[Podcast] Why Is E-invoicing In Finland So Confusing?

Having started my own toiminimi company in 2019 and started invoicing my customer directly. I had experience at Xport of sending e-invoices, but I always had help from my partner Marko. I then found myself working in my own company, using e-invoicing from an Operator system and wondering ‘Why is e-invoicing in Finland so confusing?’ Hopefully, what started as a rant might also be useful to other new entrepreneurs in Finland.

A big thank you to Michael Nieminen from Oy Rhonda Services AB for his help with this episode and his accounting help in general.

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The Basics of E-invoicing in Finland

I mentioned above, this refers to the Operator system of e-invoicing, as opposed to the ‘bank environment’ where a company send e-invoices from its online banking service. I want to be clear, this is not a complaint about any particular service provider. I’m just sharing my struggle with the information I am provided by various customers. So even if you are comfortable with using e-invoicing, it might be an idea to review how your e-invoicing info is communicated. In theory, e-invoicing is simple: 

  1. I create a record for each customer with their payment details.
  2. I enter the details of the work you have carried out into your invoicing software.
  3. I attach any supporting documents, for example, a timesheet of the work completed.
  4. I click send and the invoice details are transferred to the customer over the internet.

Great, should be simple. It even works in reverse, customers can send me invoices (although, I’m less excited by receiving bills, to be honest.) In my service provider, this is the process:

  • The incoming invoices are shown in a list.
  • I can check the details and approve them.
  • My accountant can then arrange the payment.

Required Info for E-invoicing in Finland

Unfortunately, I have struggled several times with step 1, ‘Create a record for each customer with their payment details’. I’ve lost track of the times I’ve looked at Marko and said ‘I don’t get it, which number is which?’ and he very patiently explains how this system works. I’ll show you an example in a moment but, first, let me explain the info that I need to be able to send an e-invoice.

There are two key pieces of info on this list. The top two boxes on the images above:

  • Vastaanottajan verkkolaskuosoite – Recipient’s E-invoice Address
  • Vastaanottajan välittäjän tunnus – Recipient’s Operator ID

So, what is my problem? I’ll quote from an email I sent to my accountant, Michael Nieminen from Oy Rhonda Services AB, who has also been very patient in explaining this to me. All the numbers below have been changed to 1234 format, so as not identify any specific companies.


Finland’s E-invoicing Terminology Explained

Email: Mark Wiltshear, 20.12.2019

“I have some questions about the terminology.  Many Finnish companies use different terms and number formats on their e-invoicing. I don’t know what all of these terms mean and I don’t know what the international/English terms for these are. It is really confusing. I can see these two numbers on my e-invoicing sheet:

  • OVT-tunnus: 003712345678
  • Verkkolaskuoperaattori: Maventa 003787654321 / DABAFIHH

But looking at some of my customers I can see these terms. The names are different, the number formats are different:

  • Verkkolaskuoperaattori OpusCapita Solutions Oy
  • Operraatori: Maventa
  • Y-tunnus 2934831-8
  • Operaattorin välittäjäntunnus E123456
  • Verkkolaskuosoite:  003712345678
  • Operaattori: BAWCFI22
  • Välittäjän tunnus  00 371 234 5678

If I want to send my e-invoicing details to someone outside of Finland, what terminology should I use?”

Email: Michael the Accountant, 20.12.2019

“Yes, I know all this is confusing. Your verkkolaskuosoite is 0037 and your VAT-number. And this is also called OVT-tunnus.

And the “Operaattori” for your company is Maventa. Their “välittäjätunnus” is 003721291126. Or DABAFIHH when the e-invoice comes via a bank operator.

When you give your invoicing details to international companies. Just give your email. Because I don´t know how this e-invoicing is working outside of Finland. No-one of my customers receive e-invoices from abroad. Only by email.”


Finland’s E-invoicing Terminology Simplified

So, to summarise:

The Vastaanottajan verkkolaskuosoite (Recipient’s E-invoice Address) could be written as: 

  • Verkkolaskuosoite
  • OVT-tunnus
  • IBAN (if you are using the bank environment system)

OVT is an abbreviation of Organisaatioiden Välinen Tiedonsiirto in Finnish. The English equivalent is EDI – Electronic Data Interchange . Good to know, if just to help understand the concept, or context of what info is being requested.

The Vastaanottajan välittäjän tunnus (Recipient’s Operator ID) could be written as: 

  • Verkkolaskuoperaattori
  • Operaatori
  • Operaattorin välittäjäntunnus
  • Välittäjän tunnus
  • Välittäjätunnus

Why do there need to be so many different terms for the same info? Why do different organisations need to use different number formats? Am I the first (and only) person to find this difficult? Let me know, reach out on social media or by email to mark.wiltshear.tmi@gmail.com.

I hope that this has been useful to other new entrepreneurs, whether you are Finnish or International entrepreneurs. Although, I suspect it is easier to understand the abbreviations of these different but similar phrases, if you are Finnish.

My final comment to anyone listening to this, who owns or works at a Finnish company. Just take  a quick look at how you communicate your e-invoicing details to your partners. Can it be simpler? Can it use clearer terminology? Can you make life a little easier for your partners?

OK, rant over!


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