The digital transformation of business processes has accelerated with the introduction of cloud based services. There is a growing emphasis on using technology to improve the efficiency in business practices, especially through business-to-business connectivity.
SMEs (small-to-medium enterprises) often do not have the financial reserves or have easy access to credit to pay their staff and suppliers, as well as to finance their debtors. SMEs are known to drive the economy and employ a significant percentage of the work force. e-Invoicing will help SMEs to reduce costs and the age of outstanding debts by streamlining the payment process.
Messagexchange estimates that invoicing costs businesses $30.87 per paper invoice to process; a PDF is estimated to be $27.67. e-Invoicing is expected to deliver approximately a 70% saving.
The ATO has set the expectation that if SMEs register for e-Invoicing then suppliers’ payments will be received in five days for the majority (90%) of invoices up to a specified value. This guaranteed payment period may be more important than the cost savings. e-Invoicing will ensure many SMEs are able to comfortably self-fund their business’s operational costs.
Peppol is referred to as a framework that enables standardised messages to be interchanged between Access Points. There are various organisations with certified access points to accommodate suppliers and buyers connecting into the network. Many access point providers are claiming to support the ability to convert non-compliant Peppol messages to compliant messages at the point of entry to the network. This would necessitate all the required data is provided.
A certified Peppol messaging service has the ability to improve buyer/supplier communications and introduce efficiencies into the overall procurement process. In addition to invoices, the service is capable of transmitting other documents such as purchase orders.
There are significant advantages to the buyers in being able to receive and process e-Invoices:
The accounts payable process can be made more efficient with the potential to automate the matching of invoices to their corresponding purchase order. This has been referred to as touchless accounts payable. Accounts payable software vendors and service providers are promoting the end-to-end automation of the accounts payable process. Staff only being required to investigate the exception cases where there is not a data match between the order and the invoice.
Enabling buyers to pay suppliers on time will improve the relationship and the buyer can take advantage of discounts or reward points if on offer.
Reducing payment errors and even the potential for fraud.
Discussing invoicing with Alexi Boyd, CEO of COSBOA, (Council of Small Business Organisations Australia) she emphasised that cybersecurity has become a serious issue for SMEs. Alexi stated,
‘Many SMEs send their invoices as PDF attachments via email believing that even if the message is hacked the PDF cannot be changed.’
Using software such as Photoshop payment details can easily be changed so the hacker’s own account is credited. The hacker, (fraudster) potentially could be a staff member of either party. e-Invoicing using a secure network will mitigate this threat.
What does it take to connect to a Peppol certified network? Ideally, using existing accounting software or a hosted service with the capability to connect to an Access Point will minimise the effort. If your software does not support a connection then developing an interface should not be a challenge, a claim made by multiple access point providers. Negotiating with your software vendor may be necessary but if they have a sizable Australian client base then e-Invoicing should already be on their product road map. They may also plan to develop their own certified Access Point.
The Australian Government is expected to mandate for all suppliers to deliver e-Invoices in the short term, via a Peppol compliant access point. This should also stimulate e-Invoicing acceptance across the total business community.
Alexi Boyd is not in favour of governments mandating a date for SMEs to issue e-Invoices, for non-government procurements. The rational is SMEs will switch to e-Invoicing when they are in a position to do so, working with their accountants and software vendors. Alexi referred to the ‘Single Touch Payroll’ mandated which placed many SMEs under stress.
Author: Peter Goldfinch, Research Director, Australia, Payments Consulting Network
Alexi Boyd along with Mark Stockwell (Australian Taxation Office) and Soraya Alali (Commonwealth Bank of Australia) participated in SMB DIGITAL panel session: ‘eInvoicing – The future of small business invoicing’.
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