Global Overview: SMB E-Invoicing Mandate Trends

Introduction

Governments around the world are expanding their use of e-invoicing mandates to increase tax compliance, which is driving demand for e-invoicing solutions and services. To understand the extent of e-invoicing mandates as well as the implications for small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), KoreFusion conducted a global assessment evaluating the rollout of e-invoicing across 24 representative countries worldwide. Mandates are evolving and expanding in 17 of those countries across business-to-government (B2G), business-to-business (B2B), and business-to-consumer (B2C) segments:

  • Countries with a B2G mandate only: Germany, Spain, Sweden, Australia & Japan
  • Countries with both B2G and B2B mandates: France & Poland
  • Countries with B2G, B2B, and B2C mandates: Italy, India, Indonesia, South Korea, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Turkey

LATAM spearheaded e-invoicing mandates in the early 2000s, with the EU launching mandates in the 2010s and the APAC region following thereafter. While the US, UK, Canada, and Singapore are the only developed nations with no official mandates in place, they either have plans or are currently developing initiatives. KoreFusion’s high-level findings illustrate that e-invoicing mandates are relatively consistent in approach and content. Most mandates target B2G transactions to begin, aiming to boost government transparency and curb corruption. B2B and B2C implementations follow soon after, usually aligning with adjacent VAT, GST, and tax-reporting initiatives. While trajectories for e-invoicing mandates are similar, thresholds for SMB inclusion vary. Some encompass all SMBs regardless of size, while others apply to organizations that meet a minimum business size or annual sales volume. The SMB market faces unique challenges in navigating these mandates. Coupled with the fact that current SMB e-invoicing solutions are sparse and inconsistent, these organizations face a complex, inefficient path to achieving and maintaining compliance. Larger enterprises benefit from existing tools, compliance capabilities, and infrastructure. SMBs, on the other hand, must often cobble together solutions to meet their unique needs. This paper presents a global overview of current and evolving e-invoicing mandates across the B2G, B2B, and B2C spheres. It delves into details of mandates across major regions and explores the implications for SMBs in these regions. Finally, it explores the opportunities for emerging and prospective solution providers who aim to bridge the gap and help SMBs better navigate these mandates both now and in the future.

Global Overview Of E-Invoicing

Reducing the tax gap is the biggest motivator for governments to launch e-invoicing mandates, though curbing government corruption and promoting greater transparency present potent reasons as well. Tax compliance is a compelling priority considering the importance of GDP-to-tax revenue ratio — and how many countries fall below the critical threshold. According to the World Bank, tax revenues above 15% of a country’s GDP are vital for economic growth and, ultimately, poverty reduction.

Global Top 20 Countries With Tax-Revenue Gap Below 15% Of GDP (2015)


Source: World BankWhen tax revenues account for at least 15% of GDP, countries can typically support sufficient domestic resources for basic health, education, and infrastructure. Domestic tax revenues play a critical role in sustaining development funding and freeing official development assistance (ODA) resources for other priority investments. However, in many cases, a glaring discrepancy exists between the tax-revenue gap and ODA. Considering the countries in the chart above, the total tax-revenue gap (US$ 180B) dwarfs the total ODA (US$ 46B).The European Commission VAT Tax Gap trend highlights the substantial impacts of e-invoicing. The European Commission’s top goal with e-invoice reforms is to counter tax fraud, evasion, and avoidance. The EU experienced massive improvements in these areas in 2020 during the pandemic, which significantly reduced cash transactions just as e-invoicing mandates came into full effect. In 2020, estimated VAT gaps ranged from 1.3% in Finland to 35.7% in Romania, with other European countries falling somewhere in-between.

European Commission VAT Tax Gap Trend (US$ B)


Source: EU Commission

European Commission VAT Tax Gap 2020 By Country (US$ B)


Source: EU CommissionWhile the full impact remains to be seen, e-invoicing mandates affect SMBs in many regions — a trend that is sure to continue as more countries plan to implement mandates in the near term.

Overview of E-Invoicing Mandates By Region

Our analysis highlights a complex problem for SMBs as e-invoicing mandates come into effect globally. Compliance with mandates originally designed for large enterprises has complicated the digital ecosystems of SMBs. These businesses must address a tangled web of compliance requirements through a patchwork of tools and subsequent implementation challenges. The following sections explore the current state of mandates across major global regions.

E-Invoicing Mandate Status For Select Markets

North America (NA)

No e-invoicing mandate exists in either the US or Canada, though some SMBs have adopted e-invoicing to drive operational efficiency or to meet buyer requirements. Currently, e-invoicing usage is limited, though a group of public and private sector organizations known as the Business Payments Coalition (BPC) is focusing on enabling SMB participation in the data exchange by lowering the barrier for SMBs to adopt e-invoicing.

Latin America (LATAM)

Latin America is a pioneer, introducing mandatory e-invoicing for virtually all tax-registered SMBs and experiencing high adoption rates. Chile, Mexico, and Brazil have led the way with B2G mandates that date back to the early 2000s. Despite these decades-long mandates, major banks in the region only offer a narrow subset of e-invoicing solutions for SMBs.

Central Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (CEMEA)

Barring Turkey, which issued B2G e-invoicing mandates in 2014, e-invoicing adoption remains very low in most CEMEA countries. More recently, Turkey implemented a B2C mandate for SMBs with more than US$ 260K in revenue. The Nigerian Central Bank also attempted to mandate e-invoicing for international trade transactions greater than US$ 10K to curb USD flows, with limited success.

