September 21, 2017
Expanding operations to other countries is a strategic and competitive move for large organizations. However, with this decision comes the daunting task of deciphering the extensive and diverse requirements for operating in different countries, and the risk of noncompliance. Many countries today strictly regulate financial processes, particularly in the area of B2B invoicing and payments. Legal and tax regulations can vary dramatically across national borders—or even between member states of larger regions, such as countries in the relatively standardized European Union. In many regions, including much of Latin America (LATAM), and some of Europe and Asia Pacific (APAC), organizations are required to send invoices in electronic formats according to precise specifications and including very specific data. In countries where an electronic format is not yet required by law, invoices must often still adhere to specific rules concerning content and approvals.
Failure to comply with local regulations and tax laws can cost organizations millions of dollars in fines. However, there is often great confusion regarding what constitutes invoicing compliance in different areas, even among companies that have been operating globally for many years. Many large multinationals store excessive amounts of paper to show evidence of compliance, and either outsource or build large internal teams to manage shifting requirements in each region.
Levvel Research believes that many multinational organizations overcomplicate the process of global AP compliance, and are overworking their AP teams in efforts to keep up. To successfully manage AP operations across borders, a finance team must have full knowledge of local invoicing regulations as they stand and when they change. The teams must also have a platform that facilitates the streamlined transfer of electronic invoices according to these regulations. Successful global electronic invoicing can be achieved through a partnership with an experienced eInvoicing provider that offers extensive services and knowledge of compliance in many regions.
This report serves as an introduction to international invoicing for large multinationals that may be struggling to keep up with complex global regulations. It offers an overview of global eInvoicing trends, an introduction to regulations in different regions, and an outline of how global eInvoicing providers help clients manage compliance. It also provides some best practices for building a global AP operation.
Among countries across the world, there is a wide range of electronic invoicing use and corresponding regulations. In some regions, like much of LATAM, it is legally required for businesses to send invoices to other businesses electronically. In other countries, such as in Russia, electronic invoicing itself is not legally required, but B2B invoices still must be processed according to strict regulations.
eInvoicing adoption rates vary around the world due to a variety of factors, including economic stability and countries’ overall business environment. However, in most countries with high electronic invoice and AP automation adoption, the initial driver was government involvement. eInvoicing adoption and the degree of governmental regulation typically occur at higher rates in countries that have Value Added Tax-based systems.
A Value Added Tax, or VAT, is a consumption tax placed on items at different stages of its production and sale. Because a product is taxed many times throughout its lifespan, the relevant tax information can be strewn across several different invoices and receipts, and complying with VAT requirements can be a lengthy and complex process. VAT also tends to cost the payee more upon initial payment, although they do receive refunds after filing reports. This creates an opportunity for companies and consumers to commit tax fraud, either intentionally or unintentionally, by failing to or incorrectly submitting the proper documentation.
Countries with VAT systems typically have higher rates of fraud and tax evasion. VAT fraud is even more prevalent in under-developed countries such as those in Latin America, as these governments have less infrastructure and resources to monitor taxation. In Latin America, federal reporting laws were frequently broken and ignored as many companies would incorrectly report their financial activity—or omit reporting altogether. In order to reduce fraud and improve revenue retention, much of the region created mandates that invoices must be sent in electronic format through federal tax authorities’ electronic systems. This helped place LATAM among the world’s leading regions in both regulating invoicing processes and electronic invoicing adoption.
After mandating electronic invoicing, the next major driver for high adoption is the increased efficiency that companies gain from automating part of their back-office processes. Companies that gain improved visibility into spend and lower processing costs from electronic invoicing will often decide to increase efficiency by using complete AP management systems and other Procure-to-Pay (P2P) solutions. Reports of the benefits of eInvoicing and other financial solutions spread from business to business organically, helping to increase adoption rates. This word-of-mouth effect is a contributer to AP automation adoption in regions where laws are limited, such as the United States.
