Belgian Peppol Authority
It is the end of the month. Like every other month since the e-Invoicing module was activated, Judith receives a report from her computer system that summarizes the invoices received and validated. It also contains a recap of the invoices produced and the status (received, approved/rejected, paid). Only by exception, when an incoming invoice does not match the data available in the system, or when a produced invoice is rejected by the customer, she gets a request for action detailing the mismatch and proposing action. The e-Invoicing module also cares for the production of outbound invoices: as soon as the delivery is done and other possible conditions are met, the system automatically issues the invoices to the customers.
This improvement saves her lots of time, previously wasted on bureaucracy. She can concentrate on her core business, which is a big relief. In the past, she was used to spending many evenings reconciling orders, invoices, contracts, delivery notes and so on, debugging frequent errors and consolidating tons of papers (or e-papers). Now she hardly ever touches an invoice anymore - only when there is a possible error. This scenario became fairly exceptional, since e-invoicing was generalized. All business partners use similar tools. The globalization of these tools and practices had a dramatic impact. For decades, enterprises attempted to do the same in isolation, which achieved only insignificant improvements, except for a small minority of very large actors. Now that the technology is generalized, these actors also benefit from it, through lower prices offered by the technology providers and better quality of incoming documents. This is really a win-win for everybody!
Belgium adheres to the European vision of the Digital Agenda 2020, which identifies the generalization of e-invoicing as a major source of efficiency. The story above reflects the potential of the adoption of e-Invoicing for all enterprises. In Belgium, the potential savings associated with the generalization of e-invoicing are estimated at €3.5 billion per year. However, such savings, and the associated benefits, can only happen after several important changes take place. Most of the technology underlying these changes is available. Software tools can generate, receive and process electronic documents of all kinds, and implement the type of improvements described above. All sorts of message-exchange solutions are also available. Unfortunately, most of these components cannot inter-operate in a satisfying way. In this situation, e-invoicing is feasible only within small circles and closed networks. The Peppol project was set up in 2008 to identify the barriers to the generalization of e-procurement (including e-invoicing) and solutions to overcome them. The project was completed in 2011, delivering an interoperability framework. Since 2012, several countries implemented this framework. In 2016, Belgium was the 6th country to join. Each country sets up a Peppol authority (PA), which stands for the promotion, the diffusion and the proper use of the interoperability framework within its jurisdiction. It also contributes to the consolidation of the framework and the continuous evolution of its components.
The present page is dedicated to the Belgian Peppol Authority (PA). It addresses the following aspects:
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General presentation of the Belgian Peppol Authority (PA)
The Belgian Peppol Authority (PA) offers the following support to its correspondents and the industry: (1°) a national SMP, (2°) a Peppol Access Point providers' accreditation procedure and support, and (3°) a set of instruments to facilitate the end-to-end tests with the public sector and to track & trace the e-invoicing traffic with the public sector. All of these contributions are described in detail in the following sections.
BOSA-DT, the Department Digital Transformation (DT) of the Federal Public Service Policy and support (Beleid en Ondersteuning / Stratégie et Appui - BOSA), is in charge of the Belgian e-Government strategy, and more generally of the promotion of good practices in the IT sector in Belgium. Promoting the generalization of e-Invoicing (and, in a later phase, e-procurement), fits into its mandate. At the end of a pilot aiming at demonstrating the feasibility of Business-to-Government (B2G) e-Invoicing, in 2015, BOSA-DT concluded that an interoperability framework was a precondition for achieving that goal. Today, Peppol is the only comprehensive interoperability framework available. Peppol recognizes the need for a strong governance, including a contracts-based juridical construction where operators sign contracts with Authorities.
Since 2016, BOSA-DT took the role of Peppol Authority (PA) for the country of Belgium, recognizing the added value of a PA to stimulate adoption of e-Invoicing and e-Procurement in Belgium. Indeed, a PA contributes to the growth of Peppol Access Points and to the awareness of the advantages of the Peppol framework in its own domain. A PA also relays local concerns to the global level; this feedback mechanism is expected to have a decisive impact on the interoperability across Peppol domains.