Europe (EU)

Europe mandated electronic invoicing for B2G transactions across most markets beginning in 2020. France, Italy, and Poland have announced mandates that cover all GST/VAT-registered SMBs, aiding the European Commission’s strong focus on bringing down the VAT gap. Spain and Germany will likely soon introduce mandates that cover SMBs.

The PEPPOL Network, a coalition of private entities, has proposed frameworks for standardizing and exchanging digital documents like e-invoices, and whose proposals are used by each EU member state. However, each state uses its own e-invoice implementation framework that aligns with the legislative framework for that state.

Asia-Pacific (APAC)

In the Asia-Pacific region (APAC), countries are rethinking their tax system, resulting in tax reforms and new obligations. Indonesia, India, and South Korea lead the charge as the scope of e-invoicing mandates incrementally includes more SMBs via lowering revenue thresholds each year in these countries. Similarly to other locales, large banks remain enterprise-focused, though two large Indian banks offer SMB-focused e-invoicing tools.

SMBs Face Implementation Challenges Within Digital Ecosystems And A Patchwork Of Tools

Global SMB e-invoicing is a growing and complex opportunity that is highly dependent on the local market’s labor and digitization context and the current patchwork of standalone and platform solution providers. It requires a deep understanding of SMB concerns and challenges in meeting e-invoicing needs, preferences around e-invoicing solution providers, and contextual considerations around software adoption.As mandates have expanded into the B2B sector, all registered SMBs are already required to comply with e-invoicing mandates as thresholds continue to be lowered. The limited focus of top banks on SMB invoicing solutions — despite a strong presence of e-invoicing solutions for large enterprises — presents additional hurdles. As government e-invoicing platforms modernize and become more “open” via APIs and e-signature capabilities, the potential for additional solutions that can easily integrate becomes possible. Data show that more than 70% of the countries have government e-invoicing systems that include API libraries, which could make integration much easier with future solutions.

E-Invoicing Requirements Are In Flux & SMBs Must Navigate A Patchwork Of Solutions

Currently, only a patchwork of SMB e-invoicing providers exists. Today’s e-invoicing solutions for SMBs — driven by governmental mandates, operational efficiencies, and buyer requirements — vary widely. The use cases above drive selection for which “on-ramps” to use, including standalone tools, integrated software solutions, integrated financial services solutions, the buyer’s AP solution, or another method.

Specialized providers tailor solutions for SMBs, while platform providers of adjacent solutions often bundle e-invoicing with core offerings like accounting services. For example, accounting solution providers may offer e-invoicing to support reconciliation and cash flow management.However, despite growing SMB digitization, manual interventions are still required in numerous common business situations as electronic systems are either not interoperable or do not exchange all the required data to simplify e-invoice compliance and reconciliation processes for SMBs. For example, collecting counterparty data, showing proof of payment or transfer of funds, receipt of goods, import/export declarations, etc. are illustrative examples of the types of information that may be required to stay in compliance with local e-invoicing mandates that SMBs must manage manually, outside of their digital systems.SMBs respond to e-invoicing demands, governmental or commercial, based on contexts like labor costs and governmental digitization, which strongly influence their choice of solution. Solution providers should consider current trends in e-invoicing, including country-agnostic challenges and opportunities that exist:

  • The move from device solutions to web-based solutions to facilitate tax administration
  • The incorporation of Supply Chain Model (SCM)
  • The need to ensure all required data elements meet or can be customized to meet mandated local taxonomy and format 
  • A transition from the burdensome and resource-intensive manual compliance procedures and subsequent audits and investigations to a digital, seamless, frictionless, built-in experience that offers: 
    • More efficient, faster payments at a reduced cost
    • Better data insights for more data-informed decisions according to market conditions
    • Continuous Transaction Controls (CTC) with real-time reporting and tracking to reduce the frequency of audits
  • The establishment of digital integration and interoperability across industries and supply chains
  • The ability to integrate with existing accounting software for streamlined invoice management and a cost reduction in financial administration

The list above is not exhaustive; however, it does highlight the benefits of e-invoicing far beyond tax compliance. Tax authorities, taxpayers, and businesses all stand to benefit from digital, interoperable e-invoicing – and providers should consider how benefits can be baked-in to e-invoicing solutions.

Opportunities For Payments Companies

A large and growing opportunity exists for data-enabled solutions to help SMBs collect and manage data to remain compliant with evolving local e-invoicing mandates. Wide gaps in the amount and types of data that can be collected about B2B counterparties present a compelling business opportunity. While large enterprises collect data like legal entity name, tax IDs, and other items that are now core requirements of many e-invoicing mandates during their standard vendor onboarding / KYB processes, SMBs currently have limited-to-no processes for collecting this type of data.

E-Invoicing Opens Up Multiple Opportunities For Fintechs


Innovative solution providers that address these gaps stand to do well in this rapidly changing environment. It’s critical to understand the nuanced pain points that SMBs are facing in countries with e-invoicing mandates — and to build tailored solutions that can alleviate the most pressing challenges.

KoreFusion Has Been At The Forefront Of E-Invoicing And Its Implications For Payment Companies & Digital Business Management Platforms

E-invoicing mandates will continue to expand and impact the SMB market. Given the trajectory of this trend, more solutions are likely to emerge, and more opportunities will present themselves for forward-looking payments companies and digital business management platforms.

KoreFusion is well-positioned to support the industry as e-invoicing mandates continue to expand and companies look to payments companies and various digital platforms for support and guidance. For more information about how we can help, please reach out us and the authors of this paper at:

information@korefusion.com