When is the invoice credible?
Ensuring the authenticity of the origin of an electronic invoice using a recognised electronic signature is relatively easy, yet commonly the electronic PDF sent by mail is usually considered as an electronic invoice. How to ensure the authenticity of the origin in these cases?
According to The Financial Administration of the Czech Republic, a document sent by e-mail cannot itself be considered as an invoice with guaranteed authenticity. The VAT Act states security assurance through control mechanisms of processes generating a reliable link between the invoice and performance of the invoiced activity. In practice these are related accounting records / documents, such as purchase requests, contracts, shipping documents, delivery notes, receipts in case of goods or notes for materials. These documents must be retained as long as the actual invoices, i.e. 10 years after the end of the tax period in which the transaction was carried out.
An electronic invoice can be converted to a hard copy (paper form) and vice versa. If there is reliable proof of the credibility of the invoice through the already described control mechanisms, then the document delivered in electronic form can be easily printed out. If you cannot prove the credibility of the invoice with the relevant documentation, then it is necessary to validate it by official electronic signature and the transfer to hard copy may be carried out by the authorised conversion, usually through a Czech Point office. When converting from a hard copy to electronic form, you can once more use the converting through a Czech Point office or again you need to have enough relevant and related documentation. The transfer of invoices from a hard copy to electronic form is possible also for documents issued before 1 January of this year.
Electronic documents can be archived either with the data guaranteeing the authenticity electronically (signing certificates, encryption keys or other means by which you can safely determine which entity issued the document) or you must have (so often referred in this article) relevant documentation proving the credibility of the invoice.
A “Cookbook” on how to assure the authenticity of invoices:
1) An entity shall determine whether it will receive invoices in hard copy or in electronic form only, or shall determine the rules which documents will be received in electronic form and which are in hard copy. The invoices amount, duration of the cooperation or knowledge of the supplier can be the criterion.
2) How to assure the authenticity of the invoice issuer?
- a) by paper documents: it is possible to ensure the credibility by using the letterhead and stamp and signature of the invoice issuer. The company should have internally determined, who is issuing invoices, who is signing invoices, who is approving invoices. To ensure a reliable link between the invoice and its execution then the invoice shall include:
- order number, or
- reference to the contract, or
- breakdown of the activities of specific people in specific days
- b) by electronic documents: the authenticity of the origin of the invoice in electronic form can be proved by:
- recognised electronic signature
- recognised electronic brand
- electronic information exchange (EDI) or
- control mechanisms of processes
When choosing a security assurance by process control mechanisms: Credibility can be established by matching the invoice with the purchase order, contract, sent questions (whose answering was invoiced) or at least by confirmation of the payment. The person responsible for matching the invoice with evidence documents is the person responsible for invoicing.
3) How to assure the authenticity of the invoice receiver?
- a) If the invoice is received electronically with a recognised electronic signature, recognised electronic brand or electronic information exchange (EDI) it must be internally determined how to treat such a document, in order to avoid infringement of the electronic document security
- b) If the invoice arrives by e-mail without the security stated in the preceding paragraph, the person responsible for the order of goods or services must, through control mechanisms of processes, ensure the credibility of the invoice, e.g. by signed order confirmation, the delivery note or at least by confirmation of payment. During the process of granting a consent to receive electronic documents, it should be determined from which e-mail address invoices would be sent.
c) If receiving invoices in hard copy, the person responsible for the order should also ensure the credibility by control mechanisms of processes – see section 3) b)
Author: Petr Vondraš