Digital signatures in Russia and electronic document management

An electronic digital signature (EDS) is a detail of an electronic document intended to protect this electronic document from falsification, obtained as a result of the cryptographic transformation of information using the private key of an EDS and allowing to identify the owner of the certificate of the signature key, as well as to establish the absence of misrepresentation of information in an electronic document.

An electronic digital signature is a software-based cryptographic tool that provides:

  • the integrity of the documents;
  • secrecy of documents;
  • identification of the person who sent the document.

Using an electronic digital signature allows you to:

  • significantly reduce the time spent on transaction processing and document exchange;
  • improve and reduce the cost of preparation, delivery, accounting, and storage of documents;
  • guarantee the accuracy of the documentation;
  • minimize the risk of financial losses by increasing the confidentiality of information exchange;
  • build a corporate document exchange system.

There are three types of electronic digital signature:

  • simple digital signature;
  • enhanced unqualified electronic digital signature;
  • enhanced qualified digital signature.

Simple digital signature

Using the codes, passwords, or other means, a simple digital signature confirms that a certain person has formed an electronic signature.

A simple digital signature has a low level of protection. It only allows you to determine the author of the document.

A simple digital signature does not protect the document from falsification.

This kind of EDS can be used when legal entities apply for receiving state and municipal services by signing the application by an authorized person.

The use of simple electronic signatures for receipt of state or municipal services is allowed if Federal Laws or other normative acts do not prohibit applying for state or municipal services in electronic form.

Enhanced unqualified electronic digital signature

  1. obtained as a result of the cryptographic transformation of information using an electronic signature key;
  2. allows you to identify the person who signed the electronic document;
  3. allows you to detect the fact of making changes to an electronic document after the moment of its signing;
  4. it is created using electronic signature tools.

An enhanced unqualified digital signature has an average degree of protection. To use an unqualified electronic signature, you need a certificate of its verification key. The Tax Code does not specify the cases in which information in an electronic form signed ith an unqualified electronic signature is recognized as an electronic document equivalent to a paper document signed with a handwritten signature.

According to the Ministry of Finance, for tax accounting purposes, a document issued in electronic form and signed with an unqualified electronic signature cannot be a document equivalent to a paper document signed with a handwritten signature.

Therefore, using this kind of signature, there is a possibility of disputes with the supervisory authority. That’s why the meaning of such documents is lost.

Enhanced qualified digital signature

A qualified electronic signature has the characteristics of an unqualified electronic signature.

An enhanced qualified digital signature corresponds to the following additional signature attributes:

  1. the electronic signature verification key is specified in the qualified certificate;
  2. to create and verify an electronic signature, only electronic signature tools that have received confirmation of compliance with the legislation requirements are used.

The enhanced qualified digital signature is the most versatile and standardized signature with a high degree of protection.

A document signed with such a signature is similar to the paper version with a handwritten signature.

You can use such a signature without any additional agreements and regulations between the participants of the electronic document flow.

If there is a qualified signature under the document, you can determine exactly which employee of the organization put it. Also, you can determine whether the document was changed after it was signed.

For some types of reporting, the use of a qualified signature is defined by regulatory documents. For example, some reports to the Pension Fund and Tax Service.

The electronic invoice can be signed only with an enhanced qualified electronic signature of the head or other persons authorized to do so by an order (or other administrative documents) or a power of attorney on behalf of an individual entrepreneur or organization.

The application for registration with the tax authority or applications for a refund are certified only by an enhanced qualified signature.

Today, you can make an EDS quickly and easily. To do this, you need to send an online application to one of the accredited certification centers and provide the necessary documents. There are more than three hundred such organizations in Russia. The full list is available on the website of the Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Communications of the Russian Federation.

Once you get the EDS, you need to understand what kind of electronic document management you can use it for:

  • electronic document management with the Tax Service. For example, every year, an increasing number of reports must be submitted only in electronic form;
  • electronic document management in accounting. According to Law No. 402-FZ «On Accounting», the primary accounting document can be drawn up on paper or in the form of the electronic document signed with an electronic signature;
  • electronic document management in court proceedings;
  • electronic document management in the tender documentation, conducting electronic auctions;
  • electronic document management between the parties;
  • electronic document management in the company.

To start electronic document management, it is necessary to make a fundamental decision to introduce it. Such a decision is made by an order for the company.

The documents are formed and signed electronically. The electronic digital signature must be certified in accordance with the established procedure.

The easiest way is to organize an electronic document flow with the authorities, for example, with the Tax Service. To do this, you also need to get an electronic signature and sign a contract with the certification center. Most often, the taxpayer has to submit to the tax authority the Declaration, clarification of the invoice. As feedback documents are generated by the tax in accordance with the Order of the Federal Tax Service of Russia dated 15.04.2015 № MMV-7-2/149@ «On approval of the Procedure of sending the documents used by tax bodies when implementing their authority in relations regulated by legislation on taxes and fees, in electronic form with the use of telecommunication channels and the annulment of certain provisions of the order Federal tax service dated 17.02.2011 № MMV-7-2/169@».

Thus, if we talk about internal electronic documents, their circulation will be regulated by internal local acts, if we talk about relationships with counterparties, such relationships are regulated by the parties, and if the document flow is organized with the authorities, they will act in accordance with the adopted procedure.

The organization must store all electronic documents. The main normative act regulating the storage of electronic documents is the «Rules for the organization of storage, acquisition, accounting and use of documents of the archival fund of the Russian Federation and other archival documents in state authorities, local self-government bodies and organizations (approved by Order of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation No. 526 dd 31.03.2015). This document sets out the rules for storing electronic documents.