Electronic invoicing for procurement across the EU came a step closer this week after a directive paving the way for a standardised form of e-invoice was published in the Official Journal.

Directive 2014/55 on electronic invoicing (the "Directive") will see contracting authorities across the EU forced to accept e-invoices which comply with a standard form. The Commission estimates that such e-invoicing could make savings of up to 2.3 billion Euros.

The Directive was published in the Official Journal on 6 May 2014. Member states must implement the Directive by 27 November 2018 at the latest.

The Directive provides for a common, interoperable form of e-invoice to be produced by the European standardisation organisations, which will be adopted before 27 May 2017.  Following publication of the standard form, central government contracting authorities will have 18 months in which to implement it. Local and regional contracting authorities will be able to derogate from this standard for a further 12 months.

The publication of the Directive is part of a wider move towards end-to-end e-procurement across the EU, as part of the continuing effort to make purchasing for public sector bodies across the EU more efficient. It is also hoped e-invoicing will improve access to the market for all suppliers, including SMEs.