Since then, BOSA-DT has signed agreements with over 15 operators. In close cooperation with other European, federal, regional and local authorities, BOSA-DT participates in or organizes information sessions about the challenge associated with the generalization of e-Invoicing, and its practical solutions. BOSA-DT also established a forum of Belgian Access Points, and contributed to the setup of a Business Experts Group. The Business Experts Group leads the participants community. Participants are the entities exchanging invoices. The group receives and processes questions, remarks and suggestions about the use of the framework from their perspective - most of these questions relate to the understanding and proper use of the functional specifications. The Federation of Enterprises in Belgium has accepted the responsibility to organize this business-critical knowledge sharing platform.
The Belgian Peppol Authority (PA) is composed of the following BOSA-DT staff members:
- Serge Libert, program manager and main contact
- Marc Vermeire, service manager
- Arnaud Reper, architect
- Axel De Nys, business analyst
- Guido Doucet, project manager
The service address is email@example.com.
This team is also responsible for the support of B2G adoption. In this particular area, BOSA-DT created the Mercurius platform, as the single gateway between the private and the public sector (more details: see section "Mercurius"); to harmonize and streamline the exchanges to the advantage of the private sector. Mercurius is instrumented in several ways, so that it is advantageous for the adoption of B2G and B2B (see more details later). In the future, BOSA-DT will increase the advantages of the Mercurius - Peppol synergies.
Introduction to the Peppol interoperability framework
When you send a document to someone through the postal services, you just put it in an envelope, put the address on it, stamp it (if required) ... and that's it. Basically, Peppol is the solution for doing the same, but between computers. This is however quite a different, more complex problem to solve in the world of computers than in the world of paper, because the ultimate goal - automation of invoice processing - is much more sophisticated, and due to the inherent nature of computer systems - programs can hardly cope with deviations. Therefore, achieving such a universal, fully inter-operable exchange system, is a challenge. Peppol offers a framework that enables this universal "new way of posting".
The acronym Peppol stands for "Pan-European Public Procurement On Line". Historically, it was a project launched by the European Commission in 2008, in the context of the Digital Agenda for Europe, already mentioned. It completed in 2011. Its purpose was to deliver a report explaining how to overcome the major barriers in electronic procurement. It involved experts from 11 countries, for a total budget of €30 million. This very inclusive project defined the conditions for generalization of e-Procurement and selected existing practical solutions, and integrated them together in an interoperability framework. In 2012, several countries in Europe decided to implement the framework. The Peppol eDelivery network started to operate and grow. Today, more than 150 access points, 50 receiving registries and 8 Peppol authorities, cooperate to deliver a transparent, reliable and secure business documents transport service to any potential participant (= sender and/or receiver). In combination with the business interoperability principles that it promotes, the Peppol e-Delivery network is the highest potential solution today.
The Peppol framework encompasses 3 major dimensions: technical, organizational and contractual.
|The technical dimension is a set of specifications. It covers document formats, message transport protocols, identification of participants and their capabilities, security mechanisms, service levels, change management procedures. Any collection of organizations agreeing to meet this set of specifications, can reach full inter-operability. The most important specification is the mandatory support of the BIS. The Business Interoperability Specification (BIS), is a collection of formats covering all procurement-related documents (order, dispatch advice, invoice, credit note, ...). The mandatory support involves that nobody can refuse to talk that lingua franca. As long as this principle is met, participants can use whatever format to communicate, that best suits their own context.|
The organizational dimension defines roles and responsibilities within the community. The following roles are defined: participant, access points providers, SMP providers, Authority.
|The contractual/jurisdictional dimension of Peppol consists in a set of contracts between the above mentioned actors. AP providers enter in contracts with the participants on the one hand, and with a PA on the other hand. The latter contract is similar to any such contract signed by any AP. This ensures consistent application of the Peppol specifications across distinct service providers, which is the foundation of the interoperability. Also, as explained above, some Authorities can specify additional rules to be applicable within their own jurisdiction, to a certain extent. To cover this contractually, such Authorities prepare an annex (named "Annex 5") and invite foreign AP providers to sign this Annex 5 only, in addition to the existing agreement they have signed with their own Authority.|
For more information about the Peppol interoperability framework and the Peppol community, please visit www.Peppol.eu.
