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Connecting to the Dutch Tax Authority’s digital post office

Back in the days, communication with the Dutch government happened by ‘snail mail’. Company-sensitive information, like revenue figures and invoices, was sent by post in a paper envelope. Of course this was error prone: documents could be intercepted, lost, altered, damaged or delayed. In many cases it involved handling the same information in different ways.

The birth of Digipoort electronic messaging

At some point, the Dutch Tax Authority decided that it is more efficient to send messages digitally using international open standards. On February 16, 2011 the Secretary of Finance published the decree that with ‘Digipoort’ the means for electronic messaging between interested parties and tax inspectors has been opened.

The term ‘Digipoort’ is composed of ‘digital’ and ‘poort’ (Dutch: gateway). In many cases it is already a requirement for companies to use Digipoort for sending their reports to Dutch authorities. This ‘digital post office’ is used nationwide by organizations to automate business processes and process large quantities of information in a standardized, efficient, secure and reliable way. Over 150 million messages a year are handled, not only for the Dutch Tax Authority, but also for Customs, the Food Safety Authority, the National Bank, the Institute for Employee Insurance (UWV), the Chamber of Commerce (KvK), the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW).

Integration: Connecting the dots

The concept of Digipoort is quite simple. Organizations connect their software and infrastructure to Digipoort and adhere to the standards and data formats as determined by the Dutch government. The actual implementation is a bit more complex. An organization communicating with Dutch authorities needs to make preparations to use Digipoort in technical, applicative and organizational sense.

Most companies connect to Digipoort using web services. They need to have practical knowledge of web services standards (SOAP, WSDL), secured transport (two-way TLS / SSL, PKI, certificate stores), (processing of) signed messages and messaging standards (UBL, XML, XSD’s). The formats and contents of the messages are dictated by the taxonomies of Standard Business Reporting (SBR), the Dutch standard for digital exchange of reporting.

Organizations need to make sure that their information systems can generate reports that meet SBR standards. New software or changes to existing software need to be introduced, accepted and used.

When a company sends a report to a Dutch authority, it passes through Digipoort. The local software needs to deal with the routing statuses and possible error messages. Digipoort checks the ‘electronic envelope’ for compliance and routes it to the right authority using the organizational id contained in the PKIoverheid certificate. This type of certificate is a requirement when using Digipoort. It is issued by a handful of Trust Service Providers and used for identification, signing and encryption.

So now you know Digipoort, and its complexity considering implementation and the rules. Below you’ll read what we did for one of our clients.

Helping to connect one of our clients to Digipoort

One of our clients asked us to “connect the dots” between their IT infrastructure and Digipoort, which was officially named as Connection Support. Our challenge was to manage new connections to Digipoort in both BAU as well as project settings, functioning as the bridge between external parties and the Dutch government. While working on this project we occasionally looked further than the project itself and applied our knowledge to help this client with solving issues with other connections as well.

To service connecting parties as best as possible, we needed at least overall knowledge and understanding of the applied technologies, the enforced standards, and local company dynamics. For our client’s Portfolio Development, we monitor the connection realization process and support expenses.

We help individual connecting parties by guiding them through the connection documentation. When a new message type is introduced, we facilitate information about connecting to Digipoort in an interactive group session. In addition, we helped improve organizational and technical connection documentation.

With our extensive experience in integration & business process excellence, we managed to look beyond the client’s wishes and were able to smoothen the process of integrating with Digipoort.

Need help with implementing or integrating Digipoort?