Peppol e-invoicing and e-procurement in Germany

At the heart of the European Union, Germany is following the majority of the bloc by adopting Peppol alongside its national standards.

This Peppol implementation is accelerating as the preferred network for exchanging electronic documents — product catalogues, orders & order confirmations, e-invoices — within e-procurement in Europe. In this blog post, we will look at e-procurement in Germany, the European directive on e-invoicing, and how the Peppol standard works in the context of XRechnung and ZUGFeRD 2.0.

E-invoicing and e-procurement in Germany – a timeline

In the last few years, Germany has seen a succession of quick developments in the field of electronic data interchange (EDI), with national document standards created and fine-tuned to conform to the European Directive on e-invoicing (which we will examine below).

  • June 2017 – National public authorities must have the capability to receive and process XRechnung invoices; however, other formats besides XRechnung can be accepted.
  • April 2018 – The German National IT Planning Council adopts Peppol as the framework to transport e-invoices to public authorities.
  • June 2018 – The Coordination Office for IT standards (KoSIT) becomes the German Peppol Authority and the 10th Peppol Authority worldwide. KoSIT becomes responsible for the maintenance and updating of the XRechnung standard.
  • 27 November 2020 – All public contractors must use e-invoices during the procurement process with federal authorities.*

*While it is now mandatory for federal authorities and their suppliers to send, receive and process e-invoices, there is currently no such requirement at the state and local levels. Germany’s federal structure gives responsibility to individual federal states to implement laws set by the European Union in their respective jurisdictions. This has led to a few states implementing e-invoicing regulations for suppliers and public sector organizations at the local level, but for the majority, there is no such requirement at present.

E-invoicing progress in Germany

According to European Commission statistics, it has been estimated that 32,000 million eInvoices are transacted each year in Germany, with a survey in December 2019 showing that roughly one-third of all enterprises with 500 or more people were already using e-invoicing. For SMEs, this number was approximately one-fifth. Due to the developments mentioned above, it is expected that this number will only increase, not just for B2G transactions but B2B ones as well.

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What is Directive 2014/55/EU on electronic invoicing in public procurement?

Coming into full force in 2020, Directive 2014/55/EU aims to give Europe a technological push by mandating the use of B2G e-invoicing through an interoperable standard that can be used throughout member states. The main objectives are:

  • Cost savings and greater efficiency in public procurement.
  • A more level playing field between suppliers from different member states.
  • Greater competition, leading to better services.

The interoperable document standard mentioned above is European Norm (EN) 16931; the semantic data model of which allows seamless B2G and B2B interoperability across Europe using a single e-invoice format. As the European Commission website says:

The EN defines a core invoice data model that contains information commonly used in invoices… It then defines the exact meaning of the business terms used in that model… a semantic standardization that defines the invoice content and the meaning of that content.

The information defined through the core invoice data model is then sent through the two acceptable e-invoice message standards, either UBL 2.1 or CII 16b.

Peppol e-invoicing’s BIS (Business Interoperability Specifications) 3.0 is based on EN 16931, making it the choice for many countries to use as their national standard. If a country adopts Peppol, then it will, through its use, automatically comply with European requirements.

However, as we will see below, even if a country uses Peppol, it may not be the sole national standard. France uses Factur-X and Germany uses XRechnung and ZUGFeRD 2.0.

What is XRechnung and ZUGFeRD 2.0?

XRechnung is an XML-based invoice format that was developed for German public authorities, while ZUGFeRD 2.0 is composed of both XML XRechnung format and a readable PDF document. ZUGFeRD is used predominantly for B2B transactions, as it can be easier for smaller companies and freelancers to navigate e-invoices represented as PDFs. Both of these national invoices conform to e-invoicing standard EN 16931 and can be used alongside the Peppol BIS Billing 3.0 standard.

The way the German national standard differentiates itself from Peppol is with the mandatory “Leitweg-ID” (routing ID). Much like Peppol identifiers, Leitweg-IDs means the precise business entity, or even department within the entity can be reached directly.

How does Peppol fit into all of this?

The German Federal Government has set up a central service called Central Invoice Receipt of the Federal Government (ZRE: Zentraler Rechnungseingang des Bundes). Once registered, you have the ability to send invoices through email, a customizable XRechnung web form, or through Peppol integration by using any of the Access Point providers that offer such connectivity.

Of course, rather than having to navigate a new system, some companies natively support Peppol within their own ERP or invoicing software, meaning e-invoices and other e-documents can be sent seamlessly to the Peppol network.

Benefits of Peppol e-invoicing

As mentioned above, Peppol is synonymous with the European standard for e-invoicing. The Peppol network is being offered by a growing number of ERP and invoicing software providers; if you are an SME using, for instance, Xero, Visma or SAP, you will already have Peppol capabilities available to you.

If you are a large company with its own ERP, an ERP, invoicing software vendor, or a service provider, you will be looking to connect to Peppol as a Peppol Access Point provider or through a third party operating it for you. By doing this you can create Peppol IDs, distributing them to your organization or clients who require Peppol access.

The e-invoicing strategies of Europe, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand have either introduced or are planning to introduce e-invoicing requirements with Peppol as the preferred network. Outside of the laws and inducements regions use to increase uptake, there are practical reasons for businesses of any size to start transacting through Peppol.

Cost savings

According to recent estimates, e-invoicing saves German public sector authorities and private businesses €2.5 – €4.5 billion per year.

Reduced errors

Peppol gets rid of manual data entry, reducing errors for both senders and recipients.

Lower risk of fraud

Exchanging UBL Peppol documents over the network is much more secure than sending PDF invoices through e-mail, which is prone to hacking.

Easier global trade

Interoperable electronic business documents means simpler global trade and greater access to government procurement contracts.

Easier and cost-efficient technical implementation and maintenance

This is because there is only the need to integrate with the Peppol Network once, instead of having to create separate point-to-point integrations, as is the case for legacy EDI standards.

Peppol with a trusted infrastructure provider

Since Germany, five more countries have established Peppol Authorities, with Japan expected to formalize an agreement soon and discussions between OpenPeppol, Peppol’s governing body, and the USA & Canada continue.

With an increasing number of B2G and B2B Peppol e-invoicing transactions occurring, ERP vendors and service providers offering Peppol connections are growing their customer base by providing more extensive value. 

Connecting your software to the network through your own Peppol Access Point is made easy with Tickstar’s Galaxy Gateway. As the largest Peppol infrastructure provider in the world, we can fast-track your accreditation with shared-instance or while-label options. This means you can become a Peppol service provider, while we handle development, maintenance, and hosting.

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