Peppol in Belgium: general information
This section provides the reader with additional information about the use of Peppol in Belgium. It includes key-information about the use of identifiers for domestic trade, the use of formats in the Business-to-Government (B2G) context and in the Business-to-Business (B2B) context, and the Belgian e-Invoicing Business Experts Group. All parties interested in e-invoicing, especially the Participants (in the Peppol sense explained above), are invited to read this section.
Use of identifiers
In line with the Belgian legal framework, enterprises are expected to use their enterprise number,delivered by the Belgian Crossroad Bank of Enterprises (CBE), as a primary identification number. In order to facilitate this, the Belgian Authorities have registered a specific Identification scheme ID: 0208 (*) Enterprises are strongly recommended to use this Identification scheme on their e-Invoices, as this considerably simplifies the master vendor data management, which guarantees proper routing of documents across more or less complex networks, and offers added value through integration with other e-Government solutions (such as eGOV roles management). The access to the Mercurius Portal illustrates this added value: all legal representatives of Belgian enterprises have direct access to their own invoice records on Mercurius; for large structures, the eGOV Role "Billing Officer" can be used to assign this task to certain employees.
Identification Scheme BE:VAT, although still tolerated, should rather be used for identification in non-domestic correspondence only - and, of course, for VAT-specific invoice contents. All active entities of the Belgian Authorities are registered with their enterprise number.
(*) notice that the identification SchemeID 9956 (BE:CBE), originally assigned to the Belgian enterprise number, was replaced by the ISO-compliant code 0208, registered in the ICD-list, in th econtext of the upgrade to the Eureopean Norm for electronic invoising. The migration period runs from 1/7/2020 until 17/5/2021.
Use of formats
Both Peppol BIS and ePRIOR implement the format designed during the CEN BII workshops. Consequently, in the context of the B2G e-Invoicing Pilot phase, the Belgian Authorities were already receiving Peppol BIS-compliant invoices. So the integration with the Peppol interoperability framework did not modify the document format. The Belgian Authorities have no specific needs that would motivate the support of additional formats. Since the BIS format is common to all correspondents, the Belgian Authorities have registered only this format. More specifically, profile 04 (invoice) and 05 (Billing) are supported.
The Belgian PA fully supports the initiatives to use more sophisticated formats, to better suit the needs of specific groups, especially in the private sector, that cannot be efficiently supported by the BIS or other existing formats - as long as these groups also recognize the need for a lingua franca, to support interoperability across groups. The Belgian Authorities do not limit this statement to any syntax. For example, the Belgian Authorities consider EDIFACT as a syntax to integrate in the Peppol framework, for it will benefit to increasing the reach of the interoperability framework.
Belgian e-Invoicing Business Experts Group
Interoperability is not only a technical issue. It can also be (a) a business issue, and (b) a matter of exploiting the potential of the technical solutions available. To address these concerns, a Belgian e-Invoicing Experts Group was founded in June 2017. It addresses questions such as "how should an invoice with cash discount be expressed in the BIS format", "what makes an invoice number unique", "how to cope with the multiplicity of identification schemes",.... It is a meeting point across various groups, each group having its own perspective and concerns. The confrontation of these view points in a constructive mindset, accelerates the generalization of e-Invoicing.
Business Experts from all horizons of the Belgian invoicing landscape, supported by technical experts, participate in this joint effort. The Federation of Enterprises of Belgium provides the facilities needed by the group (logistic support, extranet, moderation, ....).
