Peppol Access Points connect users to the Peppol network, enabling them to exchange electronic documents such as e-invoices. As an invoice sender you have three possible options: use an Access Point of a Peppol service provider; use the Access Point of the federal administration; or set up and run your own Access Point.
Buyer reference or in German Leitweg-ID is a unique character string that enables the technical addressing of the e-invoice to an invoice recipient’s processing systems. An e-invoice to the Federal Administration authorities must contain a buyer reference otherwise it cannot be correctly delivered. Invoice recipients inform their suppliers of their buyer reference when the contract is awarded.
Central Invoice Submission Portal (ZRE)
Central invoice submission portal or German “ZRE” is a central access points for the submission of e-invoices. The direct Federal Administration (e.g. ministries and higher federal authorities) receives invoices via the ZRE invoice submission platform. Institutions associated with the indirect Federal Administration and cooperating federal states receive e-invoices.
The European standard EN 16931 allows European member states to supplement and refine the European requirements with additional rules, using CIUS (Core Invoice Usage Specification), provided these do not conflict with the standard. Germany’s CIUS is the XRechnung standard – a national version of the European standard.
Consolidation of IT services
By 2025, a federal programme comprising more than 40 projects will develop joint, efficient, secure IT solutions for the federal administration. These solutions will be provided in some 200 federal authorities. The introduction of electronic invoicing is part of this federal programme to consolidate IT services. For more information, see cio.bund.de (German only).
Content of e-invoices
In accordance with section 5 of the federal E-Invoicing Ordinance (and in addition to what is required by section 14 of the Value Added Tax Act; Umsatzsteuergesetz, UStG), an electronic invoice must include at least the following information:
- Buyer reference (Leitweg-ID) number – Your invoice recipient will inform you of the buyer reference when the contract is awarded.
- Terms of payment or the date by which payment is due
- Bank account details of the payment recipient
- De-Mail or email address of the invoice issuer
- Sales order number (optional)
Purchase order number (optional)
CEN-compliant invoice standard
The European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) has issued a standard on e-invoicing that ensures EU-wide standardisation in syntax (rules according to which the computerised system of symbols/characters is formed) and semantics (meaning of the symbols/characters of this system) as a basis for national implementation. The member states can introduce their own standards or formalisation of the standard (known as CIUS, Core Invoice Usage Specification) based on this standard. Conformity to the CEN standard facilitates EU-wide processing.
The invoice issuer enters invoice data such as sender, invoice number, line items, amounts and taxes into a standardised structure based on the XRechnung specifications and sends them as an XML data file. This data file constitutes the e-invoice.
The date by which issuers of invoices to the Federal Government had to switch to electronic invoicing was 27 November 2020. Since then, invoice issuers have not been allowed to send invoices in paper form or as PDF files to public-sector customers of the federal administration. (Attachments as PDF files, for instance, can only be submitted if embedded in XML data files.) All invoices sent to the authorities of the federal administration must now be e-invoices as defined in the federal E-Invoicing Ordinance (E-Rechnungsverordnung, ERechV) (exemptions are provided for in section 3 (3) ERechV).
According to the Rules of Procedure Governing Supply and Service Contracts Below the EU Thresholds (Unterschwellenvergabeordnung, UVgO), direct contracts are given for
“services that can be procured up to an anticipated contract value of 1,000 euro (excluding VAT), taking into account the budgetary principles of cost-effectiveness and economy, without conducting an award procedure.”
Based on section 3 (3) no. 1 of the E-Invoicing
Ordinance (E-Rechnungsverordnung, ERechV), direct contracts are excluded from the general obligation to issue electronic invoices under section 3 (1) ERechV.
Direct federal administration
Organisations of the direct federal administration receive e-invoices via the Federal Central Invoice Submission Portal (ZRE). Indeed they are obliged to use this portal. A list of organisations that use the ZRE is available here (in German).
Using the federal invoice submission portals (ZRE and OZG-RE), you can submit documents such as PDF files embedded as attachments with your e-invoice. (See also “Attachments”.)
Electronic invoicing allows for fully automated transmission and processing of invoice information, from the creation of invoices to their payment. Technically speaking, an electronic invoice is a data set arranged in a standardised structure.
E-Invoicing Ordinance (E-RechV)
The E-Invoicing Ordinance (full title: “Ordinance on Electronic Invoicing in Federal Public Procurement”; Verordnung über die elektronische Rechnungsstellung im öffentlichen Auftragswesen des Bundes, E-RechV) governs how electronic invoicing works in the federal administration and specifies the requirements of the federal E-Invoicing Act, thus helping to implement EU Directive 2014/55/EU at federal level.
