Australia now has a national standard for e-invoicing

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Australia now has a national standard for e-invoicing

Govt expected to follow industry rollout.

Australian industry and government could be running on a unified, national standard for electronic invoicing within a year after a joint private-public council approved the final framework for implementation.

The standard is a result of a push by the Australian Tax Office, which jumped on similar efforts by the retail industry last year and led the creation of the Digital Business Council.

The council is an industry-run joint body charged with building a national framework of standards for the processing of electronic invoices.

It followed the tax office’s commissioning of a report [pdf] into e-invoicing last year which found a unified approach could save the economy as much as $10 billion per year, and up to $3 billion for government agencies alone.

But much needed to be done to boost the current rate of e-invoicing adoption in Australia from between 10 and 15 percent.

After months of consulation, last week a framework was approved by the council - which is made up of industry bodies, technology companies like MYOB and Xero, and government agencies - for introduction.

It dictates use of the ISO-approved OASIS universal business language (UBL) XML specification for messaging and eBMS 3.0 standard for transport (the same as used for the ATO’s SuperStream scheme).

Now the technical framework has been bedded down, the council can move onto the adoption phase.

ATO business reporting and registration assistant commissioner John McAlister told iTnews several of the council’s members were already working on bringing the standards to life with an aggressive timeline as early as this coming September. He declined to provide names.

The plan is to have full implementation available in software products like Xero and MYOB by this time next year.

The government has not yet committed to rolling out the standards across the public sector, but did pledge funds in the recent federal budget for a scoping study to see whether it should adopt the framework, and how it would go about doing so.

“The first phase is due to report back into the interdepartmental committee [this] week, and then that will lead on the some further work, including that the COAG senior officials have asked that this be included on the agenda for state and territory rollout as well,” McAlister said.

“The business community often say to us that if the government were to do something different, then everything they’ve done is null and void. Because while the government isn’t as big and influential it’s got very big pockets [and] it’s easy for it to overtake what the community has done.

“But what the [business community] is saying here is they’re seeing enough interest from government in order to implement this, and as early as September.”

The framework is not mandatory, meaning the Digital Business Council is relying on invoicing software vendors, banks, and others to implement the standards of their own accord.

But McAlister is expecting a network effect given the mutual benefits on offer as compared to “exclusive islands of trade”.

“When there was one fax machine it wasn’t much use to that person who owned it. When there were two, you could have a conversation, and as you start to add more to the network it becomes much more efficient and you get much more economies of scale,” he said.

“You have to start somewhere. The reality is there’s much more efficiency and benefits to be gained by enabling all of these environments than there is by trying to create proprietary ones.”

McAlister is presenting at the Technology in Government conference in Canberra this week

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