Industry standards in the exchange of eInvoices and other accounting documents

Industrial standards play an important role in document exchange between businesses. These include both established standards, such as EDIFACT and openTRANS, and those developed under new laws, such as ZUGFeRD and XRechnung.


XRechnung – Standard for invoicing public authorities and public companies

What is XRechnung?

XRechnung is a data exchange standard that contains all the information for an invoice as structured data in a defined XML format. As of December 18, 2018, Version 1.2.0 of the standard is currently available.

What is the significance of XRechnung?

XRechnung has been defined as the standard in Germany for implementing EU Directive 2014/55/EU on invoicing to public authorities and public-sector companies. In the first phase, these include federal authorities, followed by public authorities and public-sector companies at the federal-state and municipality level.

Which authorities or businesses will expect to receive XRechnung-based electronic invoices?

First and foremost, conventional authorities at federal-government level, as well as federal states and municipalities come to mind. When assessing the reach of the XRechnung standard, it is important to keep in mind that a number of other companies are also included if they are majority-owned by the public hand, such as:

  • Hospitals and social organisations
  • Energy suppliers
  • Road construction companies
  • Waste management companies
  • Schools and universities
  • Public swimming baths
  • Museums and cultural institutions

From when do invoices have to be sent in electronic form to public authorities?

Federal authorities need to be prepared to receive electronic invoices from November 27, 2018. The same applies one year later, from 27 November 2019, for sub-central contracting authorities, sector contractors and public franchisers. For you as a contractor, the dispatch of electronic invoices in the specified format becomes mandatory as of November 27, 2020.

We therefore recommend that you plan for this today and use efficient electronic invoice exchange to the benefit of you and your customers.

Will alternative formats be available for electronic invoices issued to authorities?

As part of the e-invoice regulation(including the explanation by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi), Item VI. I.) ZUGFeRD 2.0 has already been advocated as an alternative format. A decision on this is still pending. Nevertheless, as a service provider, we can provide you with the certainty you need today that we will implement the right solution for you.

What form does the given structure of an XRechnung take?

For more information on the format and structure of an XRechnung, we refer you to the XRechnung standard from the IT planning council.

Our recommendations to you

You can already set the right course today for efficiently and securely delivering invoices to your customers in the public and private sectors. As a service provider, we are the reliable partner at your side for planning, implementing and operating future-oriented solutions.

Read more about Send and receive XRechnung


The standard for e-invoices

What are the benefits of the ZUGFeRD standard?

By using the ZUGFeRD standard when sending electronic invoices, you lay the foundation stone for maximising the level of end-to-end digitalisation, from sending invoices to receiving and paying them.

The advantages of the consistency provided by using the ZUGFeRD standard are plain:

  • Shorter lead times
  • Avoidance of transmission errors
  • Quicker payment
  • Time and cost savings

With the ZUGFeRD 2.0 standard that was adopted in the Autumn of 2017, you also have a standard that can be used to meet the future requirements of the e-invoice law or e-invoice regulation (E-Rech-VO), even when sending electronic invoices to authorities as an alternative to XRechnung.

What is a ZUGFeRD invoice?

A ZUGFeRD standard invoice consists of two components: a readable document combined with structured data. ZUGFeRD is therefore referred to as a hybrid format. The structured data (XML) is merged with the invoice document in a PDF/A-3 file. The structure of the XML data is defined in the ZUGFeRD standard. The visual representation is available as a PDF document.

What ZUGFeRD variants or profiles are available?

Various variants or profiles are available within the ZUGFeRD standard depending on the requirements.

The ZUGFeRD 1.0 standard defines three variants of the format, ZUGFeRD BASIC – ZUGFeRD COMFORT – ZUGFeRD EXTENDED, each containing a different depth of the agreed data structure.

ZUGFeRD 2.0 is currently available for use in accordance with EU Directive 2014/55/EU in Profile EN 16931. This corresponds to the previous ZUGFeRD COMFORT variant. The other ZUGFeRD 2.0 variants, such as ZUGFeRD BASIC, ZUGFeRD EXTENDED and ZUGFeRD with posting aid without position data are expected soon.

How do I archive a ZUGFeRD invoice?

The provision of ZUGFeRD invoices as PDF/A-3 files means that you can archive them directly, digitally and in GoBD-compliant form.

How do I send an invoice in ZUGFeRD format?

Different options are available to you based on our ‘XimantiX eBeleg Service – Ausgang’ solution for optimised invoicing. One of them is delivery in ZUGFeRD format. Further Information about our optimised Invoicing service can be found on the XimantiX website under XimantiX Services.

Why are we the right service provider for you for converting to ZUGFeRD?

As a specialist provider and service provider in the field of electronic information exchange, we participate in various committees for the enhancement of relevant standards. We are, amongst other things, involved in the development of the ZUGFeRD 2.0 standard.

Our objective is to optimise accounting processes by digitalising them directly from and to ERP systems. We are aware that change is not possible at the push of a button when all your customers and suppliers become involved. We accompany you on the path towards digitalisation with our expertise and solutions.

How does the German electronic invoice forum, “Forum elektronische Rechnung Deutschland” rate the ZUGFeRD standard?

The ZUGFeRD standard now creates the condition for “quickly, conveniently and easily exchanging invoices electronically between companies and public administrations”, explains Andreas Pelekies, Senior Project Manager, EDI/E-Business, at GS1 Germany and one of the managers of the AP 3 work package, “Technical Standards and ZUGFeRD” in the “Forum elektronische Rechnung Deutschland (FeRD)”.

Learn more about ZUGFeRD in the Questions and Answers on the ZUGFeRD standardsection from FeRD.


EDI – Electronic Data Interchange

EDIis the abbreviation for Electronic Data Interchange and basically stands for the exchange of data on an electronic basis. Amongst other things, this standard is used for sending and receiving invoices. Mainly large companies, such as those in trade and the automotive industry are increasingly using EDI/EDIFACT for exchanging invoices.

When exchanging data using EDI, the fields and their meaning need to be coordinated between the sender and the recipient.

EDIFACT, on the other hand, stand for Electronic Data Interchange For Administration, Commerce and Transport and was created by the international, cross-industry enhancement of the EDI standard. A large number of industry-specific subsets have also been developed in the meantime.


Open standard to support data exchange for invoices and receipts

openTRANS is an open standard for supporting data exchange in business transactions between trading companies. It therefore supports electronic procurement and integrates with XML and XML schema-based standards. In this way, openTRANS is similar to the EDIFACT standards, which serves for exchanging business transactions electronically.

The standard is the result of an initiative by industrial and commercial enterprises under the direction of Fraunhofer IAO in cooperation with the University of Duisburg-Essen BLI, with the aim of standardising business process documents (e.g. shipping notifications, invoices) as a basis for electronic system-to-system communication.

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