“Electronic billing will dominate in the coming years”

  • Budget minister accelerates the adoption of electronic billing.
  • The key is: €3.5 billion in savings for individuals and businesses.

One business in ten uses electronic billing. That represents “only” about 107 million bills out of the billion sent each year in Belgium. Federal budget minister Olivier Chastel, relying on a study by the Agency for Administrative Simplification (ASA), thinks that number is “far too small.”

To accelerate the adoption of this new practice, the minister brought nine interprofessional organizations together on Thursday to promote electronic billing to their members. Those organizations included Voka, the Neutral Independents Union (SNI) and Federation of Belgian Businesses (FEB). The objective is to increase the adoption of “e-billing” by 25% between now and the end of the legislative session.

“It’s a goal that we almost certainly won’t achieve, but it’s an effective way of anticipating Europe’s ambitions. Europe wants 50% of bills sent digitally by 2020. We are insisting that accountants adopt e-billing as a priority,” SNI president Christine Mattheeuws explains.

Businesses’ hesitation is surprising, especially since the legal framework is already in place. “Since January 1, 2013, electronic bills have been equivalent to paper bills. That means that you can establish, send, receive and file electronic bills without fear,” says Erwin De Pue, ASA director general. The state is leading the way with Fedcom, the new application through which government accounting is computerized. “There is still an issue of differences between fiscal and social systems on archival requirements. It’s important to coordinate the rules,” Erwin De Pue explains.

Disparate ways of dealing with digital bills is also slowing their adoption. “There are at least 600 accounting systems in the world. In Belgium alone, there are between 10 and 15 companies that offer digital document management. Standard formats absolutely have to be established,” says Tom Pintens, sales manager with Smartdoc, a management service provider for businesses, specializing in digital documents.

Digital exchange is €10 cheaper than paper

Electronic billing seems to have many advantages, especially when it comes to price. “The average cost of sending a bill on paper is €13.80, shared between the sender and the recipient. The same operation only costs €4 when performed electronically,” Erwin De Pue explains. In Belgium if all bills were sent and paid electronically, administrative savings are estimated to be about €3.5 billion per year. Digitizing bills would also improve government efficiency, avoiding late fees and interest payments because accounts payable could be better managed and reducing archiving costs.

E-bills are also much faster. “There’s no need to wait sometimes for several days before the bill arrives at the right place. Sending and receiving electronic bills is almost instantaneous,” Tom Pintens explains.

“It’s all about achieving a centralized solution for all administrative and commercial documents. Those are often linked together,” he says.

OLIVIER CROUGHS

 

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One Response to “Electronic billing will dominate in the coming years”

  1. Paul says:

    Electronic billing is so rapid, and so cheap, that in the case of one world-known supplier of services, our company hasn’t received any bills since August, when the email addresses changed. And when we took the initiative of informing them of this (by email), re-confirming the correct email address, that message remained without reply. We’re now awaiting their snail-mail complaint. Accounting departments should make absolutely sure that their systems are fail-safe, failing which website-based business becomes a horrible mess!

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