In addition to the two other available transmission methods, email is an option for submitting electronic invoices to the federal invoice submission portals (both the ZRE and the OZG-RE). To use this option, users must be registered with the relevant portal.
Important information on using email as a transmission method can be found here.
Most enterprise resource planning (ERP) software is able to create electronic invoices. This is especially useful if you need to send large numbers of e-invoices. You can find out from your ERP provider whether your ERP is capable of producing e-invoices.
Exemptions to the obligation to issue electronic invoices are specified in section 3 (3) of the E-Invoicing Ordinance (E-Rechnungsverordnung, ERechV) as follows: there is no obligation to use electronic invoicing for invoice data requiring confidentiality (section 8 ERechV), matters of the Foreign Service (section 9 ERechV), invoices for direct contracts (section 3 (3) no. 1 ERechV), and procurement procedures performed for the Federation by way of an official delegation of powers as referred to in section 159 (1) no. 5 of the Competition Act (Gesetz gegen Wettbewerbsbeschränkungen, GWB)
In order to cover sector-specific areas of application, EU member states can expand the semantic data model of European standard EN 16931 using extensions. Germany’s first extension was introduced on 1 January 2021 for the XRechnung standard. The extension allows a single invoice line to be divided into several sub invoice lines. The extension will also allow XML files to be embedded in the invoice as attachments.
Federal invoice submission portals
Federal invoice submission portals are central access points for the submission of e-invoices. Organisations of the direct federal administration (e.g. ministries and superior federal authorities) receive e-invoices via the Federal Central Invoice Submission Portal (ZRE). Organisations of the indirect federal administration and cooperating federal states may receive e-invoices via the Online Access Act-compliant Invoice Submission Portal (OZG-RE), provided they are connected to it.
Germany’s federal states implement EU Directive 2014/55/EU under their own responsibility. The requirements for electronic invoicing that apply to you as a supplier of public authorities and legal entities of the federal states are stipulated by the legal provisions of the federal state(s) in question. Here you will find information on how e-invoicing is implemented by the various federal states in Germany. Further information can be found in the “federal states summary” (Ländersynopse, in German only) of the Coordination Office for IT Standards (KoSIT). If you are uncertain about the legal situation, we recommend that you contact your customers directly in the relevant federal state administration.
Free of charge
Submitting e-invoices to the federal invoice submission portals is free of charge.
For help with the most frequently asked questions, go to our FAQ section.
Indirect federal administration
Organisations of the indirect federal administration may use the Online Access Act-compliant Invoice Submission Portal (OZG-RE) to receive e-invoices. However, please note that organisations of the indirect federal administration, sector-specific customers and funding recipients may alternatively use their own solutions rather than the OZG-RE. A list of organisations that use the OZG-RE is available here (in German).
According to Section 5 of the Federal Government’s Regulation on Electronic Invoicing, in addition to VAT invoicing elements (for more on this, see Section 14 of the Value-Added Tax Act (UStG)), an e-invoice must contain the following information at a minimum:
- Buyer reference – you will be given the buyer reference when the contract is awarded.
- Payment terms or the payment due date.
- The payment recipient’s bank details
- The invoice issuer’s De-Mail or email address.
- Sales order number (optional)
- Purchase order number (optional)
Invoice issuers from outside Germany
Invoices are issued according to the rules of the country of destination. Invoice issuers from outside Germany who are “entrepreneurs” as defined in section 14 of the German Civil Code (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch, BGB) and who are involved in public procurement transactions with the federal administration, as referred to in section 1 of the E-Invoicing Ordinance (E-Rechnungsverordnung, ERechV), are obliged to issue electronic invoices in compliance with the E-Invoicing Ordinance.
Leitweg-ID is the German word for buyer reference. This is a unique character string that enables the technical addressing of the e-invoice to an invoice recipient’s processing systems. An e-invoice to the Federal Administration authorities must contain a buyer reference otherwise it cannot be correctly delivered.
Online Access Act
The Act to Improve Online Access to Administrative Services, also known as the Online Access Act (Onlinezugangsgesetz, OZG) obliges the federal, state and local governments to provide digital access to their administrative services via online portals by the end of 2022, and to link these portals to a common network.