Topics that have already been handled
Rounding problem to 2 decimals
|Workgroup has reached agreement on solution based on Peppol BIS 2 (3.6.0). Since more decimals are allowed at line level in Peppol BIS 2 schematrons, LineExtensionAmount at line level may contain more than 2 decimals. The sum of those LineExtensionAmounts will be rounded in invoice totals to 2 decimals for calculating VAT. Detailed instructions will be communicated in VBO-FEB circular letter.|
|Workgroup has reached agreement on solution based on Peppol BIS 2 (3.6.0). It has been decided to use AllowanceChargeReasonCode 66 to indicate cash discount (calculated per VAT tax category) as allowance and compensate the amount by adding an additional charge at total level (also with AllowanceChargeReasonCode 66) but as VAT tax category 'E' (exempt) and VAT percent = 0. PaymentTerms/Note should contain textual explanation on payment eg. “In case of payment within xx days y% (xx.xx€)payment discount applies and PayableAmount = zzzz.zz€” (text should be specified in proper language of the invoice). Detailed instructions will be communicated in VBO-FEB circular letter.|
|7||Cohabitation enterprise number belgian VAT number|
The coexistence of the enterprise number and the BE VAT number causes interoperability issues. Indeed, both IDs are so close to each other, that many people hardly distinguish one another, and therefore use one for another and vice versa. This creates challenges for machine to machine integration. Eventually, it has a significant impact on the cost of the solutions.
|For the time being, it is not possible to reduce this cost factor.|
|Workgroup has reached agreement on solution based on Peppol BIS 2 (3.6.0). Empties will be added as a separate invoiceline with VAT tax category 'E' providing the possibility use positive (charge) and negative (take back empties) quantities. Detailed instructions will be communicated in VBO-FEB circular letter|
Reduction vouchers suppliers
|Workgroup has reached agreement on solution based on Peppol BIS 2 (3.6.0). Reduction vouchers from suppliers can be treated as allowances and specified at invoice total level specifying "LEVERANCIERSBON" as AllowanceChargeReason and VAT tax category 'Z'. Detailed instructions will be communicated in VBO-FEB circular letter|
Topics that are being handled
|#||Description||status - action points|
|1||mapping of the business scenario spare parts in the BIS||P. DELEU will propose a mapping at next meeting|
taxable amount in EUR on invoice in other currency
|G.DILLES to elaborate the problem description based on input at last group meeting|
|10||rounding problem when starting from prices VAT included||proposal is being prepared in small workgroup (lead: Colruyt)|
|5||Peppol in B2C context|
|6||EU e-invoicing Standard EN 16931||to be presented to the group (lead: BOSA)|
Peppol in Belgium: Access Points
As explained above, Access Points in the Peppol world, are like mailboxes in the paper world: entry and exit points in a transport network, that guarantees an efficient service. This responsibility can be shared across multiple operators provided that they commit to common rules. In the Peppol context, a contract, called the Access Point Provider Agreement, defines these rules. Annexes to the contract refer to the appropriate Peppol specifications. AP Providers sign this contract with a Peppol Authority. APs that already operate in another domain than Belgium, are invited to sign only the Belgian Annex 5.
The complete list of Access Point service providers and their main country of operation, is available here
Belgian version of the AP Provider Agreement
All AP providers' agreements are aligned, no matter what Authority signs them. However, to be contractually valid in the jurisdiction covered by the Authority, the latter must produce a specific version of it.
Only the Annex 5 is country-specific. The Belgian Annex 5 specifies the additional conditions and restrictions that apply to Belgium.
Here is the Belgian version of the Agreement:
Onboarding of Access Point providers
Operators interested in the role of Peppol AP are invited to consider the Business case in detail before submitting their candidacy. Here is a document prepared by the Peppol consortium at the end of the Project, that supports this analysis: HowToBeAnAccessPointProvider.pdf
All prospective Peppol Access Point Providers can submit their candidature to the Belgian PA. The Belgian PA will examine their candidacy. If it fits with the mandate of the Belgian PA, and if the candidate has enrolled as a member of the Open Peppol association (visit the linked page to learn how to join), BOSA-DT will sign the Agreement.