Another driver of eInvoicing adoption is AP software’s ability to create a real-time economy, bringing benefits to a country as a whole. A real-time economy is defined as an environment where transactions are automatically generated in digital format and completed in real time between parties1. From an AP perspective, this results in electronic invoices and payments moving from one system to another immediately. Fully integrated eInvoicing and payment network adoption can have global economic implications, such as an effect on supply chain and interest rates. In all, regulations promote adoption, but the competitive environment and changing business expectations around digital B2B efficiency are also driving adoption in many countries.
As governments try to increase eInvoicing adoption in their countries, some are working to build initiatives and offer tools that appeal to SMEs, including many governments in the EU and in APAC. For example, in an effort to make the eInvoicing process easier for SMEs, Asia Business Software Solutions and Mint Payments collaborated to create a new solution called Click-to-Pay2. The solution allows businesses in Singapore to pay for goods and services directly from eInvoices. This effort illustrates how governments hope to increase automation adoption by appealing to companies’ efficiency needs, rather than simply by implementing mandates.
Compared to other developed countries, the United States has one of the lowest rates of electronic invoicing adoption. This is mostly because the US does not use a VAT system, and invoicing is not mandated or highly regulated. eInvoicing adoption is also low in Canada, even though the country uses a goods and services tax (GST), which is similar
to the VAT system. However, in the US in particular, AP adoption is an increasing priority among businesses. This is partly attributed the US’s economic stability, in which profitable companies see the competitive advantage of improving B2B process efficiency.
In the US, interest in and adoption of B2B process automation is most popular among large enterprises and the middle market, but SMEs are becoming more willing to adopt automation as affordable options enter the software space. Government action is also playing a part in increasing adoption; the US is requiring public sector agencies to switch to electronic invoicing by the end of 2018. While the government is not yet mandating electronic invoicing in the private sector, invoicing tools’ ability to improve compliance with tax and financial reporting requirements is increasing adoption among private sector organizations.
Many of the world’s leading multinational organizations are based in the US, and more US businesses are expanding their operations internationally each year. For this reason, it is important that US businesses are well educated on the eInvoicing environments—in terms of both adoption and regulation—of the regions in which they wish to operate. Without proper knowledge of the global climate around B2B invoicing, US organizations not only lower their chances of succeeding internationally, but they also greatly increase their risk of noncompliance with invoicing and financial regulations. Failing to meet local requirements can cost organizations millions of dollars in fines and legal fees.
The following items outline the current state of different global regions when it comes to B2B invoice regulations and software adoption. They also indicate the level of regulation an organization can expect in prominent countries within the regions. These regulations are differentiated according to the level of severity, as follows:
The following provides an introduction to global eInvoicing engagement for businesses interested in expanding their operations globally. However, it does not contain a comprehensive set of instructions or required actions for operating or using electronic invoicing in each country. Levvel Research strongly recommends that organizations access the services of global AP experts who understand the environments, circumstances, and requirements of each country before entering foreign markets.
With the exception of a few countries, the Latin American market is the world’s leading region when it comes to eInvoicing adoption—and the one with the most regulations surrounding electronic invoicing use. Chile was the first country in the region to implement electronic invoicing regulations; today, the LATAM leaders in adoption are Brazil, Chile, Peru, and Mexico. All four countries have mandated the use of electronic formats for B2B invoices.
In Brazil, eInvoicing is mandatory for all businesses, which has helped to establish the country as a leader in electronic invoicing not just in Latin America, but across the globe. Peru has also moved to make electronic invoicing mandatory, rolling initiatives out slowly across different business segments and enforcing full compliance for all businesses by the end of 2017. The Mexican government’s eInvoicing mandates are some of the most extensive in the region, and involve the use of third-party providers called PACs that assist with invoice certification.
Some LATAM countries have rolled out eInvoicing mandates in stages in order to gain more consistent adoption, often using staggered deadlines based on businesses’ characteristics. For example, Uruguay’s mandatory eInvoicing has been rolled out by company revenue, first requiring compliance from businesses earning more than $3.1MM in revenue, and then from companies with revenues above $1.5MM.
