Belgium adheres to the European vision, that recognizes e-Invoicing as a source of significant efficiency increase. According to the studies ordered by the Belgian Service for Administrative Simplification, e-Invoicing is expected to generate savings of at least 3,5 billion per year in Belgium. Consequently, the public sector takes measures to stimulate adoption of e-Invoicing by all parties, amongst which the generalization of Business-to-Government (B2G) e-Invoicing.
The following key-line items characterize the Belgian approach: (1°) maximize interoperability, (2°) reuse relevant experience, existing solutions and best practices, and (3°) progress step by step. During an initial pilot project, the Belgian public sector installed Mercurius, a unique B2G e-Invoices reception and transmission solution, based on the ePRIOR platform developed and used by the European Institutions. At the end of the pilot, Belgium decided to integrate Mercurius with PEPPOL, going one step further towards interoperability with the private sector. Since April 1st, 2016, the public sector recommends PEPPOL as the most convenient channel to receiving invoices. Besides, the use of PEPPOL is made more transparent thanks to the existence of Mercurius, the single B2G e-Invoices reception platform. This platform is instrumented with a web interface that allows any sender to check status of his/her invoices. This web interface is also accessible to intermediates/service providers and customer representatives, so that all parties share the same “track and trace” information.
Sellers 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. For more information about the PEPPOL transport infrastructure, including a list of Access Point service providers and their main country of operation, please click here.
Use of PEPPOL
Use of PEPPOL is clearly positioned as the favorite option for the public sector. Indeed, PEPPOL is the result of a 2 years large scale pilot executed in the context of the digital agenda for Europe. This very inclusive project defined the conditions for generalization of eProcurement and selected and the existing practical solutions and integrated them together in an interoperability framework. Since 2012 this framework has become a reality. More than 140 access points, 50 receivers registries and 7 PEPPOL authorities cooperate to deliver a transparent, reliable and secure documents transport service. While PEPPOL is keeping growing and improving day after day, to date it is the e-Delivery solution with the highest potential.
Currently, PEPPOL is used only for e-Invoicing (invoices and credit notes). However, The Belgian public sector considers extending PEPPOL use to other procurement processes. An e-Ordering Pilot was launched in July 2016, driven by the Flemish Government.
Use of identifiers
In line with the Belgian legal framework, enterprises are expected to use their enterprise number in the Belgian Crossroad Bank of Enterprises. In order to facilitate this, the Belgian Authorities have registered a specific Identification scheme, “BE:CBE” (ID: 9956). Enterprises are strongly recommended to use this Identification scheme on their e-Invoices, as this considerably simplifies the master vendor data management, and guarantees proper routing of documents between correspondents. Identification Scheme BE/VAT, although still tolerated, is rather to be used for non-domestic correspondence, and for meeting VAT-specific requirements. All active entities of the Belgian Authorities are registered with their enterprise number.
Use of formats
Both PEPPOL BIS and ePRIOR reuse the CEN BII workshops results, so the Belgian Authorities were already receiving PEPPOL BIS-compliant invoices when the decision was made to integrate with the PEPPOL interoperability framework. The Belgian Authorities have no specific needs that would motivate deviation from the BIS profile. Since the BIS profile is supposed to be common to all correspondents, the Belgian Authorities have registered only this format. More specifically, profile 04 (invoice) and 05 (Billing) are supported.
The Belgian public sector recognizes the added value a PEPPOL Authority (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. Besides, a PA relays local concerns to the global level; this feedback mechanism is expected to have a decisive impact on the interoperability across PEPPOL. Since January 1st 2016, Fedict is the official Belgian PA. As such it is the Access Points accreditation instance in Belgium. Besides, in partnership with other public and private organizations and federations (local, regional and federal), Fedict runs awareness programs and discussion platforms.
PEPPOL support provided by the PEPPOL Authority
The Belgian PA offers the following support to the 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 and trace the e-invoicing traffic with the public sector.
Belgian Service Metadata Publisher (SMP)
From Januari 1st 2017, the Belgian public sector also offers national SMP, free of charge for registration of receiving capabilities. All parties receiving documents on PEPPOL are expected to use this SMP to register their receiving capabilities. Access points are invited to sign the annex 5 of the Belgian transport infrastructure agreement, which specifies that all Belgian participants are to be registered in the Belgian SMP.
This registry is used by the access points to verify the identity of individual participants, localize the access point where they can be reached, and to confirm their receiving capabilities: the types of documents (PEPPOL BIS) or data that the participant can receive via the PEPPOL infrastructure.
Onboarding to Access Point providers
Candidates PEPPOL Access Point Providers can submit their candidature to Fedict. Fedict will guide them through the onboarding procedure:
- Membership of open PEPPOL AISBL (signing the membership request and paying the adequate fee)
- Signing the transport Infrastructure agreement with the Belgian PA,
- Receiving a test certificate and conducting the conformance testing activities
- Obtaining the Production certificate
Notice that Belgian candidate APs may reuse the conformance testing infrastructure operated by Norway. A European testing infrastructure project is being evaluated. According to the results of this evaluation, new conformance testing resources may replace existing ones.
Click here to download the Belgian Access Point Provider agreement and onboarding procedure.
Besides, Fedict runs the Mercurius gateway, the default reception platform for invoices to the Belgian public sector. Mercurius is instrumented with a web interface, which offers support to Belgian correspondents and Access Points in their e-Invoicing activities.
Fedict also plans to animate a forum of Belgian Access Points service providers, to improve communication of relevant information within the sector, including feedback collection.
Mercurius web interface (MWI)
MWI is accessible to many different stakeholders, both for test and production purposes. Access points who sign a TIA with the Belgian PA, get a privileged access to MWI, which helps them to get unpreceded, full control over the invoicing flow of their customers with the public sector. They can track reception, distribution and approval of all invoices delivered through their infrastructure. They can detect issues and quickly react to them, offering a better service to their installed based. Besides, Mercurius has a support team that handles residual issues, that can’t be resolved by the AP providers and/or the correspondents, in self-service mode using MWI.
Additional sources of information:
Main website over e-Invoicing in Belgium: www.efacture.belgium.be
Website from the Flemish Government dedicated to e-invoicing: https://overheid.vlaanderen.be/e-invoicing