“Planet” Paraguay: electronic invoicing doesn’t have a chance

Sometimes it can be helpful to broaden your horizons. People often tend to downplay things they’ve already achieved, and everybody looks at things too negatively from time to time. If we wanted to assess the state of electronic invoicing in the world, we would have to say: there’s a movement underway in Europe, but companies could enjoy much greater cost savings and efficiency if they converted from paper to digital documents more quickly. A businessman in Paraguay, on the other hand, would see our situation in Europe as heaven on earth.


Invoicing hurdles from the tax authorities

Actually, compared to our own systems, invoicing in this Latin American country might as well be from another planet. Companies are only allowed to make invoices using pre-printed forms, which they request from the tax authority as pads of numbered paper – “Timbrado.” Then, an officially certified print shop manufactures and delivers the appropriate numbered pads.


Work for the printers…

This is expensive, of course, eats up time, and creates unnecessary work for companies and revenue authorities. But it is a major way to create work for print shops – and that’s exactly what’s been a stumbling block to introducing digital invoicing. The finance ministry does want to start introduction within three years, however. The tax authorities are supportive, arguing that the necessary technology has been available for quite some time already.


…Resistance from the industry

But the printer’s industry association has already claimed it will threaten them with bankruptcy. 800 print shops wouldn’t be able to withstand losing the lucrative business of paper invoicing, and 5,000 jobs hang in the balance. Those in charge need at least four to six years to prepare for the shift, and they claim there’s no way to introduce electronic invoicing sooner. Mind you: when the industry talks about “preparation,” they actually mean cutting off unwanted printing competitors from China or India! Another suggestion they’ve made is that companies should be obligated to produce paper invoices in addition to using electronic billing – a computer could go down, after all, losing all its files. They’ve obviously never heard of data security.


Alibi – online ordering

There has, however, been one small advance for business owners in Paraguay: they can now order their pre-printed forms online. That doesn’t seem to bother the printer’s lobby. In any case, this example demonstrates: everything’s not perfect in Europe. But when we do complain, we’re generally complaining at a pretty sophisticated level.