On July the 1st, a new common carrier for Taiwan’s e-invoices, mobile phone barcode, will be officially introduced. Citizens will be able to have their invoice information stored in the government cloud using the barcode as identifier.
This is the latest initiative in the government’s ambitious electronic invoice project.
Unified invoice is the government-printed receipt that retailers give to consumers after purchase. It was introduced with a lottery system to prevent tax evasion by encouraging consumers to demand for tax receipts.
Currently, 8 billion paper invoices are issued across Taiwan each year. The study of FDC shows that if they are linked together, the total length will be more than 46 times that of the equator. And in order to produce such amount of paper, 80,000 trees need to be cut every year.
Turning the whole system electronic will not only have significant environmental benefits, but also allow more streamlined financial and taxation process, through the government’s ‘e-invoice cloud’, for citizens and businesses.
When the new common carrier is introduced, citizens can apply for the barcode online and print it out to paste on the back of their mobile phones. After each purchase, the vendor will scan the barcode and the e-invoice data will be transmitted to the consumer’s account. Consumers are able to check their expenses through the government ‘e-invoice cloud’ web service or at multi-purpose service kiosks spread across the country.
“Each citizen already carries quite a number of plastic cards, and we do not want to create one more for e-invoices,” Su Chun-jung, Director General, Financial Data Centre, told FutureGov. Since the launch of e-invoice project, a number of carriers have been included, ranging from retailer membership cards to public transportation fare cards.
Citizens with digital certificates issued by the Ministry of the Interior Certificate Authority could register their certificate and bank account number with the ‘e-invoice cloud’ or kiosks. They will then link the carrier with the certificate such that any lottery prize they win will be automatically transferred to their account.
Those without digital certificates will be able to print out a hard copy of the winning e-invoice and redeem the cash prize.
The top prize for the bi-monthly draw is TW$10 million (US$335,000).
In Taiwan, charity and welfare groups often run tax invoice donation programmes, where consumers can put their invoices in a donation box and the amount won through lottery will be used for social services. FDC now allows the donation to be done electronically. Each of these groups will be issued a barcode, and the consumers will let the retailer scan the barcode to complete the donation process. Consumers will be able to check the information about donated e-invoices afterwards.
“It helps these charity and welfare organisations improve transparency and public confidence,” says Su. “Now there is no chance of a welfare worker redeeming the prize into his own pocket.”
The project started with 27 participating retailers, and the number has risen to 7550 as of now. Currently 50 million e-invoices are issued every day, and the figure is growing. Su is confident that the targets of 1 billion issued by July 1st and 2 billion by end of 2012 will be met.
The vision, ambition and complexity of the project, as well as the practical challenges tackled through its implementation, have earned FDC a FutureGov Award in 2011. Nevertheless, as the scope of the project covers (and affects) multiple facets of the economy and different interest groups, it has met significant challenges.
And as it requires participation from the entire citizenry and the business sector, FDC dedicates a lot of resources in raising awareness of the project.
Su has re-designed the staircases of the FDC building – a 12 storey edifice – into an exhibition gallery. The evolution path of invoices since its inception is shown to public, especially the youth who might not be aware of the history. The gallery also features details of e-invoice and the possibilities it enables.
Su explains that the white colour theme of the gallery represents the future vision that all invoice transactions will be done over the cloud.
At the end of the journey, the public will be able to reach the rooftop of the building to enjoy the view of Taipei city, with Taipei 101 – once the tallest building in the world – in the background.
In addition to the staircase, a dedicated exhibition is installed on the ground floor of the building, where the detailed enrolment process is illustrated, and specifically-designed souvenirs can be redeemed by number of e-invoice transactions. FDC also works with different groups in the society, such as concert organisers, to boost the awareness of e-invoice.
Moving forwards, FDC will provide a cloud service for citizens to check and analyse their personal expenses. In addition, Su plans to open the data and create an API to allow researchers and public to analyse consumption information and consumer patterns.
“Now we only know that how many packets of instant noodles are sold in a particular area,” he said. “In future we will know how many packets of a particular brand are sold in a particular store – imagine the possibilities that might arise with this.”
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