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:
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 Participants send and receive documents (through normalized access points).
- The Access Points Providers operate an access point - which is the alter ego for the mailbox in the paper world - the point were the message becomes fully normalized, in line with the specifications, so as to ensure smooth, efficient exchange across the community, whatever the other participant.
- The SMP providers operate a register of participants, a sophisticated address book containing each receivers' "capabilities" (= the list of documents-types/formats they are able to receive).
- The Authorities stand for the promotion, the diffusion and the proper use of the interoperability framework within their respective jurisdiction (typically, a country, a region or a sector of activity).
- Additionally, a coordinating Authority is appointed to own and manage the common specifications. Local Authorities have the right to add local specifications to tune the framework to local conditions, as long as they don't contradict the global specifications
relationship between participants and access points
Depending on various factors, participants can choose to establish their own Access Point, or to enter into an agreement with any of the service providers connected to the Peppol Transport Infrastructure in Belgium or throughout Europe.
Interaction model between correspondents through a global open transport infrastructure
|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 invoicing. 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
Some companies are using more than 2 decimals as unit price on existing invoices. If invoicelines are rounded to 2 decimals, rounding problems occur and the sum of the lineamounts is not the rounded amount of the total amount and the electronic invoice is rejected by Peppol BIS for this reason.
|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.|
In Belgium we often use cash discount on invoices. The particular scenario for calculating VAT is not clearly expressed in Peppol BIS documentation resulting in implementation problems. Therefore a detailed explanation on the Belgian implementation in Peppol BIS should be agreed and communicated regarding this problem.
|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.|
Companies selling empties and taking back these empties are struggled on how they show address these empties when sending electronic invoices using Peppol BIS. The workgroup should define a scenario (with some examples) to address this problem taking into account VAT regulations on this matter.
|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
Processing of reduction vouchers (often used in Belgium) is not well documented in Peppol BIS documentation so we should develop a detailed scenario how to treat this in Peppol BIS e-invoicing.
|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)|
|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