Electronic invoicing is finally gathering momentum, with the release of Link4’s new e-invoicing portal and a government-backed framework.
If you've given any thought to the invoicing process, you've probably realised how inefficient it is. You generate an invoice in your accounting system, then either print it and hand or post it to the client, or generate a PDF version of the paper document and email it to them.
The client in turn enters the data into their accounting system (possibly with the help of OCR software, or with the aid of services such as EzzyBills).
This process would have become a lot more effortless years ago if a standardised format for electronic invoices had been settled in time for the widespread adoption of accounting software by small businesses ahead of the introduction of the GST in 2000. But it wasn't.
Sure, there were various pockets of integration, but nothing that was intended for economy-wide use. So the vast majority of invoices stayed on paper or pseudo-paper (PDF), although more recently some cloud accounting systems such as Xero have provided a mechanism to automatically turn the supplier's invoice into the customer's bill as long as both parties use the same system.
Fast forward to 2014, when the tax office commissioned a study that found a whole of economy approach to e-invoicing could save Australia between $7 billion and $10 billion a year.
That led to the formation of what is now called the Digital Business Council, which has been working towards this goal, publishing its interoperability framework in late 2016.
By the end of 2017, the council is expected to encourage all businesses and government departments to start using e-invoicing.
Link4 already offers a service that connects Xero, MYOB, QuickBooks, Reckon, Saasu and Sage One so that users of those systems don't need to re-enter each others' invoices.
The company's latest development is the creation of a portal allowing accountants and bookkeepers to manage e-invoicing for their clients, adding any or all of them to the network through a simple dashboard.
The dashboard also allows accountants and bookkeepers to track and report on their clients' invoicing activity.
"It's free to join the e-invoicing network," said Link4 CEO Robin Sands.
A small organisation sending and receiving no more than ten invoices a month can use Link4's service free of charge. Paid tiers start at $40 a month for up to 50 invoices.
"We encourage all accountants and bookkeepers to sign up their clients which will open up the opportunity for e-invoicing within their businesses," added Sands.
"E-invoicing will revolutionise the Australian business landscape and we want to do our part to help as many businesses benefit as possible."