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Singapore to adopt European e-invoicing standard

The city-state is the first country outside Europe to embrace the Peppol e-invoicing standard to speed up business transactions and lower operating costs for SMEs

Singapore has become the first country in Asia to adopt the Pan-European Public Procurement On-Line (Peppol) e-invoicing standard to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) become more competitive in the city-state’s growing digital economy.

With the use of the Peppol standard, which facilitates the exchange of machine-readable e-invoices over a network, SMEs can expect to speed up business transactions while reducing errors and operating costs.

Tan Kiat How, CEO of Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), said businesses that wish to adopt the Peppol standard will be able to do so at “affordable prices” through service providers that would help transmit invoice messages to recipients.

The implementation effort and timeframe, however, would depend on the type of e-invoicing, e-procurement and financial software currently being used by businesses, IMDA officials said at a recent media briefing.

To drive the use of Peppol in the city-state, the IMDA has also been appointed by OpenPeppol, a non-profit international association, as the national Peppol authority in Singapore, making it the first such authority outside Europe.

Meanwhile, organisations such as Singapore’s United Overseas Bank (UOB) have already stepped up efforts to help SMEs adopt e-invoicing.

Mervyn Koh, UOB’s managing director and country head of business banking in Singapore, said the bank will be spurring e-invoicing adoption through UOB BizSmart, a cloud-based service that helps SMEs issue invoices and receive payments quickly.

So far, more than 40 organisations, including pan-Asian retailer and supermarket operator Dairy Farm, have expressed interest in adopting the Peppol standard.

Tom van der Lee, finance director of Dairy Farm, said the company currently receives 95,000 manual invoices each year, adding that it takes more than a week to process those invoices with frequent errors, which has resulted in late payments to suppliers.

“Dairy Farm has always been committed to digitalising our business processes and implementing productivity gains. We have seen the clear operational benefits of e-invoicing and are keen to work with IMDA and industry players to increase adoption,” said van der Lee.

SMEs such as eVantage Technology, a Singapore-based IT service provider, is also jumping on the bandwagon. Its CEO Lim Soo Meng said although the company is already using e-invoices, the Peppol standard will help to alleviate the need to manage different e-invoice formats used by different clients.

In the public sector, government agencies, such as the Accountant-General’s Department, will be working with IMDA to integrate Vendors@Gov – a mobile app that lets government suppliers manage their invoices and payments on the go – into the nationwide e-invoicing framework.

Speaking at an industry event earlier this week, S. Iswaran, Singapore’s minister for communications and information, also singled out a pilot programme to install federated lockers in the residential neighbourhoods of Punggol and Bukit Panjang.

Announced in 2016, the government-led initiative will provide e-commerce shoppers with more delivery options, eliminating the hassle of having to pick up their parcels at the post office when they miss their deliveries.

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