SMEs forced to accelerate the transition, Digital-Cybersecurity

Among the many emergencies that VSEs and SMEs have to manage (energy, raw materials, etc.), there is a site that has gone a little into the shadows. That of electronic invoicing. At the beginning of October, the executive nevertheless confirmed the timetable and specified the terms of the reform.

In less than two years, they will have to be able to receive e-invoices, and in less than four years, to send them. Few figures exist on their progress in this area. But, according to the latest barometer this summer on the “dematerialization of invoices” carried out by the IT specialist Best Practices and the publisher Generix Group, nearly a quarter of companies are not aware of the timetable for the reform, and the equipment rate is stagnating at 70%. The construction site is complex. But it promises big savings.

· What’s the calendar ?

Since 2020, electronic invoicing has become mandatory for all companies in the context of public procurement. The results are encouraging: to date, more than 200 million dematerialized invoices have been processed on Chorus Pro, the public platform. The next step, which is getting closer, this time concerns all exchanges between companies.

In total, public and private markets combined, 2 billion invoices are exchanged per year. The timetable and procedures for dematerialization were specified by the decree of October 7 and its implementing order, following the amending finance law for 2022 (article 26), voted in August and which lays the general foundations of the device.

The deadlines are fast approaching. From 1is July 2024, all French companies, whatever their size, must be able to receive dematerialized invoices from their partners. Initially scheduled for 2023, this obligation had been postponed to September 2021 to avoid overloading companies already wiped out by the pandemic. But also because the smaller structures are far from ready.

Regarding the issuance of invoices, the schedule leaves a little oxygen to VSEs-SMEs. It will be July 2024 for large groups, January 2025 for ETIs and January 2026 for SMEs and VSEs. “Today, companies, and rather large ones, are just beginning to look at and become aware of the deadline. We are in its infancy,” observes Christophe Radepont, partner at the consultancy firm Grant Thornton.

· What is the point of this reform?

Reduced administrative burdens, productivity gains, etc. : Bercy estimates the gain for VSEs and SMEs at 4.5 billion euros. “The cost of the invoice is divided by three”, explains David Dogimont, partner at Mazars.

Also simpler is the pre-filling of VAT declarations. And, according to the Business Ombudsman, Pierre Pelouzet: “It’s a great tool for reducing late payments. »

Electronic invoicing: SMEs forced to accelerate

The reform also has enormous virtues for the accounts of the State, reducing VAT fraud. For what amount? “The VAT gap is estimated at around 23 billion euros in France, according to INSEE, but this figure does not constitute a satisfactory estimate of fraud, since it also includes other revenue losses”, underlines the Ministry of Economy.

Already implemented in a dozen countries of the European Union, the electronic invoice brought in Italy 2 billion euros in additional VAT revenue between 2018 and 2019.

· Is the subject limited to the invoice?

The reform is much more comprehensive. It concerns not only the exchange of invoices with customers and suppliers but also the data to be provided to the tax authorities.

A set of information must be transmitted at a progressive rate: the amount, the VAT, of course, but also very specific elements such as the nature of the exchanges (goods or services), the address of the deliveries, etc. These data should allow the State to have a better knowledge, and in real time, of the life of companies.

Second part of the reform: the obligation of “e-reporting”. In the case of transactions with foreign companies (where French invoicing rules do not apply) or with individuals (there is not necessarily an invoice), companies are also invited to transmit data on their transactions . “These data are necessary from the perspective of a pre-filling of VAT declarations”, we explain to Bercy.

· Why shouldn’t we be late?

Attention, complex site! The first step is to draw up an inventory of its invoice flows, map them and define a strategy. “It is a mistake to think that we are only talking about a connection to a platform. It’s an important project with multiple impacts,” warns David Dogimont.

Companies will have to choose their tool and use either one (or more) of the administration’s partner dematerialization platforms (PDP) – about ten, labeled, should be selected -, or the State’s public billing portal, Chorus Pro , which deals with processing public sector invoices but will open up to the private sector. “So there will be a real strategy to adopt: what platforms do I work with? what price am I willing to pay for the services they offer me? How do I distribute my suppliers according to the platforms? explains Christophe Radepont.

· Are SMEs under that much pressure?

The deadline will come soon. SMEs are therefore strongly encouraged to get started now. Aware of the complexity of the subject for small and medium-sized enterprises, the State has however let go of some ballast. Relaxations are made in the latest texts. For example, the data to be provided to the administration will be staggered over time (fortnightly rather than monthly) and less numerous than for large groups.

“SMEs are undoubtedly the public furthest away from dematerialization to date”, we recognize at Bercy, which ensures that it offers them “simple solutions allowing them to switch to electronic invoicing and e-reporting at contained cost”, through the public invoicing platform. Similarly, the PDF, which was initially to disappear in 2026, will be tolerated until the end of 2027. A way to shift the ax of electronic invoicing by one year for VSEs-SMEs.

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