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2020 draft Finance Bill, Art. 56: First step towards a general requirement to have electronic invoicing in B2B relations ?

07/10/19

Tax e-Alert 

French version

In brief

“Post-audit" models are dying out worldwide and France will soon confirm this trend! The so-called "clearance model" of tax administration control models, applied in many countries around the world and in Europe for years, is becoming unavoidable for companies. Anticipation of these upheavals must be part of the projects and DNA of companies. All corporate actors will increasingly be called upon to participate - directly or indirectly – in proper tax/VAT governance of their activities and their "reporting" to administrations.

Presentation

During a session in the Senate on 29 May 2019, concerning the fight against cross-border VAT fraud, the French Minister of Action and Public Accounts, Gérald Darmanin, stated the possibility of making electronic invoicing mandatory in relations between taxable persons.

This statement has been embodied by the Government in the Finance Bill for 2020, Article 56 of which stipulates that "invoices for transactions between taxable persons subject to value added tax shall be issued in electronic form and the data contained therein shall be transmitted to the administration for the purpose of modernizing the collection and control of VAT".

This mandatory electronic invoicing system already exists in a similar way in the relations between a taxable person and a public body (B2G - business to government relations), since Directive 2014/55/EU of 16 April 2014 which was transposed into French law by Order No. 2014-697 of 26 June 2014.

The project does not specify how the mandatory electronic invoicing system will be introduced. It is intended that this new provision will only apply from 1st January 2023 at the earliest and by 1st January 2025 at the latest.

In France, the mandatory electronic invoicing question is not new: already in 2015, law n°2015-990 of 6 August 2015 (known as the Macron law) provided in article 222 for the possibility for the government to introduce by Ministerial Decree an obligation for companies to accept electronic invoices. At the time, this provision was considered as contrary to Article 232 of the VAT Directive, which provides that the issuance of an electronic invoice must be "subject to the acceptance of the recipient". To avoid this misfortune, the Project provides that mandatory electronic invoicing will only be introduced after obtaining authorization from the Council of the European Union (pursuant to Article 395, 1 of the VAT Directive of 28 November 2006). Such a derogation has already been obtained by Italy.

The modalities of this system must be discussed in a report submitted by the Government to Parliament before 1st September 2020, including "the most appropriate technical, legal and operational solutions" to ensure VAT recovery that is more resistant to fraud, while taking into account the operational constraints of companies. The aim is to ensure a balance between the interests of the Treasury (VAT being a pillar of the financing of the State budget) and the organizational and technical costs for companies subject, in the future, to this new anti-fraud system.

The explanatory memorandum on Article 56 also states that this report may lead to a new methodology for reporting turnover. Indeed, since Article 56 provides that certain data mentioned on electronic invoices will be transmitted to the administration, the latter will thus be able to provide taxable persons with at least partially pre-filled VAT returns based on the information transmitted. 

Conclusion

As it stands, it is impossible to project further into the modalities of electronic invoicing, but the following questions could be asked:

  •  What will be the scope of application of this provision: domestic, intra-EU, international operations? All of them?
  • Will there be an invoice format to be followed to avoid the transmission being rejected? A structured format could be the solution for automating VAT reporting.
  • Will this measure apply generally or gradually, depending on, for example, the turnover of companies?

Contacts

Laurent Poigt

Avocat, Associé, Indirect Tax, Paris / Neuilly-sur-Seine, PwC Société d'Avocats

+33 1 56 57 77 54

Email

Zuzana Jandova

Avocate, Manager, Paris / Neuilly-sur-Seine, PwC Société d'Avocats

+33 1 56 57 43 35

Email

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