In order to realize significant savings, new legal regulations for public procurement were passed by the EU authorities in 2014. With the adoption of directive 2014/55/EU on e-invoicing, all European government agencies will be required to receive structured e-invoices from their suppliers. Belgium is also affected by this.
The primary objective of the directive is to induce cost advantages by automating the exchange of invoice data in a structured format. In Europe, this should lead to significant savings through increased efficiency in public procurement and as well as relevant government departments. The European Commission estimates that over 250,000 EU public authorities spend approximately 14% of the overall GDP on the purchase of various services (supplies, works, other services, etc.). This represents annual expenses of around 2 trillion euros. Based on the beforementioned regulation, an increase in efficiency by 1% can be expected. This corresponds to potential saving of 20 billion euros per year.
Both Belgium and other EU countries have worked in recent years to ensure compliance with the 2014/55/EU directive. Electronic invoices are supposed to be used instead of the typical paper invoices in all business-to-government (B2G) procurement transactions.
Despite the uniform resolution to standardize and simplify B2B document exchange through electronic invoicing, the federal legal landscapes of different countries have led to individual regulations. This is the case both in Belgium and other EU countries.
The Flemish government immediately imposed compliance with the rules on electronic invoicing. Since January 2015 this regulation has been mandatory for all public institutions in the region. Suppliers of central public institutions have been required to send invoices in electronic form since January 2017. Paper invoices amounting to more than 135,000 euros have been rejected since 2018.
Since January 2017 suppliers have the opportunity to send e-invoices to any government agency at national level. Public institutions in Belgium must be able to receive and process electronic invoices since April 2019.