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How workflow automation supports electronic invoice exchange and e-reporting

How workflow automation supports electronic invoice exchange and e-reporting

More and more countries are requiring that companies exchange invoices electronically and have introduced reporting systems by which invoice data must be transmitted to the tax authorities. Especially when invoices are received and/or sent via such an e-reporting portal, an automated invoice workflow is a godsend to help you save costs and remain in compliance.


E-reporting and e-invoice workflows in companies

Government e-invoice reporting systems are online platforms through which so-called structured invoices can be issued, received, provided and stored. This gives tax authorities access to information on invoices issued by companies and helps to combat fraud. 


Structured invoices

A structured invoice is an electronic invoice in XML format. It contains the legally required data in a defined data structure. In most countries, e-invoicing platforms only collect data from structured invoices issued between companies (B2B) or between companies and governmental/public bodies (B2G). Invoices between domestic and foreign companies are also included. Invoices from companies to private customers are usually not recorded.


Preparing for e-reporting

The reporting systems of the tax authorities basically work according to two different models, depending on whether the invoices only go to a recipient via a state-provided platform (V-model, as in Italy, for example) or is sent through an external authorized body (Y-model, as in France, for example).

In any case, companies need to focus on the reporting system of the tax authorities that exists or is expected in their country. In the EU, for example, there are plans to roll out a uniform VAT registration system as part of "VAT in the Digital Age" (ViDA), for which there are country-specific fact sheets


Invoice volume and approval process: When workflow automation pays off

But why do you need document management and workflow automation if you want to use a reporting platform now or in the future where all invoice data is stored anyway? In which cases does workflow automation with DocuWare in combination with an e-reporting portal bring advantages? 

  • Use Case 1: Your company does not receive more than about 100 invoices per month and you only need one approval from one office per invoice. This is where workflow automation can help, but it's not absolutely necessary.  
  • Use Case 2: Your company receives hundreds of invoices and the process often or always involves multiple approvals by multiple entities. At this level of complexity, an automated workflow is required to streamline your process and manage it in a legally compliant manner.

The decisive factor is always how many invoices you have to process and how many approval points are involved in the process.


Integration via ERP 

You are using a DocuWare workflow for electronic invoice processing and an ERP or accounting system. Which system you combine with the e-reporting platform depends on your invoice workflow. 

  • If your ERP has an integration with the platform, you can connect it. It then retrieves the data and transmits it to the platform, and the DocuWare workflow then retrieves data from the ERP. In this case, the ERP system is the first point of contact for invoices and should therefore be integrated with the e-reporting platform. 
  • The invoices received in the system are then transferred to DocuWare, where they go through indexing, auditing and approval processes, often using other documents archived in DocuWare. At the end of this process, the supplemented data is transferred to the ERP, which is already integrated with the e-reporting platform. 

In this case, the ERP system first needs the invoice data, and DocuWare acts as an additional element in document processing. The integration of the ERP with DocuWare is already in place. 


Integration via invoice workflow

If your ERP does not have an integration with the e-reporting platform, the invoice workflow in DocuWare is integrated directly with the reporting platform. 

  • In DocuWare, the processes for accepting invoices are already defined and the reporting platform is then just another source for incoming invoices. 
  • The invoices go through the process of indexing, checking and approval - also on the basis of other documents in DocuWare, such as quotations or delivery slips. At the end of the process, the data is transferred to the ERP or financial accounting system. 

In this case, DocuWare needs the data first so that it can be transferred to the ERP or financial accounting system. The integration of DocuWare with the ERP is in place and only the data volume changes.

Advantage: Incoming and outgoing invoices continue to be kept in DocuWare

Regardless of the question of integration, it is worthwhile to maintain the invoice workflow with DocuWare due to the easy access in DocuWare, especially the full-text search. In addition, there are cross-references between documents: For example, you can call up all invoices that are linked to a displayed contract. With DocuWare as your document management and workflow automation system, you can receive and process structured invoices electronically and have quick access to the information. 


E-reporting also benefits from OCR and Intelligent Indexing

No OCR (Optical Character Recognition) is required for an e-reporting platform or the invoices processed in it. However, your company will not receive all invoices through the platform. In addition, there are a number of other documents that are often required for invoice approval, whether order lists, bills of lading, delivery notes or acceptance protocols. With DocuWare Intelligent Indexing, you can describe the content and data of these documents in the form of index data, making the process even more effective.

Let's be clear: If your company receives more than about a hundred invoices per month and several approval agencies are involved in the process, the combination of an automated invoice workflow with a reporting portal is tremendously worthwhile.