Below are some of the most important B2B requirements for operating in some LATAM countries:
|Country||Regulations||Top Requirements and Characteristics|
Electronic invoicing adoption is at low to modest levels across countries in Asia. In efforts to curb tax evasion, some countries have moved to forbid the use of eInvoicing altogether, and in countries where it is allowed, other rules are in place that make electronic invoicing very difficult to use in compliance with the law.
Asia’s leaders in eInvoicing adoption are Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Indonesia, and Vietnam largely due to successful government mandates. These governments have taken varied approaches when implementing mandates; for example, Singapore legalized eInvoicing in 2003 and introduced a government mandate for Business-to-Government (B2G) invoices in 2008. South Korea’s mandate, initiated in 2010, has different rules for corporate taxpayers and sole proprietorships, while Taiwan’s state-run eInvoicing program, launched in 2000, requires both senders and recipients of invoices to register with the Taiwanese tax authority. Hong Kong’s government has tried to steer businesses towards einvoicing by increasing the cost of submitting invoices via paper, while decreasing the cost of submitting invoices electronically.
India, China, and Japan are among Asia’s countries with the lowest rates of eInvoicing adoption. India struggles due to a variety of reasons, including the complicated taxation structure and confusing legislation that make eInvoicing appear more difficult to implement than it is worth. In an attempt to increase usage, the country has recently passed laws requiring digital signatures, which is a step in the right direction, but widespread eInvoice adoption is still a distant goal. eInvoicing use in Japan is low mostly because it is not mandated, although it is legal.
Australia has low rates of eInvoicing adoption, as it is not mandatory. However, the Australian government is a great proponent of the use and benefits of eInvoicing, and the country’s Digital Business Council recently instated a national XML-based invoicing standard. While this standard is not mandatory, businesses are encouraged to use it to improve their cost efficiency.
China’s environment is unique in that the country has recently changed its tax structure from a Business Tax and VAT model to a simplified VAT model for all goods and services invoices. China’s invoicing regulations involve the use of the Golden Tax System (GTS), which is the government’s scanning and clearing system used for tax reporting. The country requires Chinese businesses to send invoices through the GTS to comply with VAT laws. Because of the country’s changing tax structures, it has only recently allowed electronic invoicing and eInvoicing use is still very limited and comes with many constraints. Several eInvoicing pilots have been launched around the country in the last few years, but eInvoicing is only permitted among a select group of businesses and for a specific type of invoice. For the most part, businesses are still required to issue paper invoices in order to comply with VAT regulations. While the country has some of most complex eInvoicing requirements in the world, Levvel Research predicts that some of the more confusing parts of the process will be streamlined in the next few years.
Below are some of the most important B2B requirements among APAC countries:
|Country||Regulations||Top Requirements and Characteristics|
|Country||Regulations||Top Requirements and Characteristics|
|Other locations||15+ global locations across North America, EMEA, and APAC|
|Number of Employees||700+|
|Number of Customers||530+|
|Target Verticals||Financial Services, Healthcare, Energy, Manufacturing, Retail, Professional Services, Food and Beverage, Technology|
|Partners / Resellers||KPMG, Deloitte, Accenture, PwC|
|Awards / Recognitions||Levvel Research 2016 P2P Automation Navigator, scoring highest in Proficiency; Forrester Wave for eProcurement 2017, scoring highest in Current Offering and Strategy, respectively; Gartner MQ for P2P Suits 2016, scoring highest in Ability to Execute; Forrester 2016, among Top 6 SaaS Breakout Vendor|
Coupa currently has over 530 customers across both mid-market and large enterprise segments in countries across the Americas, EMEA, and APAC. Coupa’s business network connects buyers with suppliers across more than 100 countries, and the network grew from 2 million to 3 million suppliers between May 2016 and May 2017. Coupa has global offices across the Americas, EMEA, and APAC, and its cloud-based solution uses data centers in the US, Ireland, Singapore, and Australia.