AP providers having signed with the Belgian PA
BOSA-DT will then provide further administrative support to the candidate during the AP setup and beyond. During the AP setup, this support covers the following stages (based on a general document available at How to set up a (Post-Award) Peppol Access Point (AP) ):
|I.||signature of agreement: verify that the legal conditions are met for the agreement to be contractually valid (legal representative, no bankruptcy,...)|
issuance of Peppol Pilot certificate: the page “ Introduction to the revised PKI Certificate infrastructure and issuing process”, provides the following information and links:
|III.||set up the software|
Setting up the AP requires a preliminary analysis to define which software will be used to start developing the AP. There is information available to guide the candidate, mostly on the internet. The Belgian PA can be contacted for specific questions or to share specific information. However, the Belgian PA does not deliver technical support to candidates designing and setting up their AP. More info to be found at https://Peppol.eu/downloads/ap-guidelines/ .
conducting testing activities
|V.||issuance of Peppol PRODUCTION certificate: the page “ Introduction to the revised PKI Certificate infrastructure and issuing process”, provides the following information and links:|
referencing on https://digital.belgium.be/e-invoicing/PeppolinBelgium.html: all AP having signed an agreement (or annex 5) with the Belgian PA, are eligible to be displayed on this page. To activate this possibility, please:
communicate any change in certificates (Test or Prod) to Mercurius team: the CN of the Peppol certificate is the key to determine the messages that the user with the Mercurius AP role can access. To avoid perturbated access to Mercurius Portal, communicate any change of AP certificate timely to the mercurius team (use the support request form).
NB: the change of the Peppol certificate also affects smp operations - for more details, cf section "smp.belgium.be".
Belgian Access Points Providers Forum
The PA not only recruits Peppol Access Points (AP) in its domain, it also organizes an AP Forum. This forum handles various topics related to the development of Peppol, from technical issues encountered, to actions organized by the PA, ... It is a critical interaction point between operators, where they can talk about their concerns, about their understanding of the specifications, and reach consensus required for true interoperability. It typically meets every 6-8 weeks, depending on the need to interact. All APs active in Belgium, or who expect to be active in Belgium soon, are invited to participate.
The forum is supported by :
(a) the table below summarizing the editions of the forum, decisions and suporting slides, and
(b) a web page publishing more detailed information related to the topics discussed in the forum, including migration plans, detailed specifications, testing instructions and many other useful information.
Agenda, list of presence, supporting material and wrap up of the previous Forum editions
|edition||presence||agenda /slideware/streaming||wrap up|
13:30 - 15:00
13:30 - 15:00
Welcome to new forum participants/ Belgian SP: Breex EasyBox, eVerbinding, OptiPost
13:30 - 15:00
Welcome to new forum participant/ Belgian SP: Odoo
13:30 - 15:00
Welcome of our guest → Etat de Luxembourg and of our new AP's → Storecove and Tradeinterop.
13:30 - 15:00
1. Update progress on CBE schemeID migration
3. Decommissioning old BIS Billing
It is reminded that Government will remove old BIS Billing Receiving Capabilities on 31/3/2021.
4. B2G - migration from old BIS (2.0) MLR to BIS (3.0) IMR/MLR
13:30 - 15:00
1. Update progress on CBE schemeID migration
3. Decommissioning old BIS BILLING
13:30 - 15:00
Conclusion: BOSA will(a) sharpen monthly questionaire; (b) work on communication/ AP survey to reassess migration timeline feasability
2. Short update given on the HSMP Migration Token Collection Interface and hrms activation / communication support - cf slides
3. Decommissioning old BIS billing (2.0)
13:30 - 15:00
13:30 - 15:00
1.a) mcti user testing – the way forward:
1.d) hrms go-live is set on nov 15th . SP are invited to make sure they can keep registering Belgian receivers afterwards, using the migration token.
