Portugal Issues New E-Invoicing Rules: A Flavour of Clearance But Not Quite There
21 March 2019
On 15 February 2019, Portugal published Decree-Law 28/2019 regarding the processing, archiving and dematerialization of invoices and other tax related documents including:
- The mandatory use of certified invoicing software
- General requirements for paper and electronic invoices
- Dematerialization of tax documentation
- Archiving of tax documentation (including ledgers, etc)
- Adjacent tax rules and obligations
The decree aims to consolidate rules and to promote the adoption of electronic means of dealing with tax documentation and archiving. It also aims to eliminate tax fraud by tightening controls through the identification of invoicing software, identifying where invoicing terminals are located, the mandatory obligation to include a unique document code (UUID) in the tax document and, finally, identifying the location of the transaction.
According to the Decree-Law, invoices (paper or electronic) must be processed using certified invoicing software, which must, amongst other things, complete the invoice’s content in line with the VAT law. Simplified invoices (issued for less than €100 Euro) can, however, be processed by “other electronic invoicing means” such as cash machines. The Decree-Law also regulates contingency situations where the invoice must be based on pre-printed documents.
- Scope extended for mandatory use of certified invoicing software
Having to use invoicing software that has been certified by the tax authority is not new in Portugal. However, the changes in the new Decree-Law mean that more taxpayers must now comply with the obligation as the mandate threshold has reduced. Previously it only affected companies (with a permanent establishment in Portugal) with a revenue in the previous year of €100K. It now includes companies with a revenue of over €75K (applicable during 2019) and reduces to €50K from 2020.
- Unique invoice code
The decree also mandates that from 1 January 2020, invoices must carry a unique invoice code (UUID) following the government’s requirements. The code will also be represented as a QR code on printed invoices. Both requirements are new and software providers will have to adapt their solutions in the future to meet these new legal requirements.
- Prior authorization of invoice series
Another new requirement set by the Decree-Law is that taxpayers must communicate to the tax authority the invoice series used by each establishment before issuing any invoice. The tax authority will assign to each series a code that must be included in the new mandatory UUID. While not the same, a similar requirement applies in many other countries, more specifically, in countries that have introduced a clearance model. In fact, Latin American countries with a clearance system often require taxpayers to either request prior invoice ranges from the tax authority, or to have an invoice series authorized by the tax authority, or to have the numeration done directly by the tax authority in connection with the clearance process. A good example of the first scenario is in Chile or Colombia, where taxpayers must request prior authorization of an invoice range by the Chilean tax authority. An example of the second process is Mexico, where the invoice is numbered by the state agent that intervenes in the clearance process. However, such a requirement is new in the EU context, demonstrating once more that Europe is drawing inspiration from Latin America’s success in closing their VAT gap.
- Guaranteeing integrity and authenticity in paper and electronic invoices
When it comes to guaranteeing the integrity and authenticity of invoices, it is worth noting that the decree deviates from the Directive 2010/45/EU as the possibility to use business controls provides a reliable audit trail (hereinafter BCAT) as a method of guaranteeing integrity and authenticity is expressly limited to paper-based invoices only. Furthermore, such controls must be properly documented.
For electronic invoices (ie those that are issued and received electronically) integrity and authenticity are guaranteed when one of the following methods is used: qualified e-signature; qualified e-seal in accordance with e-IDAS Regulation; or electronic data interexchange (EDI) with secure and documented processes to ensure integrity and authenticity. Taxpayers have until 31 December 2020 to migrate to the new methods of guaranteeing integrity and authenticity for electronic invoices.
Portugal is implementing its own vision when it comes to guarantees of integrity and authenticity putting itself, once more, closer to Latin American clearance countries where such guarantees are only achieved by digitally signing e-invoices. The distinction between methods (BCAT for paper invoices vs. e-signatures and EDI for electronic invoices) is an explicit preference of e-signatures and EDI over BCAT methods as the most efficient way to guarantee e-invoice integrity and authenticity.
- New obligations
In addition to the new invoicing requirements, the Decree-Law imposes taxpayers with new obligations to notify the tax authority with additional information. This includes:
- Identification and localization of the establishment from which invoices are issued
- Identification of equipment used to process invoices
- Invoicing software number used for each equipment
- Identification of distributors or companies in charge of deployment of the invoicing solutions
Taxpayers who have already carried out activities subject to VAT must present the above-mentioned information by 30 June 2019.
Francisco de la Colina, Legal Counsel, Sovos TrustWeaver
Francisco de la Colina is a lawyer working on the regulatory analysis team at Sovos TrustWeaver.