Electronic Invoicing

12 May 2004

Johan Vandendriessche

The Law of 28 January 2004 modifying the Code of Value Added Tax was published in the Belgian State Gazette on 10 February 2004[1] (hereafter: the “Law”). This Law, which implements Council Directive 2001/115/EC of 20 December 2001 (which itself amended Directive 77/388/EEC with a view to simplifying, modernising and harmonising the conditions laid down for invoicing in respect of value added tax[2]), entered into force retroactively on 1 January 2004 (article 16 of the Law).

Whereas the Law modifies the Code of Value Added Tax on several topics, this general overview is limited to issues of electronic invoicing.

Electronic invoicing

Before this Law came into force the issuing of electronic invoices was only allowed after authorisation by the Ministry of Finance. The conditions for electronic invoicing were very strict and complex.

The new regime provides that electronic invoicing is allowed under the conditions and modalities provided by Royal Decree, provided the authenticity of the origin and the integrity of the content of the electronic invoices are guaranteed (article 53octies of the Code of Value Added Tax, as amended by article 9 of the Law).

The conditions and modalities are set forth in the Royal Decree of 16 February 2004 modifying Royal Decree no. 1 of 29 December 1992 concerning the payment of the Value Added Tax[3].

The Decree provides that electronic invoicing is authorised provided the recipients of the invoices accept electronic invoices. The tax administrations will accept electronic invoices provided the authenticity of the origin and the integrity of the content are guaranteed by means of (i) an advanced electronic signature to be based on a qualified certificate and created by a secure-signature-creation device or (ii) electronic data interchange (EDI) when the agreement between the parties provides for the use of procedures guaranteeing the authenticity of the origin and integrity of the data.

Still according to this Decree, the Minister of Finance is empowered to impose specific conditions on electronic invoices issued for goods or services supplied in Belgium from a country outside the European Union.

Archiving of (electronic) invoices

Article 60 of the Code of Value Added Tax is modified to allow for (restricted) electronic archiving of invoices (article 11 of the Law).

All invoices issued by taxable persons in Belgium, by their customers or, in their name and on their behalf, by a third party, as well as the invoices they have received must be stored on Belgian territory. Invoices stored by electronic means guaranteeing full on-line access to the data concerned, may be stored in another Member State of the European Union, provided the tax administration was notified in advance.

The authenticity of the origin and integrity of the content of the invoices, as well as their readability must be guaranteed throughout the storage period[4].

The invoices must be stored in the original form in which they were sent, whether paper or electronic.

The taxable persons that use electronic means must provide the tax administration with a right to access, download and use of the invoices through these electronic means (article 61 of the Code of Value Added Tax, as amended by article 12 of the Law).

Conclusion

Based on the reading of the Decree, the Belgian Government has clearly decided to take the most restrictive stance possible towards electronic invoicing. Where the Directive offered other possibilities to the Member States, Belgian law has chosen to implement the most restrictive approach.



[1] Wet van 28 januari 2004 tot wijziging van het Wetboek van de belasting over de toegevoegde waarde, B.S. 10 april 2004 (tweede ed.). - Loi du 28 janvier 2004 modifiant le Code de la taxe sur la valeur ajoutée, M.B. 10 avril 2004 (deuxième éd.).

[2] Council Directive 2001/115/EC of 20 December 2001 amending Directive 77/388/EEC with a view to simplifying, modernising and harmonising the condition laid down for invoicing in respect of Value Added Tax, Official Journal of the European Communities L 15 of 17 January 2002, 24-28.

[3] Koninklijk Besluit van 16 februari 2004 tot wijziging van het koninklijk besluit nr. 1 van 29 december 1992 met betrekking tot de regeling voor de voldoening van de belasting over de toegevoegde waarde, B.S. 27 februari 2004 (derde ed.) – Arrêté Royal du 16 février 2004 modifiant l'arrêté royal n° 1 du 29 décembre 1992 relatif aux mesures tendant à assurer le paiement de la taxe sur la valeur ajoutée, M.B. 27 février 2004 (ed.3).

[4] The Law provides a minimum storage period of 10 years (article 60, §1, 1° of the Code of Value Added Tax, as amended by article 11 of the Law).


Important - The information in this article is provided subject to the disclaimer. The law may have changed since first publication and the reader is cautioned accordingly.