Complexity of compliance is inhibiting almost half of UK businesses from implementing e-invoicing

London - 16 September 2008

Sterling Commerce, an AT&T Inc (NYSE:T) company, today unveiled research revealing that UK businesses are struggling to fully exploit the benefits of electronic invoicing and are held back by a fear of complexity in addressing regulatory compliance requirements and legislation.

At a time when achieving cost efficiencies and effective resource utilisation is crucial to maintaining competitive differentiation, the move from paper-based to electronic invoicing (e-invoicing) comes as a key opportunity for businesses today. In spite of this, the research found that 46 per cent of UK companies, in contrast to 40 percent of European companies, are yet to make a decision to implement an automated e-invoicing solution.

The survey, conducted by independent research company Vanson Bourne across 400 IT managers in the UK, France, Germany and Italy, found that the most pressing e-invoicing concern for businesses across Europe is compliance with national e-invoicing legislation. In addition, with 72 per cent of European compared to 77 per cent of UK companies currently conducting business in more than six countries around the world, more than half admitted they were concerned about supporting disparate e-invoicing solutions across multiple geographies. A quarter of responses also negatively highlighted the complexities associated with implementing multiple solutions to handle VAT compliance and audit requirements across the countries in which they operate.

“The results are staggering that more than half of businesses in the UK and across Europe are struggling to effectively conduct business across global barriers” said Chris Hayes, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Sterling Commerce. “The benefits of moving from paper-based to e-invoicing are widely known and accepted, yet the reality for many European businesses is that even for e-invoicing projects which do receive budget approval, a dependence on multiple solutions to handle compliance with multiple VAT and tax regulations across different territories, is ultimately undermining project success.”

The research also discovered that 69 per cent of respondents in the UK believed that their finance department could not quantify the amount of VAT at risk if the company was found to be non-compliant, which compared well to 80 per cent of respondents across Europe

“One of the problems with any paper-based process is that it is often hard to track the costs and inefficiencies involved – the inefficient nature of the manual process itself prevents easy quantification of the potential savings”, continued Hayes. “If just from a commercial and competitive perspective, companies must move away from these highly inefficient processes. The costs and issues associated with paper-based invoicing, coupled with the associated lack of visibility into a company’s cash management do impact the bottom line, a risk that should be avoided particularly at a time when cost saving and effective resource utilisation are so important.”

Sterling Commerce recently launched the first solution to market that enables multi-national organisations to automate electronic invoicing processes worldwide, while maintaining conformity with the tax regulations mandated by each of the particular regions. Sterling e-Invoice Gateway eliminates the need to support separate solutions for each geography; reduces risk and exposure by enabling compliance with ever-changing electronic invoicing tax regulations; and improves operational efficiencies and contains costs by automating both buyer and seller electronic invoice processes in accordance with country-specific tax regulations.

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