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Electronic Invoices Reduce Paper Consumption

The Taiwan Fiscal Information Agency uses RFID and NFC technologies to enable shoppers to receive e-receipts.
By Bob Violino
Jun 18, 2014

In 2006, Taiwan set out to improve environmental conditions on the East Asia island. The state was issuing more than 8 billion paper invoices annually—the equivalent of 80,000 trees and 3,200 tons of CO2 emissions, according to the Taiwan Fiscal Information Agency (FIA), a division of the Ministry of Finance.

The FIA launched an electronic invoicing system for business-to-business transactions. The effort helped reduce paper consumption, but not nearly enough. So in May 2010, the FIA established a three-year project to encourage the use of electronic invoices in the consumer sector.

Consumers can use their EasyCards to provide identification and associate their purchases with their e-invoices. (Photo: FIA)
From the outset, the FIA determined that radio frequency identification technologies could provide a convenient and secure way for consumers to receive and access e-invoices, according to Su Chun-Jung, director-general of the FIA and the project leader. To enable electronic invoicing, the organization needed a mechanism to link an e-invoice to its recipient. The FIA introduced the concept of a "carrier"—in essence, an identifier that is used to "collect" e-invoices.

Many consumers were already using RFID-enabled EasyCards to pay for rides on the island's Mass Rapid Transportation system and to purchase items in retail stores. (The EasyCard is based on NXP Seminconductors' Mifare contactless smart card technology.) Unlike ATM and credit cards, EasyCards are anonymous, so the FIA chose EasyCards as the carrier for e-invoicing, to reduce privacy concerns, Chun-Jung says. The agency determined that smartphones equipped with Near-Field Communication technology could also serve as carriers.

The FIA hired consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to design the e-invoicing process in physical retail channels and to help the agency establish strategies to promote the solution. The organization also brought in Trade-Van Information Service as the systems integrator, to implement the back-end system that would support e-invoicing.

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