XRechnung - What is XRechnung? - Picture of the article

XRechnung or ZUGFeRD?

What you should know about electronic invoices to the german public sector!

With XRechnung, the public administration in Germany has created a new standard for electronic invoices (eInvoices). This became necessary after the European Union, as part of its digital offensive, obliged all member states by Directive 2014/55/EU to ensure the receipt of electronic invoice data by public administrations.

Why? It is simple: since “real” electronic invoices are structured data sets, they should address several problems at once. This is because invoice content provided in a uniform format is not only easier to validate, but can also be transferred in a cost and environmentally friendly manner and finally read out without errors. Workflows such as the transmission, checking, approval and payment of invoices can be significantly shortened and optimised.

This is an advantage that is very noticeable both in terms of resource consumption and the costs of invoice processing. The estimated savings potential for the federal states and the german governmental authorities in Germany alone is up to 4.5 billion euros – per year¹! Rather pessimistic estimates, on the other hand, assume “only” 2.5 billion euros that could be saved each year by sending electronic invoices to the german public authorities.

That’ s reason enough for the EU and its member states to promote the digitisation of their own invoice receipt processes with a lot of pressure and ambitious goals.

Time schedule for the eInvoicing obligation in Germany: Electronic invoicing to public authorities is gradually coming into force throughout Europe

Fig. Time schedule for the eInvoicing obligation in Germany: Electronic invoicing to public authorities is gradually coming into force throughout Europe

As a result, as early as 18 April 2020, all contracting authorities must be able to receive (and actually process electronically) incoming electronic invoices in a format that meets EU requirements. The XRechnung format was developed in Germany for this very purpose. This is a so-called Core Invoice Usage Specification (CIUS) of the corresponding e-invoice standard EN 16931, also specified by the EU. In other words:

XRechnung is the German version of the eInvoicing for german public authorities.

By the way, the current ZUGFeRD 2.0version of the ZUGFeRD format (already somewhat better known in Germany) is also compatible with EU regulations.

So far, so good, actually.

The only question that remains is: who should actually create the electronic invoices that the public authorities expect? And how do the invoice data records in XRechnung, ZUGFeRD & Co. actually find their way to the respective invoice recipient in public administration or public institutions at state, federal state and local level?

No need to worry, that has been thought of too!

XRechnungen to german government authorities: That’s the way it works!

Electronic invoices can be transmitted to invoice recipients in the public sector via many different channels. The federal government has set up a central service on the Internet for this purpose, the so-called Central Invoice Receipt of the Federal Government (ZRE: Zentraler Rechnungseingang des Bundes). You can reach it at https://xrechnung.bund.de/. However, before you can use the “ZRE” to transmit invoices to your own public sector clients, a one-time registration is required. You also need the so-called “Leitweg-ID” of your client. You will receive these automatically with new orders infuture, but you can also ask for them separately at any time.

Once you have registered at the “ZRE”, you have several options for submitting your invoice data:

  • The classic way: eInvoice by e-mail
  • For occasional invoices: Input of invoice data and/or upload of self-created XRechnung through web form
  • In case of high amount of invoices: Webservice via PEPPOL

It is also planned to transmit self-created XRechnung via De-Mail. In addition, more and more software developers and service providers are facilitating the sending of electronic invoices directly from their own ERP system as XRechnung or in any another desired eInvoice standard.

ZRE of the federal government: This is how your XRechnung reaches the federal government and is securely processed.

Fig. ZRE of the federal government: This is how your XRechnung reaches the federal government and is securely processed.

XRechnung to municipalities, public authorities and other recipients at state and municipal level?

In principle, this should not (no longer) be a problem from 18th April 2020 at the latest. In reality, however, it is likely to take a little longer before even the last contracting authority will be able to receive “real” electronic invoices and process them digitally.

The fact that the transition to digital invoicing in the federal states is not quite as “homogeneous” as it is at state level is due to the federal structure. In the Federal Republic of Germany it is usually the responsibility of the individual federal states to implement European requirements into applicable state law.

The consequence: The federal bodies, federal ministries and other federal authorities were ahead in terms of time when it came to electronic invoicing to the administration. In the end, all it took was the adoption of a corresponding e-invoice law (ERechG) and an e-invoice ordinance (E-Rech-VO), which defined the structure, scope and timetable for e-invoice to the german state authorities. The next step was to find and implement a common solution (in the form of the ZRE) for all invoice recipients of the German federal government and to connect it to all invoice recipients. Ready.

At state level, on the other hand, as many as 16 individual laws and ordinances had to be drafted, optimised and enacted on the basis of the EU directive and the European standard. No wonder that this did not happen everywhere equally quickly – and with the same result.

A circumstance that is now reflected in numerous different specifications, threshold values and technical approaches from federal state to federal state in Germany.