Clients can use the Coupa APIs, flat files, web services, custom code, or any integration provider to connect their existing platforms to Coupa’s AP solution. Coupa’s solution can be deployed with a single instance (across any number of ERPs) and rolled out to a client’s global workforce, allowing all employees to access the application from any location via web browser or mobile device. Coupa can handle intercompany transactions and multiple companies/legal entities in one instance, including different processes for different parts of the company or completely different business entities.
Coupa can be configured to support any currency and tax code out of the box. Coupa currently supports many languages, including US English, Danish, German, Swiss German, UK English, Spanish, Spanish Colombian, Finnish, French, French Canadian, Czech, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Dutch, Norwegian, Polish, Brazilian Portuguese, Russian, Swedish, and Chinese (Simplified and Traditional). In the case where a language is not offered, Coupa can easily add a new language within a reasonable time for new customers. Users also have access to the “Suggest a Translation” (patent pending) functionality, which allows an admin to apply a real-time language change to their instance of Coupa.
Coupa Invoicing provides organizations with a complete solution for managing their domestic and global AP processes. It supports capture through a supplier self-service portal or multiple electronic formats, including cXML, EDI, and email. It also offers an application called InvoiceSmash that converts emailed invoice attachments into the field formats required by the customer’s AP. Customers can also elect to use Coupa’s partners for scanning and document conversion to enter paper invoices into the system. Key Coupa Invoice capabilities include automatic PO-to-invoice conversion, and configurable approval tolerances. The solution can match invoices to purchase orders and receipts, and can also help manage exceptions. AP teams can set up and manage approval workflows via operational dashboards, as well as manage payments and apply early payment discount terms.
In order to help customers comply with global invoicing regulations, Coupa gives international clients access to dedicated personnel in product management and development that are focused solely on global invoice compliance. This service, delivered through a collaboration with the risk management specialist PwC, is called Coupa Compliance-as-a-Service, and it includes both tax value compliance and invoice processing compliance support. Coupa currently owns and maintains documented requirements guidelines for more than 80 countries around the globe, and this library is update and expanded on an ongoing basis. Coupa also offers out-of-the-box and pre-configured (Compliance-as-a-Service) models for over 30 countries, and expands country coverage based on customer needs.
Coupa also helps with global compliance through the Coupa Know Your Transaction (KYT) tool, which helps global companies apply the correct tax regulations to invoices. KYT allows for transaction-level control, combining supplier address details and transaction details to improve the accuracy of each transaction and enable correct tax determination and coding.
Coupa uses both internal professional services resources and Coupa’s Certified Implementation partners to support clients’ global implementations. These partners work with each client to define and establish their preferred method of support during implementation. Coupa currently has over 100 professional services resources and over 1,000 certified partner resources. Individual partner resources must go through a structured certification program to be able to implement Coupa.
SAP Ariba, a division of SAP, was founded in 1996 as a provider of corporate purchasing automation software. Known originally as Ariba, the success of its B2B eCommerce network and cloud solution suite attracted the attention of SAP, which acquired Ariba in 2012 as a core asset for digitizing business commerce. The Ariba Network connects over 2.5M companies, primarily Global 2000-sized organizations as buyers that work with suppliers of all sizes and types.
|Headquarters||Palo Alto, CA|
|Other locations||London, Shanghai, Dubai, São Paulo|
|Number of Employees||~4,700|
|Number of Customers||2.5 million+|
|Target Verticals||Consumer Goods, Distribution, Financial services, Healthcare & Pharmaceutical, Manufacturing, Oil & Gas, Public Sector, Publishing, Retail, Services, Telecom, Utilities, among others|
|Partners / Resellers||PrimeRevenue; Discover; First Data; Mercado Libre; Made in a Free World|
|Awards / Recognitions||SAP Arabia customer Avery Dennison recognized as IOFM P2P Department of the Year for 2016; Leader in Gartner Magic Quadrant for Procure-to-Pay Suits, 2016, scoring highest in Completeness of Vision and Ability to Execute; Best eProcurement and Best Invoice Discount Management Provider, 2017, Global Finance Payments Innovator Awards, PYNTS.com|
SAP Ariba’s solution suite includes Source-to-Settle for buyers and Sell-to-Settle for suppliers, with functionality for PO and invoice automation, business payments, dynamic discounting, and working capital management optimization. SAP Ariba’s AP/invoice management solution supports multiple file formats, automatic invoice validation, automatic exception handling, approval workflow, and payment capabilities. The solution also offers contract and services invoicing that simplifies invoice processing for recurring services and complex, project-based services.
