The purpose of the protocol is to establish an “exchange protocol” to ensure the greatest possible interoperability (interchange) between Belgian electronic bill actors, for SMEs, in line with the development of current existing international standards.

The aim is to create a market for the electronic invoice for SMEs (the current traded volumes are currently too small) in the most user-friendly way.

The protocol is therefore an “application protocol” and not a protocol concerning the transmission of data, since nothing is arranged about this.

The protocol is open (free use). Only coordination realized by the e-fff Foundation under the protocol can allow to coordinate and disseminate the work of the signatories. The protocol, under the direction of the Foundation, will receive an (e-FFF) label, but does not include certification.

The users of the label and the protocol will commit to adhering to a charter consisting of the commitment to comply with the principles and recommendations. They also undertake to test their mutual developments with all other signatories to the protocol through a platform that strengthens cooperation.

The work, exchange, control and cooperation between the actors carried out is based on the principle of a voluntary community.

The actors

The protocol collects five categories of actors:

  • The software houses;
  • The companies;
  • The economic professions;
  • The service providers (service providers);
  • The public Administrations and authorities

The purpose of the protocol is to work out a technical solution that has been realized in consultation by the software houses, and then to present it to the other four categories that have signed the protocol, namely an FFF exchange protocol. This protocol, after consultation, has already been developed today in the e-fff v01 version.

The software houses will be invited to integrate this technology before December 31 of this year and also to present it in avant premiere at the fourth congress of the economic professions (December 6, 2012). In a “keep it simple” zone, the electronic invoice and the standard e-fff, developed by the various actors, will be discussed separately during this congress.

The basis of an ecosystem

The protocol aims to achieve interoperability (mutual exchange) between the actors of the electronic invoice. It is not intended to create limitations with regard to storage, identification or signing.

Each category of signatories or any private or public company that wishes to use the exchange protocol can develop a more or less complete and powerful solution on this basis that meets the needs of the company, depending on its size and legal requirements, in in particular concerning the integrity and authentication. It thus includes the creation of added value based on the leverage of interoperability and simplicity, which the protocol represents.

The FFF Foundation ensures, based on the protocol, the dissemination of the result of the work performed, approved by the signatories.

This protocol will of course undergo an evolution based on the needs of the market and the new requirements that will be imposed.

The standard e-fff UBL 2.0

The protocol retains the standard “UBL 2.0” as a technical basis and this because of the “international”The standard e-fff UBL 2.0 nature as well as the demand of certain multinational actors. This will ensure the interoperability of the e-fff invoice with the solutions of similar groups outside Belgium.

This implies that the file is of the “XML” type, whereby the undersigned of the protocol undertake to generate a pdf of the invoice (after all, it is desirable to make the computer file “human”).

Each electronic invoice will therefore be represented by 1 single XML file.

The protocol also determines, for both the main and the detailed lines of the invoice, a list of fields that will be read and written into a kind of protocol image. These fields are indicated as:

  • required (included in attachment with code M)
  • optional (included in attachment with code X)
  • mandatory fields are required for the recognition of electronic invoicing.

Mandatory fields are required for the recognition of electronic invoicing.

Optional fields will necessarily be supported by the users of the protocol to the extent that the user has the appropriate module.

The other fields of the UBL 2.0 standard are not supported by the “e-fff” protocol.

The protocol supports approximately 200 fields of the 1,000 available fields in the UBL 2.0 standard, it follows that 800 fields are generally not included in the e-fff protocol for SMEs, which should not, however, prevent third parties from adding these fields. and parallel processing, without being officially supported by members of the e-fff community.

All fields are included in an Excel table that describes the characteristics of each field and where appropriate, reference is made to external standards (GS1, ISO lists, etc.). If required, the fields are also commented on the implementation of the e-fff protocol.

The sales tax codes of the sales invoices are included in a convergence table consisting of the Belgian sales tax code (specifically for Belgium) and an international tax code.