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Real-time economy

Real-time economy supports companies’ transition to fully automated financial administration. Elements of the real-time economy comprise e-invoices, digital receipts and electronic procurement messages. It has been estimated that by using electronic communication, companies could save working time and costs amounting to hundreds of millions of euros every year.

 

  • Digital receipts and electronic invoicing as enablers of the real-time economy

    Real-time economy refers to a fully digital economic system, where information on invoicing, receipts, reports and taxes paid are transferred immediately, or in real time, between different operators’ systems. A precondition for this is that sellers, buyers, financial institutions and the public sector, including the tax administration, are able to share information seamlessly with each other through their systems. The realisation of real-time economy requires a unification of the reporting codes and systems of different operators.

    The transferability and automation of financial information enable growth in productivity and efficiency. In addition to financial savings, real-time data also enable companies to make decisions based on up-to-date information. In a broader sense, the real-time economy also promotes the development of the single market in the European Union.

    The digitalisation of invoices and receipts required by the real-time economy supports a new type of service design that utilises information from different sources in the private and public sector. Investments in electronic services offered by the public administration also create a basis for innovation for companies and reduce their costs.

    Additionally, real-time data enable companies to make decisions based on up-to-date information. A real-time economy that includes e-invoicing, digital receipts and automated payment systems would generate tens of millions of euros in savings for the government. It has been estimated that e-receipts could bring companies savings of approximately EUR 800 million a year in labour costs.

  • A competitive operating environment by 2030

    Traditional business models are undergoing a revolution as data and platform economy solutions gain ground. Governments must respond to this change, and Finland can lead the way in the digitalisation of companies and development of a data economy.

    In 2030, we will be living in a digital world. Services will have moved to the web, and they will talk to each other. Data will be a key instrument of value creation. The economy will operate in real time.

    Companies’ financial information contains an enormous volume of data, the digital processing of which will improve efficiency in companies and society. Companies will no long dedicate time to discharging their obligations towards the authorities; the required business data will be transferred automatically and, for example, take care of taxation, employer obligations, customs clearance or compilation of statistics. Key business information, including orders, delivery information and invoices, can also be transmitted automatically between companies.

    Basic infrastructure solutions will be needed to bolster companies’ competitiveness and development. These solutions must be produced now to enable companies to create innovations and remain competitive.

  • Benefits for companies and the public administration

    Demographic change and the need to manage the transformation of technology and climate change make economic renewal a necessity. The real-time economy project responds to this need with solutions that will be honed together with companies, software houses and employee and employer organisations.

    The building of infrastructure solutions will lay the foundation for a project aiming to advance the transition to real-time economy in Finnish financial administration and make Finland a lead market in real-time economy as pledged in Prime Minister Marin’s Government Programme. This will be achieved by means of extensive adoption of electronic invoices and receipts and by also addressing smaller companies’ needs in the digital transition.

    When invoice and receipt data are transmitted in a structured digital format, companies can use them directly in their own systems. For example, this makes real-time cash and stock management possible also for the smallest companies. Companies can develop their operations and grow, and digital systems will also help them source funding for their investments.

    By reducing the need for manual work, the introduction of the e-receipt is expected to benefit companies by over EUR 600 million annually. Reporting to the authorities could be simplified, as it would be almost fully automated.

    Digital solutions would also enhance financial administration in municipalities. By deploying automated systems, they could eliminate the need to process receipt and invoicing data manually. Merely by introducing e-receipts, municipalities could save up to EUR 114 million a year.

  • Contact information

    The State Treasury is working hard to automate public sector financial administration as extensively as possible. This involves everything from online payments and e-invoicing to digital receipts. The State Treasury is in charge of steering the state’s payment transactions, developing the processes and instruments for handling them, and supervising the operative management of these transactions by the accounting units.

    Did you not find what you were looking for on the website? If you have any questions about the real-time economy, please contact the specialists at the State Treasury.

    Questions: rte(at)valtiokonttori.fi

    More information:

    Keijo Kettunen
    Payment Transactions Manager
    tel. +358 295 50 2408
    keijo.kettunen(at)valtiokonttori.fi
    Pirjo Ilola
    Senior Finance Administration Specialist
    tel. +358 295 50 2081
    pirjo.ilola(at)valtiokonttori.fi
  • The e-receipt will automate transfers of receipt data

    The e-receipt is a digital receipt. Digital receipts will enable automatic transfers of receipt data. E-receipts are rolled out to make paper receipts history. EKuitti, or the digital receipt, is an important step towards a real-time economy. In a real-time economy, all financial transactions are based on processing digital structured data. Structured data enables not only automation and robotisation but also significant increases in productivity in both companies and public administration.

