Voice of the Industry

"Why Singapore is the e-invoicing leader in Asia Pacific"- Anthony Coundouris, ApexPeak

Wednesday 21 January 2015 10:23 CET | Editor: Melisande Mual | Voice of the industry

E-invoicing is either already mandated or is about to be mandated in 56 countries

Thirteen of those countries are located in Asia Pacific, with Singapore the next to make the transition.

Electronic invoicing (e-invoicing) is the sending, receiving and storing of invoices in electronic format, without the use of paper invoices as tax originals. Scanning incoming paper invoices, or exchanging electronic invoice messages in parallel with paper-based originals, is not generally considered e-invoicing1.

Asia, like Latin America, has moved towards e-invoicing in response to government initiatives. In North America and Europe, the movement was led by the private sector2.

Direct investment in e-invoicing initiatives remains a low priority in Asia Pacific. However, governments are making positive steps towards B2G e-invoicing by:

  • investing in digitising trade documents, such as bills of lading, accompanying documents, loading and customs papers3;

  • investing in government or public e-procurement portals; and

  • allowing third parties to add value by storing and or providing early payments on e-invoices.

A spotlight on Singapore
Singapore is one of the few nations in the Asia Pacific region to have mandated the practice of e-invoicing. Since May 2008, e-invoicing has been mandated by the government for their suppliers. Singapore’s Inland Revenue Authority recognises that businesses can store e-invoices for the purpose of record keeping.

E-procurement for the private sector came into being in 1994. Called SESAMi, the firm was established in 1999, and is now the largest of its kind in South East Asia, hosting 15,000 suppliers and 5,000 large buyers.

A spotlight on Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan
E-invoicing has been mandated in South Korea since January 2010. Corporate taxpayers are required to use e-Tax invoices, while sole proprietorships can choose either paper tax invoices or e-Tax invoices4.

Trade has been digitised in South Korea since 1990, when the Trade EDI project moved to 100 % paperless bills for customs, trade administration and international transport. In addition, government e-procurement was introduced in South Korea in 2003.

In Hong Kong, the government formulated its Digital 21 plan. With the cooperation of 12 private entities, Tradelink Ltd was founded to provide electronic trade services to about 70,000 trade companies in Hong Kong5. Government e-procurement was launched in 2000, and 80 % of all procurement tenders were online by 2003.

In 2000, the Taiwanese Ministry of Finance set up an e-invoice platform to promote the use of e-invoices. To qualify for the use of B2B electronic invoices, all parties must first register with the tax authority (senders, recipients and third parties alike).

A spotlight on Vietnam, Australia and Indonesia
Both Australia and Vietnam launched e-invoicing pilots in 2012. Vietnam is expected to adopt a similar system in Latin America, with taxable persons to register e-invoices with the tax authority.

Australia is similar to the US, where there is no obligation on government suppliers to deliver invoices digitally. The decision to move to e-invoicing has been left up to each government body. A NSW shared-services government agency announced in April 2014 the purchase of a USD 800,000 solution from ReadSoft that, initially, will handle the processing of more than 300,000 invoices annually. However, the system largely involves the use of applications to extract data from paper-based invoices6.

Indonesia has pledged all VAT-related transactions will be e-invoiced by 20167.

A spotlight on Malaysia, Thailand and Philippines
Malaysia, Thailand and Philippines are not averse to e-invoicing, but their governments do not actively support e-invoicing either. Businesses complain about barriers to its adoption, including a lack of awareness of e-invoicing applications and a lack of IT systems sufficiently robust to handle e-invoices.

Malaysia ePerolehan was introduced in 1999 to convert B2G procurement into an electronic internet-based practice. Malaysia is planning to launch NextGen ePerolehan in January 20158. E-invoicing is allowed, providing permission from the tax authorities has been obtained. Malaysia has also set out a Digital Malaysia plan to improve eGovernance by 2020.

