Spain joins the trend towards mandatory electronic invoicing
A new law that aims to help in the creation and development of companies changes the rules regarding electronic invoicing, but Fernando Matesanz of Spanish VAT Services says that clarification is needed.
A new Spanish law for the creation and growth of companies was officially published in September 2022. This is not a tax law, but rather a law that aims to strengthen Spanish businesses and industries.
The measures are aimed at:
Speeding up the creation of companies;
Improving the regulation for the development of economic activities; and
Facilitating access to financing.
Among the measures approved in this new law is the mandatory use of electronic invoicing. This is an important step in Spain, because until now, electronic invoicing was not compulsory, except in certain business-to-government cases.
The new law establishes that all companies and professionals (not limited to those resident in Spanish territory) must issue, send, and receive electronic invoices in their commercial relationships with other companies and professionals (B2B).
Further guidance required
As mentioned above, this is not a law with tax content, so, although it may seem surprising, not much more is mentioned about this new obligation. It is therefore necessary to wait for the publication of the corresponding implementing regulation, which will provide more guidance on the new invoicing process.
This regulation is also important because it will be the point from which the deadlines for the obligation to become effective will start to run. In this sense, the entry into force of this rule will be one year after the publication of the aforementioned regulation for companies and professionals whose annual turnover exceeds €8 million ($8 million). For all other companies and professionals, the entry into force will be two years after the publication of said regulation.
The regulation will also be of particular importance given that there is still an intense debate as to what should be considered electronic invoicing in Spain. Can a PDF document be considered electronic invoicing?
A few years ago, Spain eliminated the obligation for invoices to have a specific format in order to be considered electronic, provided that the issuer could ensure, by its own means, the integrity of the content and the authenticity of the origin. It will be interesting to see if this will continue to be the case with this new obligation.
With regard to invoice-issuing software systems, the law states that the technological solutions and platforms offered by electronic invoicing service providers must guarantee their interconnection and interoperability. At the same time, they must provide access so that users can read, copy, download, and print electronic invoices free of charge. They must also be able to connect to the Spanish Tax Office's systems, and their processes must guarantee the integrity, conservation, accessibility, legibility, traceability, and inalterability of the invoicing records. Companies offering invoicing services will therefore need to make a huge effort to adapt to the new obligation.
Although it is not entirely clear, it seems that the obligations relating to invoice-issuing software systems will be mandatory only for Spanish companies, while the obligation to issue electronic invoices will be mandatory for all types of companies or professionals, regardless of where they are established.
In addition, the circumstances under which it will be necessary and mandatory to have software that supports invoicing processes need to be clarified.
In other words, it is possible that a company may be obliged to issue electronic invoices in accordance with the new regulations but, depending on what may be considered an electronic invoice, not need to use invoicing software, as long as it can guarantee the integrity of the content and the authenticity of the origin of the invoices by its internal means and procedures.
In that case, provided that it can make the invoices available to its customers, it could be said that there is no need for it to have invoicing software that meets all the complex technical requirements mentioned above. This is an interpretation of the text of the present piece of legislation, but it will have to be clarified, for which it will be particularly important to have a clear and precise definition of what an electronic invoice is.
We can see that there are still aspects of this new obligation that need to be clarified. Therefore, the implementing regulation will be very welcome. There is certain anxiety in Spain among stakeholders to know the text of the same as soon as possible.
Another issue to be considered is how it will fit in with the European Commission´s proposal on VAT in the digital age. For businesses, it is of particular relevance to avoid the fragmentation that these purely local regulations produce in the market. So, sooner or later, some degree of harmonisation or consensus at EU level will be required.