    E-receipts automate transfers of receipt data, as the data contained in a digital receipt is automatically connected to the right transaction. In order to make this possible, the information on the receipt must be recorded in a format that can be utilised by different software programs and data analysis systems. The digital receipt is also intended to generate digital services that would store consumers’ e-receipts for the various needs that consumers may have. The work on e-receipts is part of the Technology Industries of Finland’s RTECO project package, which has brought together operators from different fields since 2017 to build an ecosystem for a real-time economy.

    Read the final report of the RTECO project >

     

  • The State Treasury leads the piloting of e-receipts

    The first e-receipt pilots in the central government started in autumn 2019. The State Treasury was in charge of piloting the digital receipt, eKuitti. The purpose of these pilot projects was to ensure that digital receipts work effectively. The plan is to introduce e-receipts as a routine part of financial administration, also outside the central government. Additionally, the digital receipt is expected to generate digital services that would store consumers’ e-receipts for the various needs that consumers may have.

    The target of the project on promoting a real-time economy is that 20% of receipts used between companies will be structured by 2023. By 2025, as many as 80% of receipts would already be transferred between businesses in a structured format, and the e-receipt is to become the common and mandatory solution in the central government. This would mean that all those working with the central government would offer e-receipts.

    The RTE project conducted in cooperation with the stakeholders ensures that companies will have capabilities for offering and receiving e-receipts. The project aims to describe the changes companies need to make before they can offer e-receipts or use them in their financial administration systems. Other goals of the project are agreeing on common principles for transmitting e-receipts, determining any needs for legislative amendments, and promoting the standardisation of e-receipts in Europe.

    As a basic premise, the e-receipt was designed to meet the requirements of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). In addition to being secure, e-receipts help fight the grey economy. All this will be in our shared interest.

     

  • What is the state of play in e-receipt development?

  • How can I participate?

    Get in touch with us and we will tell you more: verkkolaskutus@valtiokonttori.fi

    For more information, please contact Pirjo Ilola, Senior Finance Administration Specialist at the State Treasury: pirjo.ilola@valtiokonttori.fi

  • Digitalisation of procurement messages is a precondition for Finnish companies’ competitiveness

    PEPPOL

    Procurement communication comprises structured and machine-readable business messages. These messages are used to exchange information related to order and delivery processes between organisations concerning product catalogues, orders, order confirmations and deliveries. Practical examples of standardised messages are the procurement messages used in the PEPPOL network.

    Traditionally, companies have used procurement messages in solutions specific to certain sectors or companies. The central organs of groceries trade have used procurement messages to communicate with their suppliers.

    One of the objectives of the real-time economy project is to introduce standardised procurement messages in the central government’s procurements. The idea is to also create a solution that is as open as possible and can be used in business transactions between companies of different sizes, regardless of their sector. The project will create capabilities for using the product catalogue, order, order confirmation and delivery messages defined by the PEPPOL network.

    The digitalisation of procurement communication is essential for Finnish companies’ ability to compete with other Nordic and European operators. Digitalisation plays a key role in creating a European single market. At the national level, it is crucial for Finland that Finnish companies of all sizes can offer their services and products across the entire single market area as flexibly and cost-effectively as possible.

  • PEPPOL in a nutshell

    Originally, PEPPOL (Pan-European Public Procurement On-Line) was the name of an EU-funded project between 2008 and 2012. After the end of the project, its participants established the OpenPEPPOL association to manage the project results.

    PEPPOL is not a physical network but rather a framework that defines:

    • administrative models
    • contracts
    • guidelines
    • technical specifications

    The use of the PEPPOL network has expanded rapidly in recent years due to the EU directive on electronic invoicing (EU 2014/55/EU) and the CEN standard related to the implementation of the standard (FprEN 16931-1:2017). With the expansion of the use of PEPPOL, it has become one of the most noteworthy solutions for a transmission platform of electronic documents for trade between organisations. PEPPOL is most widely used in the EU and the Nordic countries.

