Companies struggling to meet Italy’s electronic invoicing deadline of Jan. 1 will get some relief from financial penalties if they can’t immediately issue invoices at the moment of supply, but it seems the Italian Tax Authority will not delay rolling out the system.
The government had stated that invoices that did not comply with the new mandate after Jan. 1 would be subject to penalties ranging from 90 to 180 percent of the applicable tax. The tax authority will consider invoices not correctly formatted or not issued through the new SDI reporting system to be non-compliant.
But many businesses, especially smaller firms, have had trouble transitioning from their existing processes to the new e-invoicing framework that requires real-time e-invoice clearance through the state-operated Sistema di Interscambio, or SDI, platform.
In response to business concerns, the government is opening up to a grace period of sorts: Instead of postponing the e-invoicing roll-out as such, Italy will waive penalties for delayed clearance transmission. Furthermore, as of July 2019, Italy will loosen the main rule for when an invoice must be issued, which effectively will allow businesses more flexibility in the e-invoicing process.
Businesses get a grace period for Italian electronic invoicing penalties
The new rules on penalties allow for a short grace period. The tax authority will not apply penalties for e-invoices that are issued and cleared by the SDI within the VAT liquidation period to which the invoice belongs – in other words, by the 15th of the following month in which the invoice should be issued and consequently cleared (according to Decree n. 100 from 1998, updated in 2018). For e-invoices that the SDI issues and clears by the end of the following VAT liquidation period (usually the end of the following month), the tax authority will reduce the penalty by 80 percent.
For example, if a business can’t transmit invoices in compliance on Jan. 1, it can delay the clearance transmission of an invoice that should have been issued to February 15 without any penalties for the delay. If the business still needs more time, it can delay the clearance transmission of invoices through the SDI until March 15 and pay an 80 percent reduction of the regular penalty.
Italy eases timing of electronic invoicing issuance
Italy is also loosening its requirement for the timing of issuing an invoice. Since 1972, Italian VAT law has stated that suppliers must issue invoices to the government at the point of supply. However, beginning in July, suppliers will be able to issue invoices through the SDI platform within 10 days of supply. Invoices not cleared by SDI are not valid for fiscal purposes, so taking 10 days to issue an invoice could cause delays in receiving payment.
For companies doing business in Italy, the relief is welcome, but it is also a sign that Italian e-invoicing is moving forward on schedule. That means companies with Italian operations need to get their systems ready to comply with the new mandate or face penalties by mid-February.
Takeaways: What this means for doing business in Italy
What is also clear from the latest developments is that e-invoicing regulations in Italy can change at any time. The problem becomes exponentially more difficult to solve when businesses figure in similar changes happening all over the world. Adopting a system that automates e-invoicing and provides a single source of truth for data in both accounts payable and accounts receivable is essential.