Thailand permits e-invoicing. Approved VAT registrants may raise and send electronic invoices and receipts to their customers. Electronic invoices must be digitally signed using a certificate issued by an authority approved by the Thai Revenue Department9.

The Philippines introduced public e-procurement in the year 2000. Over 11,000 government agencies and 50,000 suppliers are registered.

A spotlight on Japan, China and India
Japan is an exception among economically strong Asian countries. Electronic invoicing is not specifically regulated in law, but it is permitted in practice by tax and customs officials. It has not been widely adopted by businesses.

Research shows 25 % of China and India B2B trades are e-invoiced. However, in this instance an e-invoice is defined as one which was originally paper-based and later digitally scanned. Paper-based invoices are required for audit purposes by tax authorities in both countries.

India has multiple indirect taxes on different regional levels: there is a federal service tax, a VAT at the state level (i.e. separately regulated in 27 states) and a Central Sales Tax (CST) on inter-state sales of goods. CST e-invoicing is not permitted. However, State VAT invoices may be emitted electronically, depending on state legislation.

China created the Golden Taxation Project in 1994. Where the system is in place, its use for all VAT-able invoices is mandatory under Chinese law. Invoices are pre-printed and purchased from local tax authorities.


  1. TrustWeaver, Tax compliant global electronic invoice lifecycle management, 2013.  http://www.itrpress.com/cp/2013/2013-03-12_Tax-compliant-global-e-invoicing-White-Paper-TrustWeaver-March-2013.pdf

  2. Basware, Global development of electronic invoicing. http://www.slideshare.net/ssonetwork/global-development-of-electronic-invoicing

  3. UNECE, Country examples of e-invoicing. http://tfig.unece.org/contents/country-examples-e-invoicing.htm

  4. National Tax Service Republic of Korea, Annual Report 2013.

  5. UNECE, Country examples of e-invoicing. http://tfig.unece.org/contents/country-examples-e-invoicing.htm

  6. IDM, Australia lags in global e-invoicing revolution. http://idm.net.au/article/008117-australia-lags-global-e-invoicing-revolution

  7. Taxand.com, Indonesia introduces new electronic VAT invoicing system   http://www.taxand.com/taxands-take/news/indonesia-introduces-new-electronic-vat-invoicing-system

  8. FutureGov, Malaysia to reform e-procurement system. http://www.futuregov.asia/articles/malaysia-to-reform-e-procurement-system

  9. TrustWeaver, Tax compliant global electronic invoice lifecycle management, 2013.  http://www.itrpress.com/cp/2013/2013-03-12_Tax-compliant-global-e-invoicing-White-Paper-TrustWeaver-March-2013.pdf

About Anthony Coundouris

Anthony Coundouris brings his passion for financial technology and branding to his position as a trade finance evangelist for ApexPeak. A speaker and writer on the subject of business finance for five years, he was co-founder and director of Futurebooks, a firm providing financial services to technology startups across the Asia-Pacific region. With more than two decades of online experience, he consults for businesses on how to create digital supply chain finance and invoice discounting workflows, and how to monetise e-invoice platforms. Anthony is a startup mentor for the Founders Institution, Singapore, IdeasInc.sg and Startup Weekend. He has been invited to guest speak for various accelerators and chambers of commerce across the Asia-Pacific. He is an active blogger on design theory and was the founder of digital marketing agency Firestarter, acquired in 2010.

Company description

ApexPeak eases cash-flow problems faced by SMEs and MNCs by buying e-invoices before they fall due. Founded in 2012, the firm provides in excess of USD 1.3 billion trade finance to businesses located in 25 countries worldwide. Visit www.ApexPeak.com to find out more.

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Keywords: Anthony Coundouris, ApexPeak, Singapore, e-invoicing in Asia Pacific, e-invoicing, mandated e-invoicing, trade finance, B2G invoicing, e-procurement
Countries: World