Buyer and supplier collaboration occurs over the Ariba Network, which manages more than $1 trillion annually in business commerce. Extensive AP self-service features are available to suppliers via the network upon registration. The company also offers a “light account” feature, which allows buyers to connect with one-time/low volume suppliers over the Ariba Network at no charge to suppliers.
SAP Ariba supports eInvoicing in 36 countries globally, with country-specific features that address regulatory requirements for those countries. The solution’s capabilities include country-specific fields and business rules for data validation, country-specific guides to assist customers with eInvoicing in those regions, and document archival support designed to comply with region-specific archival requirements. To stay current with changing local requirements in different regions, SAP Ariba’s Globalization Services team works closely with tax consulting and legal partners in each area. SAP Ariba has also recently partnered with Thomson Reuters to support a new global tax intelligence solution that helps organizations calculate and comply with global tax regulations for procurement and sales activities. The solution, ONESOURCE, was developed by Thomson Reuters and leverages SAP Ariba’s API platform.
SAP Ariba offers specialized eInvoicing support for Brazil, Chile, and Mexico tax invoicing according to local rules, and standard invoicing for other LATAM countries. Specialized support includes document-specific workflows and approval requirements (NFe, CTe, DTE, PAC, etc.), folio management, online and on-premise contingency, and Addenda support. The solution allows sellers to submit all their invoices, either created in their ERP system or using another provider, to be validated and processed through Ariba Network. All inbound invoices are validated against the tax authority before they are passed on to Ariba Network and customers’ systems.
SAP Ariba eInvoicing supports compliance for the majority of European countries, and will add new countries in 2017. All ISO Currencies are supported, and additional currency rates/codes can be uploaded to Ariba invoice management via a CSV file. SAP Ariba also supports eInvoicing for many countries in the APAC region, including China, Singapore, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, and Malaysia.
SAP Ariba has been supporting implementations for buyers and suppliers globally for more than 20 years. The company’s implementation and support teams include more than 2,400 professionals, including 350 experts on supplier enablement, 25+ working capital specialists, and approximately 145 members focused on supplier integrations. In addition, SAP Ariba provides clients with access to several partners that assist with global customer deployments.
Tradeshift was founded as an electronic invoicing provider in 2009 by a team of Danish entrepreneurs. Since then it has been delivering AP, P2P, and supplier management solutions via its open platform for multinational companies all over the world. Tradeshift also enables partners and customers to build unique apps that add value to the ecosystem of buyers and suppliers on the platform. Tradeshift has recently introduced a lightweight, collaborative purchasing and payment tool to help customers address their tail spend using virtual credit cards (Tradeshift Go).
|Headquarters||San Francisco, CA|
|Other locations||10+ global locations across North America, Europe, and APAC|
|Number of Employees||550|
|Number of Customers||450|
|Target Verticals||Manufacturing, Energy, Financial Services, Transportation, High tech, Automotive, Healthcare, Media, Retail|
|Partners / Resellers||Wipro, Cap Gemini, KPMG, Deloitte|
|Awards / Recognitions||Digital Disruptor Award; Top 50 Highest Rated Cloud Companies to Work for, The Techies; 2016 Product Innovation of the Year Award, PayStream Advisors; Forrester eProcurement Wave 2017|
Tradeshift is ERP-agnostic and can integrate with back-office systems in a variety of ways, including file transfer (SFTP, FTPS) and web services (REST API). The Tradeshift solution supports 14 languages including Spanish, Danish, German, English, French, Hungarian, Dutch, Polish, Portuguese, Finnish, Italian, Swedish, Japanese, and Mandarin, as well as the electronic document standard, OASIS Universal Business Language. Tradeshift also offers 24/7/365 multilingual support to global customers from offices in the United States, Europe, and Asia. Support languages include, but are not limited to, English, Danish, French, German, Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Spanish, and Hungarian.
