Call to Action: National e-Invoicing Framework

National e-Invoicing Framework – RESTful specifications

The Digital Business Council, with the support of the Australian Taxation Office and the Federal Department of Industry Innovation and Science, has established a national e-invoicing framework with a view to improving productivity for Australian business.

Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) is not new but has seen relatively slow uptake outside of a few industry sectors where implementations have centered around a small number of non-interoperable supply chain hubs. Total penetration of e-invoicing in Australia is around 15%.

In order to facilitate broad scale adoption, the Digital Business Council has established a technical working group at ausdigital.org that aims to leverage modern ubiquitous web standards such as REST, JSON, and OAuth to deliver a low cost peer-to-peer framework that can bring the benefits of end-to-end invoicing automation to all Australian businesses whilst maintaining interoperability with legacy EDI networks.

FinTech Australia’s members have been invited to participate in the development and implementation of the framework, whether simply as an interested observer or as an active participant. After reading this and reviewing the ausdigital.org site, you may choose to;

The Business Benefits

In the Australian economy there are around 1 Billion B2B invoices exchanged each year to a total value of around $4 Trillion and, on average, payment is made 55 days after invoice.

  • Each invoice costs and average of $20 to process (re-keying inefficiencies and and mis-keying error handling). That’s a productivity opportunity of up to $20 Billion per year at national level if invoices are end-to-end automated.
  • 55 days in accounts payable represents around $600 Billion of cashflow locked up – of which around $100 Billion is debt to cashflow-constrained small businesses. Digitally signed and notarised invoices and buyer acknowledgements offer a new trade financing opportunity to those businesses.

Read the more detailed business case story.

How It Works

Achieving ubiquitous peer-to-peer exchange of invoice data between businesses using different accounting and finance systems has some associated challenges. The detailed information about the suite of technical specifications at ausdigital.org but the key issues and specification features are;

  • Different business systems have to share a common understanding of invoice data and processes. That’s the purpose of the BILL specification which is based on the international UBL standard but uses a more modern and simpler JSON syntax.
  • In order for one business system to send the e-invoice to another, it needs to know whether the other business system supports the data standard, and, if so, what URL to send the invoice to. That’s the purpose of the DCL and DCP specifications which are like a federated directory of business capability.
  • Invoices contain sensitive data which should be private to the buyer and seller. They also represent a demand for payment and should only come from identified and authorised parties. That’s the purpose of the IDP, specification and the related digital certificates.
  • Network services need to be highly available so that a seller can send an invoice anytime. But buyer systems may not be always available. That’s the purpose of the TAP and TAP-GW specifications.
  • Sometimes its important that a non-repudiable and strongly identified audit trail of the seller invoice and buyer response is available – for example to use for trade financing. That’s the purpose of the NRY specification.

The specifications all follow the COSS (Consensus Oriented Specification System) development model and are released under the GPL3 open source license. All specifications are currently in “raw” status until further collaboration supports their transition to “draft”. Transition to “stable” requires at least two working implementations.

The Test Points and Reference Implementations

An interoperability framework with so many moving parts risks failures in production unless implementers have access to a test framework that is an adequate simulation of real production environments. Therefore the working group has also made significant progress on a suite of free test services and open source implementations at testpoint.io.

At present, only the test DCL, DCP and IDP services are active. The others are under construction and will follow over the next 4 to 5 weeks. All testpoint services are free and code is available under GPL3 open source license.

A Call to Action!

Please join the conversation and contribute your comments or suggestions!

On behalf of the DBC RESTful working group.

hi@ausdigital.org