Where is Portugal in its digital journey? With Unifiedpost Group’s Miguel Zegre
Portugal was once one of the most digital countries in Europe but has fallen from its top position over the last few years. Where does Portugal excel and which areas still need work?
We speak to Unifiedpost Portugal Country Manager, Miguel Zegre, to discuss the country’s use of digital technologies, where the country can improve and how digital plays a role in business invoicing processes.
Portugal’s digital uptake: Is the country “there” yet?
When asking Miguel if he thinks Portugal is yet a digital country he answers “not yet”. He explains how Portugal has good digital services but a lot of processes still require old ways of working. Citizens must appear in person for many tasks, and the use of digital payments and digital signatures are not utilised as well as they could be.
The country was once known as a very digital country and is making strong efforts to climb back to its former ranking.
In 2015 the government launched a digital solutions project, allowing all businesses and citizens to have use of a digital identity certificate. The government didn’t stop there. They began an initiative called Simplex, a flagship programme aiming to modernise public services.
“Simplex integrates measures of simplification, modernisation and innovation, enshrining digital as a rule of action as a way to improve the quality of public services, focused on life events relevant to people and companies.”.*
Miguel believes the Portuguese are innovative and embrace the use of new digital technologies. But they do not like to be forced to change. Change must occur naturally and in a gradual way.
Portugal’s use of electronic invoicing: 2013 to today
The early adoption of certified invoicing software
Gradual change can be seen in Portugal’s uptake of mandatory electronic invoicing (e-invoicing).
Portugal began implementing mandatory e-invoicing in 2019, but the use of e-invoicing software was put to use six years earlier.
Since 2013, businesses have been required to use certified software for invoicing and tax. Although tax is not electronic invoicing, the same principle is there. Portuguese businesses are accustomed to using software to create invoices and communicate tax, they are simply not doing so within a mandatory e-invoicing model.
The start of mandatory electronic invoicing
Even though businesses were obliged to use certified invoicing software, they were not obliged to operate within a mandatory e-invoicing model. In 2019 this changed.
By April 2019, all public administrations had to have the processes in place to receive and process e-invoices using Portugal’s government e-invoicing platform eSPap. The change applied to any resident business sending invoices to public administrations. In January 2021, the change evolved to include large businesses and in July 2021 for medium and small businesses.
How are Portuguese businesses reacting?
We asked Miguel how businesses are responding to the mandatory changes. He believes that many businesses are not yet seeing the benefits and see e-invoicing as an obligation they have to fulfill.
This is where e-invoicing service providers can show their worth. They need to communicate the benefits of electronic invoicing and the value-added-services they provide. Services such as digital payments, document reconciliation and digital signatures.
Digital is starting to play a key role in Portuguese business processes, but Miguel believes this could improve. One example he provides is the current use of mandatory QR codes on all e-invoices:
“I think we missed a good opportunity in Portugal with the QR code implementation. It is a good idea, but not fully implemented. For the moment, the QR code is just used to “scan” some basic information from the invoice, and use that information to communicate the invoice to the tax authority portal. A lot of new valuable services are missing due to the way QR code is designed and implemented.”
Valuable services such as QR code payment functionality, which many e-invoicing providers are offering as part of their solution.
Miguel, where do you see Portugal’s e-invoicing future?
“In my humble opinion, I think that payments and financial services will be the next steps. New solutions will definitely be born in the next few months to revolutionise the space.”
Miguel also believes that an e-invoicing increase will only take place when there is the obligation to do so.
In order to increase the uptake without an obligation, e-invoicing solutions providers need to communicate the benefits. Benefits such as cost and time savings, future-proofing processes and streamlined ways of working.
Solutions providers can show businesses that not only can they prepare ahead of mandatory changes, but that they can reap many business advantages too.
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