2. BOSA DT will organize a monthly survey to collect figures about step 1 (no more 9956 based registrations of Receiving capabilities (RCs)), 2 (complete duplication of the 9956-based RCs onto 0208-equivalent RCs), and 3 (complete removal of old 9956-based RCs), and publish the consolidated results.
4. BOSA DT will issue a draft communication to be used by SPs as inspiration to cascade the request to their senders. The effect can be monitored in the mrcs data and will be the subject of a follow on item.
Next meeting oct 13th at 13:30 – 15:00 – save the date
Welcome from 13:30
Closing at 14:40
Slides presented at the forum:
1. At end of the discussion moment, there is no consensus to do more than minimal scenario (A) .
Belgian Peppol Authority will
3. e-Invoicing Summit 2020: SPs are encouraged to take advantage of this specific communication moment on the Belgian market.
Closing at 14:45
Slides presented at the forum:
Welcome from 13:30
1. Hermes update: impact on registering participants
2. BIS BILLING migration : assess status and discuss practical issues encountered
3. introduction of schemeID 0208
4. New Service Provider agreement
5. e-invoicing Summit 2020
Ending expected at 15:30
Slides presented at the forum:
(a) please review the conventions (integrator/user) and provide feedback
(b) migration token: please review the interface specification (swagger, test plan description) and provide feedback, incl answers to survey sent earlier (see below);
(c) based on the feedback and questions collected during the forum, DT will produce a clarification on the exact positioning of hrms and put the topic back on the agenda
2. BIS Migration: based on the feedback and questions collected during the forum, DT will produce a more specific migration plan for review and execution.
3. SchemeID 0208 : based on the feedback and questions collected during the forum, DT will produce a more specifc migration plan for review and execution.
highlighted and migration from 9956. Will also be taken in a FUP exchange moment.
5. e-invoicing summit, AOB: was only introduced (short on time). postponed to a later forum edition
DT Actions – fulfilled
I. news from Belgium
II. news from Peppol
Streaming of the forum: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=fod+spf+bosa
Slides presented at the forum:
I.4 – HRMS:
(a) emails sent by HRMS are expected to be 99,99999% bounce-back-proof and blacklisting-proof;
(b) a side effect of Hermes, is that all Belgian participants are registered in Peppol and acquiring customers becomes a matter of migrating existing participants, instead of registering new participants.
(c) registering Belgian participants into smp.belgium.be is still possible, but isn’t a condition of the BE AP agreement anymore (c) Mercurius focuses on government, primarily inbound invoicing; Hermes focuses on business outbound invoicing, and will also be useful for government entities outbound invoicing (example: De Lijn).
(d) no entity can use Hermes to send invoices unless it signs an agreement with BOSA. However, BOSA is keen to discuss agreements with service providers if it would be suitable to the sector and not compromise the model.
II.2 - Migrations:
(a) Oxalis doesn't prevent senders to send BIS2 to BIS2+BIS3 receivers. The only issue is AS2-AS4 related. It is up to the SPs to upgrade to latest Oxalis asap.
(b) Supporting AS2 (profile 2.2) is also at discretion of the SP.
(c) Noncompliance of other SPs such as missing AS4 support, can and should be reported trough the applicable channels (in particular, openPeppol support tool) ;
(d) in order to minimize issues such as the ones that highly penalized Flemish government last month, it is advised to stop converting BIS2 to BIS3, at least until more robust convertors (validated by multilateral end-to-end tests) are available and stable.
(e) the option to provide feedback to sender or his SP in case he sends non-compliant documents, was discussed for years at all levels. To date there is no consistent strategy / generally agreed way to deliver such feedback, neither globally nor in Belgium.
(f) the option to check a document was delivered using the underlying message ID (or the associated MDN), is only available in mercurius-test. An APs proposes to add this function in production. BOSA DT will consider this.