XRechnung to the public authorities: Also for SMEs and corporations (almost) no problem!

The good news first: there is no fundamental obligation to send invoices to public purchasers only electronically and in an EU-compatible format.

However, exceptions confirm the rule here as well. After all, anyone who has federal authorities, constitutional bodies, a ministry or another invoice recipient at federal level as a customer must actually be able to issue the required e-invoice very soon. Or to be more precise: from 27th November 2020, federal clients will no longer be allowed to accept invoices that do not comply with European standards. Simple PDF invoices or even invoices on paper will then be rejected and no longer paid.

The only exceptions (at federal level): In accordance with § 3 (3) of the German Federal E-Invoice Ordinance (E-Rech-VO), invoices up to EUR 1,000 are exempt from the e-invoice obligation after fulfilment of a direct order. The same applies in accordance with Section 8 of the E-Rech-VO to confidential invoice data from foreign service matters and other procurements abroad as well as to invoices which are to be issued in procedures for the loan of organs in accordance with Section 159 (1) No. 5 of the Act against Restraints of Competition.

At the federal state level, however, there is (still) virtually no obligation to send e-invoices to the administration. On the other hand, the almost unmanageable number of different detailed specifications, portals, transmission paths and thresholds make e-invoicing to public administration and public companies a veritable minefield. Especially if you are a supplier or service provider to the public sector for several invoice recipients in different countries, municipalities or regions.

Are you wondering how you and your company can send electronic invoices to the administration easily, quickly and securely in future?

With the eBeleg Services of XimantiX you create, send and receive electronic invoices in all common formats, not only as XRechnung or ZUGFeRD! And thanks to our sophisticated interface, ideally directly from your own ERP system!

Sounds exciting? Here you can learn more about perhaps the easiest way to send and receive invoices as XRechnung!

The most important questions about XRechnung & Co.

Do you have a specific question on electronic invoicing for the administration or public companies in Germany? In this case we have prepared the right answers for you!

What is the XRechnung?

XRechnung is a semantic data model with which electronic invoices can be sent to the German administration in accordance with the specifications of the European standardization authority CEN. The XRechnung thus represents a national variant of the EU standard EN 16931, a so-called Core Invoice Usage Specification (CIUS).

What is a “real” e-invoice?

E-invoices consist of structured invoice data that can be processed automatically. A simple PDF document without a corresponding XML data record is therefore not a real e-invoice. Not even if the PDF invoice is transmitted to the invoice recipient completely digitally, e.g. by e-mail.

Who is obliged to e-invoicing?

All public sector invoice recipients must be able to receive electronic invoices from 18th April 2020. From 27th November 2020, all suppliers of invoice recipients of the federal government will also be obliged to issue their invoices in the required electronic form. There are only a few exceptions. At federal state and municipal level (as of 08th January 2020) there will be a corresponding e-invoice obligation for suppliers in individual cases. But that could still change. However, this is unlikely to become clear before the deadline of 18th April 2020. Until then, the federal states and local authorities must lay down the implementation in corresponding laws.

How do XRechnung and the german GoBD fit together?

The principles for the proper keeping and storage of books, records and documents in electronic form as well as for data access (GoBD) contain, among other things, specifications as to which invoice contents are to be archived also in the case of electronic invoices. But with an experienced service provider like XimantiX, archiving XRechnung & Co. is absolutely no problem!

What is the difference between XRechnung and ZUGFeRD 2.0?

The main difference between the two formats is obvious in the truest sense of the word: whereas an e-invoice in XRechnung standard is a pure data record, an invoice in ZUGFeRD 2.0 standard consists of a data record and a so-called visual document in the form of a PDF. However, both standards basically meet the European requirements.

Where can I get more information about XRechnung?

To find out how you can quickly and easily send and receive electronic invoices – ideally even from your existing ERP system – in all standard formats, visit our service page about XRechnung Software. Further information on the status of XRechnung in the various federal states has been clearly compiled by the Verband elektronische Rechnung (VeR) using an interactive map. Further information on the ZRE and the necessary requirements can be found on bund.de.

What is the difference between ZRE and OZG-RE?

While electronic invoices can be sent to all recipients of the federal administration via the Central Invoice Receipt Office of the Federal Government (ZRE), the Online Invoice Receipt Platform (OZG-RE), which is more or less “identical” in construction, will be used by some federal states to receive electronic invoices. In addition, however, it is already clear that there will also be some individual solutions at state level.

You can reach the ZRE here: https://xrechnung.bund.de/

A central access point to the OZG-RE (which, however, will not be used by all member countries) can be accessed via the following URL: https://xrechnung-bdr.de


¹C. Rogall-Grothe: Leitfaden Elektronische Rechnung in der öffentlichen Verwaltung, Frankfurt am Main 2014