What invoice issuers need to know about e-invoicing
A quick overview
- As of 27 November 2020, you must be able to create, submit and securely store electronic invoices (e-invoices) until the required retention period has expired.
- Since that date, federal contracting authorities have no longer accepted invoices in paper form or as PDF files.
- In order to submit electronic invoices, you may have to revise your system for sending out invoices, review internal processes and train staff.
What is an electronic invoice (e-invoice)?
Electronic invoicing allows for fully automated transmission and processing of invoice information, from the creation of invoices to their electronic transmission, automated receipt and further processing. An e-invoice presents invoice information in a structured, machine-readable data file, rather than on paper or in a fixed-layout format such as a PDF file.
What do I need to know about sending electronic invoices to federal contracting authorities?
The XRechnung standard
Technically speaking, an e-invoice is a data set arranged in a standardised structure.
In Germany, the XRechnung standard was developed to ensure uniform implementation of e-invoicing. The XRechnung standard is thus Germany’s version of the European standard EN 16931 (a Core Invoice Usage Specification, or CIUS).
Buyer reference (Leitweg-ID)
To send an electronic invoice to a public invoice recipient, the recipient must be uniquely identified and addressed using a buyer reference (Leitweg-ID). The buyer reference enables the e-invoice to be addressed electronically and forwarded to the invoice processing systems of the federal administration authorities linked to the central invoice submission portals.
The invoice recipient’s buyer reference is entered in the field “Buyer reference” (BT-10) in the XRechnung standard. The buyer reference must be provided with every e-invoice sent to federal administration authorities. The contracting authority should provide the invoice issuer with its buyer reference; if not, the invoice issuer should ask the contracting authority for it.
Please note that invoice issuers do not need a buyer reference of their own.
The federal invoice submission portals
There are two federal portals for submitting e-invoices.
The Federal Central Invoice Submission Portal (ZRE)
Organisations of the direct federal administration receive e-invoices via the Federal Central Invoice Submission Portal (ZRE). This list tells you which organisations of the direct federal administration are linked to the ZRE: Overview of the organisations of the direct federal administration which are linked to the ZRE (document available in German only).
You can register with the ZRE test environment here to try out the electronic invoice functions before actually sending any invoices to the federal administration.
You can register as an invoice issuer with the ZRE production environment here to create and submit your invoices.
Online Access Act-compliant Invoice Submission Portal (OZG-RE)
Many organisations of the indirect federal administration receive e-invoices via the federal Online Access Act-compliant Invoice Submission Portal (OZG-RE). This list tells you which organisations of the indirect federal administration are linked to the OZG-RE: Overview of the organisations of the indirect federal administration which are linked to the OZG-RE (document available in German only).
You can register with the OZG-RE test environment here to try out the electronic invoice functions before actually sending any invoices to the federal administration.
You can register as an invoice issuer with the OZG-RE production environment here to create and submit your invoices.
Please note: In addition to the OZG-RE, organisations of the indirect federal administration may implement their own solutions for receiving electronic invoices. Please check with your invoice recipient.
You can create an e-invoice manually in the ZRE and the OZG-RE, or you can create one outside the federal invoice submission portals, for example using a standard commercial enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. The federal invoice submission portals offer four different ways to send e-invoices.
Before sending an e-invoice to a federal contracting authority, you should choose the transmission method that works best for you. You can find more information in the guide to choosing a transmission method (document available in German only).
To create an e-invoice, you can enter the invoice information manually within the federal invoice submission portals and submit the e-invoice from there:
- ZRE: Create invoice
- OZG-RE: Create new invoice
After registering with the federal invoice submission portals, you can upload e-invoices that you have created using an external system and submit them to your invoice recipient:
- ZRE: Submit invoice
- OZG-RE: Submit an invoice created externally
Peppol enables the fully automated exchange of electronic documents. This means that all participants can seamlessly export and import documents from different processing systems. The Peppol network is especially helpful for sending large numbers of e-invoices (mass transmission), but even for smaller transmissions, the Peppol network enables seamless and efficient digital processing.
Email and De-Mail
You can send e-invoices that you have created using an external system via email to the federal invoice submission portals.
- ZRE: Manage ZRE account › Select transmission method › Email
- OZG-RE: Send externally created e-invoice via email
It is also possible to submit electronic invoices using De-Mail. To use this option, please use the address firstname.lastname@example.org. Otherwise, the same requirements apply for this submission type that apply for submission via email.
According to the federal E-Invoicing Ordinance (document available in German only), an e-invoice must include at least the following information:
- Buyer reference (Leitweg-ID)
- Bank details
- Payment terms
- The De-Mail or email address of the invoice issuer
- Seller identifier*
- Purchase order reference*
*If this information was provided to the invoice issuer when the contract was awarded.
E-invoicing in Germany’s federal states
The federal E-Invoicing Ordinance governs the sending of e-invoices by suppliers to the federal administration. Germany’s federal states implement EU Directive 2014/55/EU under their own responsibility.
In order to help you send e-invoices to the federal states, we have put together some useful information:
Further information for invoice issuers
In the library, you will find extensive information about e-invoicing in the federal administration, videos explaining how to use the Peppol network and video tutorials on using the federal invoice submission portals ZRE and OZG-RE. If you have any questions, please let us know. Write to us using our contact form.