In order to encourage electronic invoicing and digital archiving, especially in the small and medium-sized enterprises, the Belgian government has recently decided to reduce the storage obligations for both paper and electronic invoices. This was done by an Act of 27 December 2005 containing various provisions and amending inter alia the current provisions of the Code on Value Added Tax in relation to the storage of invoices and the issuing of electronic invoices.
There are basically two amendments to the existing rules (as laid down by Article 60 of the code on Value Added Tax):
(1) the period for storing invoices (electronically and on paper) is reduced from 10 to 7 years; and
(2) from now on, invoices received on paper can be stored electronically without the obligation to store the paper original of the invoice.
These new rules entered into force on 9 January 2006.
For invoices received on paper but archived digitally, the law provides that the technologies or processes used for the digital archiving of the invoices must guarantee the authenticity of the origin, as well as the integrity of the content of the invoice. Authenticity and integrity must be guaranteed throughout the entire storage period.
The same principle applies to invoices that are received in electronic format only: when invoices are stored by electronic means, the data guaranteeing the authenticity of the origin and the integrity of the content (such as the electronic signature) must be stored together with the invoices.
With these new rules, the Belgian government hopes that companies will be able to reduce costs and time when archiving their invoices. The obligation to keep the paper original of invoices received on paper was felt by the Belgian government to be a major obstacle for companies willing to introduce electronic invoicing and digital archiving into their business.