Portugal’s digital uptake: Is the country “there” yet?
When asking Miguel if he thinks Portugal is a digital country he answers “not yet”. He explains how Portugal has good digital services but a lot of processes still require archaic of working. Citizens must appear in person for many tasks, and the use of digital payments and digital signatures are not utilised as well as they could be.
The country was once known as a very digital country and is making strong efforts to climb back to its former ranking.
In 2015 the government launched a digital solutions project, allowing all businesses and citizens to have use of a digital identity certificate. The government didn’t stop there. They began an initiative called Simplex, a flagship programme aiming to modernise public services.
“Simplex integrates measures of simplification, modernisation and innovation, enshrining digital as a rule of action as a way to improve the quality of public services, focused on life events relevant to people and companies.” [Translated]
Miguel believes the Portuguese are innovative and embrace the use of new digital technologies. But they do not like to be forced to change. Change must occur naturally and in a gradual way.
Portugal’s use of electronic invoicing: 2013 to today
The early adoption of certified invoicing software
Gradual change can be seen in Portugal’s uptake of mandatory electronic invoicing (e-invoicing).
Portugal began implementing mandatory e-invoicing in 2019, but the use of e-invoicing software was put to use six years earlier.
Since 2013, businesses have been required to use certified software for invoicing and tax. Although tax is not electronic invoicing, the same principle is there. Portuguese businesses are accustomed to using software to create invoices and communicate tax, they are simply not doing so within a mandatory e-invoicing model.
The start of mandatory electronic invoicing
In 2019 this all changed. In April of the year, all public administrations had to have the processes in place to receive and process e-invoices using Portugal’s government e-invoicing platform eSPap. The change applied to any resident business sending invoices to public administrations.
In January 2021, the mandates evolved to include large businesses. And in July 2021, the mandates extended even further, including medium and small businesses in scope.
How did Portuguese businesses react?
We asked Miguel how businesses responded to the mandatory changes. He believes many businesses are not yet seeing the benefits. Instead, they see e-invoicing as an obligation they have to fulfil.
This is where e-invoicing service providers can show their worth. Miguel believes they need to communicate the benefits of electronic invoicing and the value-added-services they provide. Services such as digital payments, document reconciliation and digital signatures.
Digital is starting to play a key role in Portuguese business processes, but Miguel thinks this could improve. One example he provides is the current use of mandatory QR codes on all e-invoices:
Valuable services such as QR code payment functionality, which many e-invoicing providers are offering as part of their solution.
Miguel, where do you see Portugal’s e-invoicing future?
Miguel also believes an uptake of e-invoicing services will only take place, when there is the obligation to do so.
In order to increase the uptake without an obligation, e-invoicing providers need to communicate the benefits. Benefits such as cost and time savings, future-proofing processes and streamlined ways of working.
Solutions providers can show businesses that not only can they prepare ahead of mandatory changes, but they can reap many business advantages too.
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