Secure Electronic Invoicing Service (SELIS)

Published on: 10/12/2007
SELIS is a cross-border service for the secure exchange of e-invoices offering a highly adoptable solution. It is based on an innovative, alternative to EDI, e-invoicing architecture which adopts the most advanced and widely adopted standards for secure interoperable service provision currently available (Web services, XML, PKI), while satisfying all the requirements imposed by EC policies. SELIS enables smooth integration and interoperability with existing accounting software. The SELIS architecture has already been selected by the CENISSS eInvoicing Focus Group (and appeared in its 2003 Report) as a member state example for an eInvoice solution. The project tested and evaluated the feasibility for deployment of SELIS via trials at national and European level involving the participating Chambers and the following fourteen (14) SMEs from: - France: Ysentis, Sisteer, Combbase, Air Glass - Greece: ELSOP, d.d.synergy Hellas S.A, Protech Information Systems S.A, Teletel, Sigular Logic - Romania: International Trade Center, Cand I.T. Solutuons, Attract Trading Company, Carfil, Sistem

Policy Context

-Council Directive 2001/115/EC of 20 December 2001 amending Directive 77/388/EEC with a view to simplifying, modernising and harmonising the conditions laid down for invoicing in respect of value added tax. This Directive clarifies the implementation of e-invoicing through the Member States and aims to introduce harmonized procedures for invoicing (paper or electronic invoicing) across Member State borders in a homogeneous home market. According to the Directive Businesses operating in EU Member States should have simplified invoicing regulations and procedures harmonized at EU Community level as of January 2004. The Directive additionally promotes the use of PKI by obligating EU countries to accept digitally signed electronic documents. -Directive 1999/93/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 December 1999 on a Community Framework for electronic signatures. The Directive facilitates the use of electronic signatures throughout the EU, contributes to their legal recognition, establishes the legal framework for electronic signatures and certification services providers and ensures proper functioning of internal markets in certification services and e-signatures. According to the Directive “… an advanced electronic signature could guarantee the authenticity of origin and integrity of the contents”. Member States may however ask for the advanced electronic signature to be based on a qualified certificate and created by a secure signature device, within the meaning of Article 2 (6) and (10) of the aforementioned Directive.

Description of target users and groups

Chambers of Commerce, SMEs

Description of the way to implement the initiative

SELIS spanned around three concepts: -promotion of the SELIS service; -promotion of the SELIS research activities involved in the secure e-invoicing; -links with standardization bodies-clustering activities; which led to the involvement of different spectrum of audiences from different backgrounds from the public, private and academic sectors. Each underlined concept recalled a route for activities. Extended trials and evaluations occurred among the three involved Chambers of Commerce and the fourteen (14) SMEs from Romania, Greece and France that were involved. The pilot phase remained open until the end of the project inviting more users (the members of the eBuisiness forum on e-invoicing, CEN/e-invoincing working group, conference participants) to test it.

Technology solution

SELIS relies on XML and Web Services for security and interoperability, a fact which enables smooth integration with existing accounting software that organisations may use, as well as stand- alone use of the service, that would suit smaller companies or individuals. This is achieved by publishing the provided service in UDDI directories, from which the service description, formulated as specified by WSDL, can be retrieved and therefore used by other Web Services conforming to the appropriate message formats. These formats are in turn defined in the XML Common Business Library 4.0. XML is used for formatting the e-invoice document, allowing the use of XML digital signatures and the integration of timestamping tokens to the document. The schema adopted for the e-invoice document is a subset of the above mentioned XML Common Business Library, which covers all mandatory fields defined in Directive 2001/115/EC. The exchange mechanism for e-invoices relies on SOAP messaging with Web Services Security extensions. Storage is handled by an XML database to satisfy the requirement for secure storage of the exchanged e-invoices in the form in which they were sent and received. Integrity and non-repudiation for the e-invoice documents is ensured by the use of XML digital signatures. Technology choice: Standards-based technology, Open source software

