With the draft guidelines, sellers of goods / service providers and customers alike need to take steps now to structure and establish an audit trail as soon as they issue paper or electronic invoices (except for EDI invoices or invoices using qualified electronic signatures).
Also, businesses need to consider whether or not it would be appropriate to keep a paper invoicing system, particularly with respect to intra-group relationships.
France’s reform of its invoicing rules offers an opportunity for businesses to end certain “risky” frequently used practices (non-fiscal EDI, invoice sent by e-mail, shared ERP without issuance of invoices, etc.). Also, companies need to consider key aspects of the pending invoice reform rules and view this as an opportunity to save on the costs of issuing invoices and securing the issuance and receipt of invoices.
For more information, contact a tax professional with Fidal Direction International* in France:
+33 1 55 68 14 47
+ 33 1 55 68 14 34
+ 33 1 55 68 19 30
* Fidal Direction International is a French law firm that is independent from KPMG and its member firms.