    In addition to the standard electronic invoice, the PEPPOL network has defined several messages related to procurement activity. These specifications are based on the ISO/IEC 19845:2015 standard, usually better known as Universal Business Language (UBL).

    The following figure illustrates the basic structure of the PEPPOL infrastructure and its key actors:

    Access Point: The role of the service provider that connects end users to the infrastructure so that they can send documents to each other.

    SML (Service Metadata Locator): A central address directory of the infrastructure containing information on whether a requested address is registered in the PEPPOL network and which decentralised SMP has details for that end-user.

    SMP (Service Metadata Provider): A decentralised directory containing end-user rights, i.e. what messages the end-user is allowed to manage, and information about the physical communication link.

  • PEPPOL Process Schemas Overview

    Peppol Business Interoperability Specification (BIS) schemas are based on the results of the European Committee for Standardization working groups. Standard messages based on UBL 2.1 and UBL 2.2 message specifications are used as the data model for Peppol processes, and Peppol messages are a subset of the entire data model of the corresponding UBL messages. In addition, Peppol has defined business and other rules related to messages and processes. For validation of these rules, the messages have pre-set schematron validation specifications.

    Peppol divides the processes into two main sets called pre-award and post-award. The pre-award specifications apply to the pre-contractual information exchange during tendering, while the post-award specifications apply to the information exchange related to the process from ordering to invoicing.  The same UBL-based messages are often used in different business processes and, in partly in both pre-award and post-award phases.

    The process specification included in the messages indicates the context in which the message is applied in each individual situation. For example, the UBL message product catalogue is used in both pre-award and post-award phases. In the pre-award phase, the product catalogue is used to present the product information included in the tender in order to facilitate the comparison of offers by the buyer. In the post-award phase, the information in the product catalogue is usually more complete than in the pre-award phase and used to facilitate ordering.

    A uniform data model is a prerequisite for the uniform use of multiple datasets and code sets in different messages and processes. Examples of such application include message routing addresses, information of the participants, and measurement units. The standardisation of these datasets has progressed considerably as a result of the EU’s work on standardisation of e-invoices.

    Process schemas

    The purpose of the process schemas is to represent concrete use cases. Not all processes are obligatory, or even necessary for all actors. There may also be sector-specific and national differences in the application of processes, although the basic processes themselves are uniform. For example, public procurement in Finland is regulated and guided by procurement laws and the State Budget Decree, which result in some special requirements for the ordering process that not all organisations have.

    Pre-award process schemas and messages used in connection with them

    Process Subprocesses The UBL message used
    ”Procurement procedure subscription” 1.0 Subscribe to Procedure 1.0 Expression Of Interest Request
    Subscribe to Procedure Confirmation 1.0 Expression Of Interest Response
    ”Procurement document access” 1.0 Tender Status Inquiry 1.0 Tender Status Request
    Call for Tenders 1.0 Call for Tenders
    ”Tender Submission” 1.0 Tender 1.0 Tender
    Tender Reception Notification 1.0 Tender Receipt

     

    ”Call for Tenders Questions and Answers” 1.0 Tendering Questions 1.0 Tendering Questions
    Tendering Answers 1.0 Tendering Answers

     

    ”Tender Clarification” 1.0 Tender Clarification Request 1.0 Tender Clarification Request
    Tender Clarification 1.0 Tender Clarification

    The Peppol pre-award content also includes data models, XML schemas, and validation programmes developed by the EU DG GROW, such as the European Single Procurement Document (ESPD) in the public procurement sector. ESPD consists of the transmission of two documents: ESPDRequest and ESPDResponse. ESPDRequest contains preliminary requirements for the tenderer in public procurement, and ESPDResponse is the tenderer’s response to those requirements.

    Post-award process schemas and messages used in connection with them

    Process Subprocesses The UBL message used
    Order only 3.2 Order Order 2.1
    Ordering 3.2 Order Order 2.1
    Order Response OrderResponse 2.1
    Catalogue with Response 3.1 Catalogue Catalogue 2.1
    Catalogue response ApplicationResponse 2.1
    Catalogue without Response 3.1 Catalogue Catalogue 2.1
    Despatch Advice 3.1 Despatch advice Despatch Advice 2.1
    Punch Out 3.1 Punch Out Catalogue 2.1
    Order Agreement 3.0 Order Agreement OrderResponse 2.1

    Peppol post-award process schemas and messages also include an invoice message that will not be discussed in more detail in this context. The PEPPOL invoice message is based on a corresponding message in the UBL and is content-compatible with the EU e-invoice standard, which is standardised by CEN.