Main results, benefits and impacts

The SELIS deployment model minimizes the requirements for expensive IT systems or highly skilled personnel, and the incurring overheads. Its independency from specific accounting systems facilitates SMEs in introducing eInvoicing in their financial practices. EInvoicing enables SMEs to broaden their range of business even to include cross-border commercial activities. This will enhance the presence of SMEs in the European market, where now large organizations prevail. Furthermore, SELIS offers processes to facilitate public tax authorities in automated electronic auditing. The active endorsement of SELIS by the CoCs encourages and supports SMES to adopt an affordable e-service. Presently SMEs have limited e-commerce involvement due to their size, infrastructure and budget. SELIS will promote their e-skills by enabling them to integrate e-invoicing. The fundamental role of the CoCs in the provision of the SELIS service will introduce an extra element of business relationship with the SMEs. The CoCs will form a partnership with private companies, leaders in the IT security market, in order to address all security issues pertaining to the service. SELIS is a cross-border service allowing enterprises to exchange invoices regardless of their location as long as they agree on a common supported format supported. SELIS promotes the homogeneous use of invoices offers clarity in VAT related processes. Organisations in less developed regions will not encounter difficulties in adopting SELIS and benefit from its functionality, due to its affordability and adoptability. SELIS achieves and promotes interconnection and interoperability through the use of accepted and emerging technology standards. SELIS will increase competitiveness by enabling organizations to be more efficient in handing invoicing transactions and by facilitating trade relationships of European organizations with non-European business partners. SELIS has been designed to conform to a specific set of widely accepted standards and emerging recommendations (e.g. XML, XML Digital signatures and XML encryption, XAdES, Web Services and Web Services Security, WSDL, UDDI). The SELIS architecture and components tackle with all security issues (e.g. access control, data confidentiality, integrity, non-repudiation and security mechanisms such as digital signatures, encryption, time stamping, smart cards).

Return on investment

Return on investment: €15-49,000

Track record of sharing

The SELIS architecture has already been selected by the CENISSS eInvoicing Focus Group (and appeared in its 2003 Report) as a Member State example for an eInvoice solution. SELIS has been awarded as eTEN Project of the Month (May 2007). Extended trials and evaluations occurred among the three involved Chambers of Commerce and the fourteen (14) SMEs from Romania, Greece and France that were involved. The pilot phase remained open and the following entities tested it: members of the eBusiness forum on e-invoicing, CEN/e-invoincing working group, IST-GENESIS, eTen-TENUTA , IST-SWEB projects.

Lessons learnt

From a business perspective, Electronic invoicing has a great potential to facilitate trade within Europe. Primary established, it is commonly admitted that EDI is not the solution widely spread, mainly because of its complexity and cost of implementation and maintenance. Further, EDI is a peer to peer solution, up to now dedicated to large enterprises. As e-invoicing requires a partnership between companies, the format has to be generic and well accepted, the efforts needed to connect an additional supplier or customer must be easy. If EDI was effective for achieving some of the objectives related to e-invoicing, it is a matter of fact it is not adapted for SMEs. They will simply not adopt it. SELIS proposed a modern approach of e-invoicing developed on an XML based standard file. Furthermore, connectors could be easily developed to interface existing ERP or CRM products. The customers have the opportunity to choose between a web-based infrastructure hosted by Application Service Providers or installing a standalone solution. The cost will be highly acceptable since the price will not exceed 1/3 of the expected benefit of e-invoicing. SELIS is a plug and play solution, easy to use, with a huge potential. From a technical perspective, the major lessons learnt include: there exist major interoperability problems with respect to interconnecting web based electronic invoicing solutions to existing ERP systems, digital signatures technologies need to become more transparent and more user friendly in order to be widely used in important services such e-invoicing and e-procurement. From a legal perspective, the e-invoicing Directive has not been adopted by all member states, therefore not all national implementations share the same sensitivity towards offering a common security and privacy framework for e-invoicing. This may have a negative impact on privacy policies negotiation between different implementations. Scope: Local (city or municipality), National, Regional (sub-national)