Navigating the Terrain: Tax Compliant Invoicing vs E-Invoicing

Woman on tablet e-invoicing

In the ever-evolving world of tax, two concepts are often used interchangeably: tax compliant invoicing and e-invoicing. While they share some common ground, they are distinct practices with unique purposes.   

Let’s explore the similarities and differences between these two invoicing methods, and a quick tip on how to distinguish between them.  

Starting with the similarities:  

  1. Both contain data relevant to commercial invoicing as well as those defined by tax authorities.     
  2. Tax compliant invoicing and e-invoicing improve the accuracy and efficiency of financial processes. They reduce the likelihood of errors, ensuring that transactions are processed smoothly and without delays.  

Tax compliant invoicing refers to the practice of creating invoices that adhere to the tax regulations and requirements of a particular jurisdiction. These invoices ensure that the appropriate taxes are calculated, displayed, and reported. Tax compliant invoicing can be generated digitally, or in some cases even on paper. Also, it is typically readable, even when it is paperless.   

Tax compliant invoices that are digital in nature, can be easily accessed, viewed, and shared, regardless of the device used. They are usually portable and flexible for use. A digital tax compliant invoice looks a lot like a paper invoice, even though it can only be seen on a computer or phone.  

Electronic invoicing on the other hand is the representation of pure data (typically in software code format) which makes interpretation challenging for the untrained eye but is machine readable and structured for automated processing. E-invoicing includes tax-compliant data but goes beyond that, as it involves the digitalisation of the entire invoicing process, making it more efficient and environmentally friendly. E-invoicing can encompass various formats, including electronic documents and structured data exchange, while tax compliant invoicing mainly focuses on meeting most of commercial and some tax requirements.  

Given the simple description above, let’s delve into the differences between the two:  

1. Scope and Purpose  

  • Ensuring that the components of an invoice are accurate and compliant, although it also includes information for commercial usage. Tax authorities are typically not concerned about the medium of delivery or distribution of such invoices.   
  • E-invoicing encompasses the entire process of electronic invoicing; from creation and delivery, to reporting to tax authorities in a machine-readable format. It includes electronic exchange and automation of invoicing procedures.  

2. Regulatory Requirements  

  • VAT compliant invoicing is where invoices used for commercial purposes are also tailored to meet specific tax regulations and requirements set by local authorities. It is largely used for supporting  tax-related documentation and reporting.  
  • E-invoicing is a broader concept: it includes VAT compliant features, commercial data but is not limited to them. It involves producing them in-line with the tax authority provided schemas, structured for data exchange workflow automation.

3. Efficiency and Cost

  • There is a possibility tax compliant invoicing can help streamline tax-related processes, but it may not offer the same level of efficiency and cost savings as e-invoicing.  
  • E-invoicing offers the potential for significant savings by reducing manual labour and paper usage. It can enhance the entire invoicing workflow, not just the tax compliance and reporting aspects.   

The confusion between these two concepts arises because e-invoicing often incorporates tax-compliance features. Many e-invoicing solutions include the necessary functionalities to assist invoices adhering to local tax regulations. Consequently, businesses may mistakenly assume that they are synonymous. It’s important to recognise that the two terms are not interchangeable.  

A Helpful Tip: Distinguish Between Tax Compliant Invoicing and E-invoicing

Understanding the differences between tax compliant invoicing and e-invoicing is crucial for businesses looking to enhance their financial processes.  The easiest way to recognise one over the other is by looking at what the system focuses on.   

If the system is focused on VAT-related aspects, specifically designed to support compliance with tax regulations, it’s tax compliant invoicing.  

If the system covers the entire invoicing cycle, offering a broader range of electronic invoicing functionalities with structured data and machine-readable formats, including creation, delivery, and reporting, it’s e-invoicing.   

Understanding the differences between the two concepts is crucial for businesses looking to enhance their financial processes. While they share common elements, the scope and purpose of these practices differ significantly.  

Blog Author

Gunjan Tripathi Headshot

Gunjan Tripathi

EMEA Director, Product Marketing

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Gunjan Tripathi is a Director of Solutions Marketing for Vertex. In her role, she helps shape the strategic messaging and course for Vertex's Indirect Tax offerings. She is an experienced Chartered Tax Advisor, specialising in European VAT. Her tax career experiences comprise of consulting with EY, leading compliance at European Shared Service Centre for SC Johnson, Global VAT manager for Endeavor and VAT proposition lead at Thomson Reuters. She holds a Bachelor of Honours in Economics from the University of Delhi, India and a Master of Science in Development Studies from School of Oriental & African Studies from the University of London. She is an Executive MBA scholar at the Warwick Business School and member of the Chartered Institute of Taxation.

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