    A general Message Level Response 3.0 notification and an Invoice Response 3.0 notification have also been implemented in the post-award specifications. Both notification messages are based on the UBL ApplicationResponse 2.1 message.

    Notes on post-award schemas

    Peppol has implemented a subset of the expression power of the UBL in its processes. For example, OrderCancel and OrderChange, that are related to ordering, are not included in the schemas. Similarly, PEPPOL schemas do not include ReceiptAdvice, which is related to delivery. In some countries, such as Norway, messages and processes that are not part of Peppol are included in the national EHF implementation. Peppol Authorities can also suggest necessary extensions to process and data schemas.

    The benefits of Peppol’s process and data schemas

    It can be said that Peppol has implemented the basic processes and data models of the procurement process. The specifications are a subset of the full expression power of the UBL data models but are sufficient for a very generic basis that meets most of the needs of organisations. All specifications are subject to technical and business rules and their validation tools. It facilitates the quality assurance of the transmitted data, which is necessary in automated processing.

    One of the undeniable advantages of Peppol process and data schemas compared to the traditional EDIFACT integrations, for example, are the general business and technical validation rules included in the schemas. Common validation rules harmonise application and facilitate the implementation of well-functioning services.

    Overall, Peppol has the same benefits as standardisation in general. Standardisation promotes understanding the concepts and terms of different parties and provides a good basis for system and software development

  • PEPPOL from a Finnish perspective

    The use of the PEPPOL network and data models in Finland is relatively limited. The number of users in the directory provides a good reference point: The Finnish Address Database (Suomen kansallinen verkkolaskuosoitteisto) contains more than 500,000 addresses, while the PEPPOL directory has only 5,000 Finnish addresses. Still, the PEPPOL network is important and interesting for Finland.

    The most important thing is to understand that the above comparison of numbers of addresses is only related to one message type and the related policy. In Finland, e-invoicing was launched in the early 2000s clearly before other countries. As a result of the early launch, we modelled our own national e-invoice message formats, Finvoice and TEAPPSXML, because there were no existing general models or standards.

    Secondly, e-invoicing was originated by a number of message handling operators and banks. As a result, we also formed a national infrastructure for the transmission of e-invoices: the Finvoice network between banks, and a network based on the bilateral connections between operators, the interconnection of which has been challenging from time to time. However, Finland is a small country, which has enabled good and confidential communication between actors in order to solve problems.

    All in all, e-invoicing in Finland has been a success story and its benefits are obvious.  The launch of the PEPPOL network has also mainly been based on transmission of e-invoices. In this situation, it is understandable that the added value of PEPPOL has not appeared to be very relevant to users compared to the existing and functioning infrastructure.

    The world is changing, and we need more success stories

    However, one of the obvious benefits of PEPPOL is that it is not a message-type-bound network, but that messages needed for different business processes can be added as necessary. In practice, this enables a wider message library that can be utilised in the electronification and automation of one’s own business processes without affecting the interoperability of programmes. PEPPOL messages are also standardised, and the sender must validate the content of each message before sending it to the network. With such validation, we would be freed from existing compatibility problems between the different formats (Finvoice and TEAPPSXML), which would reduce the current need of manual correction.

    The third obvious benefit of the PEPPOL network is that the key software components of the network are available as open-source code. This is particularly beneficial for service providers that produce software. For service providers, the PEPPOL network has a significantly lower threshold than networks requiring bilateral connections from service providers. This is due to standardisation of messages and interfaces as well as freely available software. Norway, which has undoubtedly been a pioneer of the PEPPOL network, currently has about 60 service providers. This number does not include banks.  In Finland, where e-invoicing is based on bilateral connections between operators, there are slightly more than 20 e-invoicing operators.

    The use of procurement messages in Finland has traditionally been sector specific. A common problem in each sector has been the lack of access to electronic services for small businesses due to the high cost of integrations, technological challenges, and lack of easy-to-use application solutions. There is no common infrastructure in the area of procurement messages. The Yrityksen digitalous/RTE project aims to improve the situation noticeably. The electronification of procurements and the inclusion of small companies play an important role in promoting digitalisation and improving productivity. In the project, PEPPOL has been selected as the basic infrastructure for procurement messages. The data models, messages, and connections used in this policy are standardised and provide direct integration also internationally.