(g) a SP notices that there are in fact 3 concurrent migrations: BIS2>3, AS2>AS4, and AS2.1>AS2.2. this is too much. In practice, al these migrations must be done.
(h) a SP advices to be more strict in the implementation of changes. In the telco world it works because of the strict adherence to common schedules. The question is how can we reach such a strict behavior without legal framework and with the current market maturity
(i) for B2G it is highly recommended to APs to check their traffic to mercurius using their special access (eGOV role “Mercurius_AP”). With that access, they always can check what invoices were duly received at mercurius level and correlate with their own logs, which is step 1 in troubleshooting.
I.Belgian Governement support of uptake of e-Invoicing
II.Belgian AP forum discussions
Slides presented at the forum:
II.Belgian AP forum discussions
1.Progression of Peppol rollout in Belgium
2.OpenPeppol communication tools
3.Official webpage of the Belgian PA
4.Peppol certificates migration Q3/2018
5.Implementation of the European Norm – Peppol side
6.Upcoming CEF telecom call on e-invoicing
7.Statistics on sender data
8.Practical organisation of the AP forum
Slides presented at the forum:
4. Peppol certificates migration:
5. European Norm:
6. CEF telecom on e-invoicing:
7. Sender stats: conclusions of the discussion:
8. AP forum organisation:
Hot issues affecting the network operations
This section registers the events causing trouble to some or all of the network operations. ex: an AP certificate that expired, troubles with a SMP or the SML, ...
Watching the Belgian PA page makes it possible to AP providers to get notified of such issues, and to follow up their progress.
|Tue Feb 19 2019 20:00 - 23:59|
Application server maintenance in production.
|Sun Feb 10 2019 10:00 - 14:00||Application server maintenance in acceptance.|
• Impact on DNS : None
• Impact on SML : SML will be down during intervention.
|Thu Jan 17 2019||Survey for Peppol Access Points on AS4 market readiness: Click here to participate||closed|
|Mon Dec 17 2018 08:00 - ...||Problems when communicating SMP changes to SML/SMK. OPENPeppol (CEF) is working on a solution.||closed|
Peppol in Belgium: Software industry
Although they are not formally identified in the Peppol framework (meaning, there is no specific role for this class of actor), the software industry is key to the realization of the above described vision. The software industry will develop the tools that will take advantage of the interoperability framework, to build affordable, reliable and secure solutions to make "touchless invoicing" a reality, removing the administrative burden currently associated with invoice processing. This statement underlines that actions to promote the Peppol interoperability framework, must include the software industry.
The Flemish Government notably initiated this thread in 2015, by publishing the list of software solutions that manage to send invoices to them, through Peppol/Mercurius, on the e-invoicing project webpage.
The European Union developed a program called "Connecting Europe Facility (CEF)". This program re-routes public money to projects contributing to innovations such as e-invoicing.
The Belgian public sector started promoting e-Invoicing in 2012. During an initial pilot project (2013-2014), the government installed Mercurius, a Business to Government (B2G) e-Invoice exchange solution, based on the ePRIOR platform developed and used by the European Institutions. At the end of the pilot, Belgium decided to (1°) keep Mercurius as the single gateway between the private and the public sector, and (2°) to integrate with Peppol, going one step further towards interoperability. The combination of Peppol and Mercurius generates many synergies. Peppol enables universal exchange. Mercurius offers various added-value tools to the Belgian community, that demonstrate the feasibility of the Peppol approach and facilitate its adoption.
Mercurius and the Public-Private ecosystem of e-Invoicing
The main mission of Mercurius is to help integrate the public sector entities. At the same time, it promotes harmonization of the interface, so economic operators can use the same interface for all their public sector customers.
A TEST version of Mercurius is available, to offer all interested parties the possibility to perform all kinds of tests of their systems, including end to end testing with accounting systems of the federal and other governments, which is still a very important step in the setup of efficient IT solutions.
