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E-receipts take the hassle out of accounting

Estonia is known for loving everything beginning with the letter „E-“. Mostly the „E-“ is used with words like residency, prescription or even with Estonia. However, now the „E-“ is moving to a whole new territory: receipts.

Spearheaded by the Estonian postal service Omniva, the e-receipt initiative aims to reduce the number of paper receipts handed out to customers when they are out and about on their shopping trips.

The service in its essence is simple: once a customer who has joined the e-receipt program buys anything from a store or any other business that has affiliated itself with the program, they will then receive the receipt for their purchase not on a paper slip, but in the digital e-receipt environment. This means that the customer never has to worry about storing the paper slip safely in their wallet or drawer again, as it will always be accessible via the e-receipt portal.

In addition to just having a great way of storing their receipts, the customer also has the option to view their shopping statistics and adjust their shopping habits accordingly, in an effort to save money. The E-receipt portal offers you a simple opportunity for keeping tabs on your daily and long-term expenses. You can place purchased goods in suitable expense categories and analyse your purchase behaviour.

Besides having a detailed view of all of your expenses, the e-receipt initiative lets you view the product manuals of the goods purchased. This way you no longer need to store product manuals in paper format.

The e-receipt project is not only meant for individuals, but offers tools for businesses as well. Pursuant to the new Accounting Act, account based documents can also be digital. The business no longer has to preserve paper receipts. Instead of digitalizing paper receipts, the e-receipt environment allows you to use a completely paper-free solution: the receipts will be sent from the merchant to the company. Even better, employees can forward the receipts to the account of the business, too.

The e-receipt initiative uses extended e-receipt standard, which means that the receipts can be easily forwarded to various accounting and cost management tools used by the majority of larger companies.

Security and environment play their part as well

In addition to all of this, the e-receipt project has a bigger goal too preserving the environment. Nearly 400 million tonnes of receipts are omitted in Estonia each year, which require 20 tonnes of paper. It takes approximately 15 trees, more than 9 barrels of oil and 72 tonnes of water to make one tonne of receipt paper and a whole tonne of waste is generated. If we could reduce the amount of omitted receipts by half, it would mean a significant nature conservation.

As is standard in Estonia, the privacy and safety of users are well worked out and nothing is left to chance. Firstly, in order to create you e-receipt account, you must authenticate yourself with either an ID-card or via mobile-ID.

The security architecture establishes that receipts are stored in the database in an anonymous form. The links between the receipts and users are kept separately and they are encrypted with AES 192-bit keys. The keys are stored, in turn, in a separate hardware security module, which ensures their confidentiality. The receipts in the system are not permanently personalised.

It follows that receipt-exchange between shops and the portal is double safe. Secure SSL channels with a 128-bit encryption are used for sending receipts from shops to the E-receipt environment. In addition, the receipts will have previously been encrypted using public key cryptography, which means that encrypted files are moved in a secure channel.

This might sound like a lot of unintelligible technical jargon, but the bottom line is simple: nobody except you will be able to access your account, your personal data or you shopping history.

The e-receipt system will go live this fall. The beta-testers have already worked with the system over the summer, discovering bugs and finding all the little kinks in the system, so the end-user experience would be flawless and enjoyable.

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