    Promoting the deployment of the PEPPOL infrastructure will be facilitated by ongoing work to establish a national PEPPOL Authority. The introduction of the PEPPOL network does not require changing the existing bilateral order-delivery and other integrations. For some actors, the new network is also a tool with which small business partners can become part of e-procurement. A precondition for getting small companies to participate is the existence of an easy-to-use, affordable, and sector-independent application service. The public sector could play a key role in developing such an application service. It would essential that it could serve society as a whole.

    A new success story can be made of procurement messages

    Therefore, the PEPPOL network is important and interesting for Finland. It does not restrict continuing the use of existing solutions but provides a way to deepen e-services for business partners both in Finland and internationally. The PEPPOL network and standardised business messages can be rapidly applied and adopted. It is a good idea to build more functionality on top of this infrastructure, for example in the logistics sector, and to combine developing blockchain and trust network opportunities. The creation of standards creates preconditions, but their application and adoption create a competitive advantage.

  • Progression of the procurement message work

    You can monitor the progress of the procurement message work with “Sähköistä hankintasi!” webinar series. (Available in Finnish. English translation: Electronify your procurements!) The “Sähköistä hankintasi!” webinar series is part of the Yrityksen digitalous project (English translation: Digital economy for businesses) and its purpose is to promote the electronification of procurements in Finland. In public webinar events, participants can also influence the different contents of development work. If you would like to register your contact information on the mailing list of the Sähköistä hankintasi! webinar series, send your request to rte@valtiokonttori.fi.

    Recording of the first Sähköistä hankintasi! webinar (13 October):

  • Quality of information content and efficiency of operations

    With regard to e-invoicing, the real-time economy project will promote the quality and operational efficiency of the current e-invoicing information content. As a major line of development, everything we do is guided by activities aimed at increasing the utilization rate of e-invoicing. In order to increase the utilization rate of e-invoicing, the real-time economy project aims to identify business areas from which tasks that promote the goal can be identified.

    The following areas have been identified in the development work:

    • Clarification of the guidelines for the information content of e-invoices, for example with regard to tax processing
    • Supporting the use of codes required by the European Union e-invoicing standard, inter alia by applying for international code codes for party and VAT identifiers and providing guidance on their use

    With a view to future requirements, the transition from national formats to a common European standard is also being explored and planned for e-invoicing. At the same time, the transition will create the conditions for the use of multilateral information and new technologies in e-invoicing.

  • Questions and answers on e-invoices that are compliant with the European Standard

    From April 2021 onwards, the State will only accept e-invoices that are compliant with the European Standard. The objective of the change is to direct invoicing by companies and public administration into electronic form.

    What happens to e-invoices that are compliant with the European Standard after 1 April 2021?

    European standard invoices are validated based on a common set of rules. If the information content of the invoice does not meet the requirements of the EuropeanStandard, the eInvoice will be rejected.

    The invoice sender must correct the errors/shortcomings in the invoice and also check that the due date of the invoice corresponds to the agreed payment time when the invoice is sent again. If you cannot send an invoice that is compliant with the European Standard, contact the recipient of the invoice and agree on a transition period.

    How do I start following the European Standard in electronic invoicing?

    Ask your billing software provider if your software version supports eInvoicing that meets the requirements of the Electronic Invoicing Act. If necessary, update your software to both send and receive e-invoices that comply with the European Standard.

    Where can I find a list of requirements for the information content of an invoice that is compliant with the European Standard?

    The information content requirements for public administration invoices are described on the website of the State Treasury (in Finnish). If you would like to familiarise yourself with the European Standard, you will find the standard in the SFS online store as SFS-EN 16931-1:2017 + A1:2019:en. Downloading the standard from the online store is free of charge.

    What specific requirements should be taken into account when invoicing the State?

    If the buyer – the recipient of the invoice – has indicated either the order number or the contract number, they must be indicated also on the invoice. The invoice must also correspond to the information content specifications for invoices laid down in the VAT Act

    More information:
    Detailed instructions for public administration on the information content of e-invoices (in Finnish)
    Instructions on Vero.fi.

    Read more on European Standard