A portal was added to this platform. Thanks to its integration with the existing national authentication and authorization tools provided by the public sector, the Mercurius Portal gives access to an advanced "track-and-trace" function for the invoices sent, from the sender - and for the invoices received, by the receiver. This tool creates the transparency needed to build the trust in the Peppol interoperability framework, and fine-tune its use.This portal is also accessible to intermediaries/service providers and customer representatives, so that all parties share the same information. The portal also facilitates communication (including user support requests) and dissemination of all sorts of information about e-invoicing, including Peppol. Finally, the portal offers a manual invoice/credit note submission function, so that suppliers not yet ready to send e-invoices are not penalized.
Mercurius has a support team that handles residual issues, that can’t be resolved by the AP providers and/or the correspondents, in self-service mode using the portal. The support team receives support requests, preferably through the online assistance request form especially designed for Mercurius users and stakeholders, available through the portal homepage.
Mercurius was also extended with an xml-to-pdf conversion function. The idea is to avoid penalizing early adopters of Peppol in the private sector, in cases where some of their public sector customers need time to implement their connection with Mercurius. These receivers get a pdf instead of the xml sent by the supplier - this is of course a transitional measure, awaiting for the customer to fully integrate.
Recently, Mercurius was instrumented with a test messages lookup facility. Participants and IT solution providers using the public sector customers to test their e-Invoicing solution, can use this tool to lookup if their test invoices were correctly received, without having to log into the mercurius portal. This leverages the use of the Mercurius infrastructure for Peppol testing purposes.
- Portal url: https://digital.belgium.be/e-invoicing/
- Help page: https://digital.belgium.be/e-invoicing/FedictHelp.html
- Online assistance request: https://apps.digital.belgium.be/forms/show/bosa/mercurius/latest
- Test message lookup : https://digital.belgium.be/e-invoicing/CheckFedictMdnPage.html
Smp.belgium.be, the Belgian Service Metadata Publisher
From January 1st 2017, the Belgian public sector also offers a national SMP, free of charge for registration of receiving capabilities. This allows the Belgian PA to: (a) publish information about the Peppol receivers in Belgium, and (b) to offer a promotional window to the access providers who register participants: so they can publish a link to their service offering free of charge, and the top-5 Access Points are also put in the spotlight, on the following page:
The technical documentation of the registration interface is available here.
All Belgian parties receiving documents on Peppol are expected to use this SMP to register their receiving capabilities. Notice that Belgian enterprises are supposed to be duly registered in the Belgian Crossroad bank of Enterprises. This is a prerequisite to be registered in smp.belgium.be.
- AP providers are responsible for registering the receiving capabilities of the participants they service.
→ From a contractual perspective, the annex 5 of the Belgian AP providers agreement, specifies that all Belgian participants are to be registered in smp.belgium.be. Once AP Providers have signed this agreement, they are invited to register their Belgian participants in smp.belgium.be
- in application of the Peppol standard discovery mechanisms, the sending APs look up SML/smp to:
- check the presence of the receiver on the Peppol transport infrastructure,
- look up his receiving capabilities: the document types and formats that the receiver can process, and
- locate the receiving AP, where the documents must be sent.
- If properly used, this mechanism ensures that all documents are properly routed through the transport infrastructure, and that the proper interchange format is always selected.
In order to offer end-to-end testing capabilities, the PA also installed a test-SMP under the name smp-test.belgium.be using the same receiving capabilities as the real SMP but accessible through SMK instead of SML (see Peppol glossary).
Additional sources of information
- Main website about e-Invoicing in Belgium: www.efacture.belgium.be
- WebPage of the Brussels Region: http://easy.brussels/projects/facturation-electronique/
- Webpage of the Flemish Government dedicated to e-invoicing: https://overheid.vlaanderen.be/e-invoicing
- Webpage of the Walloon Region: https://www.digitalwallonia.be/facturation-electronique-digital-wallonia
- Main website of the European Commission about e-Invoicing: https://ec.europa.eu/cefdigital/wiki/display/CEFDIGITAL/eInvoicing