Recent changes to Russia’s tax legislation will allow companies to issue and transfer electronic documents to counterparties and state authorities (please see the Legal Digest, July 2010).

In line with this, the Ministry of Finance (the “Ministry”) recently published a draft order to regulate the procedure by which companies issue and receive electronic invoices (the “Draft Order”).

In accordance with the Draft Order, electronic invoices are exchanged via special organisations that manage electronic documents (the “Operator”). The Operator is responsible for sending the electronic invoice to the recipient.

In addition, in order to be eligible to send documents in electronic form, the seller must:

  • provide electronic versions of the signatures of those authorised to sign invoices, as well as obtain the digital certificates for such signatures;
  • present information to the Operator on the company as well as on the holders of the digital certificates (in turn, the Operator provides this information to the tax authorities); and
  • obtain from the Operator the electronic identifier and details necessary to gain access to the electronic document management system.  

The buyer must also have access to the electronic document management system and must receive the digital certificates from the Operator so that it will be able to verify the authenticity of the seller’s electronic signatures.

Electronic document management will be in working order once the Ministry approves (in addition to the Draft Order) the format for electronic invoices, the electronic registers of received and issued invoices as well as the electronic purchase and sales ledgers. Previously it was assumed that all of the required regulatory documents would have appeared by the beginning of 2011.

Given that the Ministry has only published the Draft Order, it is too soon to talk about the specific time periods for introducing into operation all of the documents required to start sending and receiving electronic invoices.

[Draft Order No. 50n of the Ministry of Finance of the Russian Federation “On Approving the Procedure of Electronic Invoicing via Telecommunication with Electronic Signature”]