Spontaneous application

Reliable Audit Trail & Tax control

New Insight
10 November 2020
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Are you ready for the tax control of your Reliable Audit Trail ?


The Reliable Audit Trail is an obligation relating to the security requirements of the French Tax Administration (FTA) in companies’ electronic invoicing process. Any invoice issued has to guarantee, for life cycle of a transaction, from beginning to end, 3 security points with regard to tax purposes[1] :

  • Authenticity of the document origin
  • Content integrity
  • Legibility of the document


The obligation

The possibility of using an electronic invoice for companies has been in effect by article 289, VI of the French Tax Code since 2013.

So, to be compliant with the 3 security points above1, the FTA gives entities three choices:

  • the computerised exchange of data (EDI);
  • the electronic invoice secured by an advanced electronic signature;
  • Any other invoice, not covered by the first two technologies, with a Reliable Audit Trail


The aim & content

As stated above, only the third category of invoice needs a Reliable Audit Trail. This will enable the FTA to ensure that each transaction respects the 3 security points during all steps in its life cycle by complying with the laws and regulations.

It implies a formalization, in written documentation, that the audit trail allows for:

  • Reconstituting in chronological order, the entire invoicing process, from its origin (e.g., order) to its end (e.g., payment of transaction and archiving of the invoice)
  • demonstrating the implementation of documented and permanent controls for paper invoices and unsecured electronic invoices that ensure that the invoice reflects the transaction that has taken place.
  • identifing the control actors as well as their respective tasks


Risks and sanctions

Since the introduction of this obligation, the FTA has not systematically requested the corresponding documentation as they were focusing on the File of Electronic Accounting Entries[2] [(FEC) – other obligation introduce in 2014]. Now that the implementation of this file in companies is very advanced, the administration goes to the next step that consists of controlling the documentation of the Reliable Audit Trail.

In this context, the documentation is more and more (even systematically) requested in tax audit.


  • Not providing this documentation within a reasonable time could trigger penalties regarding:
  • potential automatic tax assessment[3] and significant penalties — up to 100% of the reassessed amount
  • challenge of deductibility[4] which can trigger the rejection of purchase invoices and the related VAT
  • challenge of the sales invoice4 issued’ reality (resulting in a penalty of 50% of the amount that was or should have been invoiced – reduced to 5% if the corresponding invoices are posted)
  • late payment interest, opposition to a tax audit, etc.


Your current situation

Faced with this obligation, 2 situations are possible :

  1.  Your Reliable Audit Trail is ready and available for Tax Audit
  2.  You are not yet ready for a Reliable Audit Trail tax audit

If you are in the (1) case, you may need an audit of your documentation in order to check its accuracy. We are available to assist you with this compliance testing

If you are in the (2) case, we can assist your company in setting-up or finalizing the documentation.


Your contact :

Ibrahima SARR


IBS Department



[1] Article 289 V of the French Tax Code

[2] The FEC file required in France, has been stipulated by article L.47A I of the French Code of Fiscal Procedures (FCFP), requiring 18 fields to have been filled in for each accounting entry.

[3] Articles L 102 B and L 74 of the FCFP

[4] Articles 283-4 and 272 of the Tax code (CGI)

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