Reliable audit trail for invoices

Reliable audit trail for invoices

Reliable audit trail for invoices 650 423 Exponens International

Reliable audit trail for invoices

Published on 09/11/2021

Only paper invoices and unsecured electronic invoices issued from your software are concerned by the reliable audit trail, called “Piste d’audit fiable” or “PAF” in French. The main objective of the reliable audit trail is the deduction of VAT. Dematerialized invoices according to the conditions set by the French tax code (based of Electronic Data Interchange technology) and electronically signed invoices are subject to another previous tax regulation.


The reliable audit trail is a documented procedure which makes it possible to follow the entire invoicing process, from its origin to the end of the recorded operation. The objective of the French tax authority (FTA) is to allow any invoicing format without VAT fraud.

The common conditions to all invoice formats must be respected: authenticity of the original invoice, integrity of the content and legibility of the invoice (Article 289 V of the French tax code). To secure the VAT deduction, the tax authorities added the reliable audit trail for paper invoices and unsecured electronic invoices issued from your software.


The implementation of the reliable audit trail at each stage of the invoicing process is the responsibility of both the buyer and seller. The controls establishing the audit trail are organized and permanent.

The size of the company, the nature of its activities, its information systems, the volume of invoices it issues and receives influence the appropriate level of controls to be implemented. They make it possible to establish the link between an invoice, accounting and tax proof, and the reality of the operation invoiced.

According to the FTA, in a very small company, a manual comparison of invoices with commercial documents (quotes, purchase orders, delivery notes, proof of payment) may constitute a sufficient control put in place by the taxpayer. The controls establishing the audit trail must ensure that the transition from one to the other of the aforementioned documents is traceable in both directions.

The company must keep proof of these controls (manual or computerized). The entire invoice message and audit trail must be archived in its original form and content within the meaning of French tax regulation. Proofs of controls are kept in rules similar to invoices (6 years).


The audit trail is considered reliable when the FTA can establish the link between the supporting documents and the operations carried out.

The absence or the failure of the reliable audit trail may result in financial penalty, in particular a rejection of deductible VAT. In the event of a tax audit, the main tax risk concerns the purchase invoices on a potential reassessment of deductible VAT (the standard rate of VAT in France is currently 20%).

To go further, Exponens recommends :

Importer : obligation of VAT registration in France with a tolerance while waiting to obtain the VAT number – Read the article
Changes for Intrastat in France from January 1st, 2022– Read the article
Research & Development tax credit in France – Read the article