Tradeshift’s AP solution features a complete set of invoice management tools, as well as procurement automation for organizations that wish to complete the Procure-to-Pay lifecycle. In addition, suppliers can collaborate on AP and procurement processes through the Tradeshift Network. Suppliers can submit invoices in a variety of ways, including electronic invoicing and the use of a PDF invoice conversion tool, CloudScan, which accelerates the conversion of paper-heavy suppliers to electronic invoices. After invoices are submitted, the solution offers document validation, including custom validations that can be created by business users, multi-way matching, exception management, and configurable approval workflows. It also supports dynamic discounting and supply chain financing. Tradeshift’s network connects over 1.5 million companies across the world, and its application ecosystem allows third parties and customers to build their own applications or extensions on the Tradeshift platform.
Tradeshift is eInvoicing compliant in approximately 65 countries around the world, offering pre-configured solutions for each country in which its clients operate. Tradeshift partners with many global tax experts, authorities, and global tax accounting firms to ensure its platform is current on all regulatory requirements regarding electronic invoicing and taxes. Tradeshift’s multi-tenant solution is designed to absorb regulatory changes, as well as add regulatory coverage for additional countries, without impacting users.
In LATAM, Tradeshift offers local invoicing support for Chile, Brazil, Mexico, Peru, Argentina, Columbia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Uruguay. Tradeshift partner Trustweaver leveraged the Tradeshift platform to build a clearance and validation app, wherein all LATAM compliance information is maintained by Trustweaver and made available to Tradeshift clients.
Tradeshift’s solutions are equipped to handle B2B invoicing requirements across all European countries. During the AP process, Tradeshift enforces specific invoice content validation depending on the country, and offers electronic invoice support and signature authentication. Tradeshift also offers support for Russian invoice regulations, including digital signature authentication, electronic invoicing (through Trustweaver), and eInvoice archival.
Tradeshift offers special support for customers operating in China through a partnership with Baiwang, one of only two government-approved providers of VAT hardware and software, which is compliant with the validation and authentication requirements with the government’s Golden Tax System (GTS). The partnership provides real-time access to information on all issued and received invoices within Tradeshift’s system and/or the GTS.
Tradeshift provides dedicated implementation teams and partners to handle multi-country, multi-region rollouts. Depending on the modules implemented, the Tradeshift Professional Services team works with the customer to evaluate their IT landscape and recommend a suitable country-specific integration approach based on customer resources, ability, and willingness to lead aspects of the integration. Tradeshift can take full ownership of the integration, or simply act in an advisory role for the customer’s own IT resources.
Levvel Research, formerly PayStream Advisors, is a research and advisory firm that operates within the IT consulting company, Levvel. Levvel Research is focused on many areas of innovative technology, including business process automation, DevOps, emerging payment technologies, full-stack software development, mobile application development, cloud infrastructure, and content publishing automation. Levvel Research’s team of experts provide targeted research content to address the changing technology and business process needs of competitive organizations across a range of verticals. In short, Levvel Research is dedicated to maximizing returns and minimizing risks associated with technology investment. Levvel Research’s reports, white papers, webinars, and tools are available free of charge at www.levvel.io
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Research Senior Manager
Anna Barnett is a Research Senior Manager for Levvel Research. She manages Levvel's team of analysts and all research content delivery, and helps lead research development strategy for the firm's many technology focus areas. Anna joined Levvel through the acquisition of PayStream Advisors, and for the past several years has served as an expert in several facets of business process automation software. She also covers digital transformation trends and technology, including around DevOps strategy, design systems, application development, and cloud migration. Anna has extensive experience in research-based analytical writing and editing, as well as sales and marketing content creation.
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