ACCA - The global body for professional accountants

Access to finance


ACCA's research reviews the extent and the drivers of e-invoicing adoption among UK SMEs.

As internet penetration increases around the world, paper invoices will gradually become obsolete. The challenge, however, is not to simply de-materialise the traditional invoice, but to move to true e-invoices which bridge the accounting systems of suppliers and customers in real-time.

ACCA believes that this unprecedented level of transparency in transactions will profoundly change everyday business and the role of finance professionals. Pervasive e-invoicing could help make late payment rare and less threatening for suppliers; it could help overcome persistent market failures in business financing by unlocking the full potential of supply chain financing and invoice auctioning; and it could enable tax authorities to restrict the shadow economy while reducing burdens on legitimate business.

ACCA is a member of the UK National E-Invoicing Forum UK and was represented in the European Multi-Stakeholder Forum (EMSF) on E-invoicing in 2011 and 2012. As part of the UK delegation, we led the Forum’s work to identify what policies and commercial practices have most successfully promoted e-invoicing adoption around Europe. This work culminated in ACCA’s report to the European Commission on best practices.

ACCA was also represented in the EMSF Working Group on improving e-invoicing adoption statistics. Prompted by our experience there, we recommended that a question on e-invoicing be added to the SME Finance Monitor, the definitive survey of UK SMEs’ access to finance. The result was a unique dataset of e-invoicing adoption and the characteristics of adopters, which ACCA used in 2012 to develop the first-ever comprehensive report into adoption by UK SMEs. You can also view a series of three ACCA blogs on the original report and its implications.

In 2014, ACCA updated and substantially expanded our estimates of e-invoicing adoption among UK SMEs. The resulting report is part of our contribution to a Parliamentary Inquiry into e-invoicing adoption by the UK public sector, and how it can benefit small government suppliers.

Between December 2013 and May 2014, ACCA supported a UK Parliamentary Inquiry into the potential for e-invoicing adoption in the public sector. The inquiry, headed by Stephen McPartland MP and sponsored by MasterCard, found that the benefits of e-invoicing to the public sector and to its SME suppliers would be sizeable, and that new European legislation was adding to the urgency of its early introduction. A full report into the findings can be downloaded from the 'related resources' section of this page.

Published: 14 Feb 2013