Do you need help using the invoice submission portals? Operating guides for invoice issuers are available for both the Federal Central Invoice Submission Portal (ZRE) and the Online Access Act-compliant Invoice Submission Portal (OZG-RE):
The Electronic Invoicing in Federal Government Public Procurement Ordinance, or the Regulation on Electronic Invoicing for short, can be viewed on the Federal Ministry of the Interior and Community’s website.
OZG-RE stands for Onlinezugangsgesetz-konforme Rechnungseingangsplattform in German Online Access Act-Compliant Invoice Submission Portal). This is the portal used by organisations of the indirect federal administration and cooperating federal states, provided they are connected to it.
Support hotline for invoice issuers:
A public order by a public authority is the basis for submitting an e-invoice. Among other things, a public order contains information on how to submit the e-invoice.
In view of its fixed-layout format, a PDF file clearly does not constitute an electronic invoice. An electronic invoice (e-invoice) in accordance with the EU standard is an invoice issued in a structured format (XML format) that is transmitted and received electronically and allows for seamless automated, electronic processing from start to finish. More information on the differences between paper, PDF and e-invoices is available here.
Peppol (Pan European Public Procurement OnLine) is an organisation responsible for developing an EU-wide infrastructure for fully digital procurement processes. Peppol provides specifications for electronic business documents and facilitates access to an EU network (the eDelivery Network). Companies from Germany and Europe can now submit e-invoices to the public administration via Peppol Access Points. This is especially advantageous for companies that regularly submit large numbers of invoices to German public sector organisations at federal and state level. Operators of Access Points to this network must be members of the Peppol organisation and must meet high security standards.
Peppol Participant ID
The Peppol Participant ID is used in the Peppol network to clearly identify participants. A distinction is made between the sender ID and the receiver ID. If you send invoices via Peppol, your Peppol Sender ID will generally be based on your Global Location Number (GLN) or VAT ID number.
Invoice recipients require a receiver ID. For all public sector organisations receiving invoices via the ZRE or OZG-RE, the Peppol receiver ID is composed of the buyer reference (Leitweg-ID) and the prefix 0204 (e.g. 0204:991-33333TEST-33). You will find more information here.
Quality assurance for the XRechnung standard is carried out not just by the operators but also by specially established committees at federal and state level, which are responsible for developing practical solutions and ensuring their quality.
In order to send e-invoices to the ZRE and/or OZG-RE submission portals, you must first register with the relevant submission portal and create a user account.
You can register with the ZRE here.
You can register with the OZG-RE here.
Retention period for e-invoices in years
The retention period for electronic invoices (the original of which is the XML file) is the same as for non-digital invoices: ten years. That is the period of time for which you must securely store relevant documentation in digital form.
Optional shared use of the OZG-RE invoice submission platform is available for indirect Federal Administration institutions and federal states. The platform offers a user-friendly solution for the submission of e-invoices under public contracts.
Users can practise sending electronic invoices in the “test environment” of the Federal Central Invoice Submission Portal (ZRE). The ZRE test environment can be accessed here: https://ref.xrechnung.bund.de. The test environment of the Online Access Act-compliant Invoice Submission Portal (OZG-RE) can be accessed here: https://test.xrechnung-bdr.de/.
Do you need help using the invoice submission portals? On our media page you will find video tutorials on how to use both the ZRE and OZG-RE portals (German only).
To test the submission of electronic invoices, invoice issuers can use the ZRE and OZG-RE test environments:
Use of submission portals
In principle, organisations of the indirect federal administration and federal states may opt to use the Online Access Act-compliant Invoice Submission Portal (OZG-RE). This portal provides invoice issuers with a user-friendly option for submitting e-invoices for contracts with the public sector. You can request information on the use of the OZG-RE by sending an email to email@example.com.
Before you can use the invoice receipt platforms ZRE and OZG-RE, you must create a user account. Among other things, the user accounts of the federal invoice receipt platforms allow you to track the status of your submitted e-invoices.
E-invoices are structured, machine-readable data files which are not suitable for reading in the normal way. To display e-invoices in a human-readable format, data visualisation software is required. There are numerous suppliers of such software on the market. And KoSIT (the Coordination Office for IT Standards) provides a free development component for visualisation (Link: https://xeinkauf.de/). If using an ERP system, you should not need additional visualisation software, as most ordinary ERP systems provide visualisation.
Web service and web submission
A web service allows direct transmission of data between electronic systems such as ERP systems, that is, between a generating system and a receiving system. This enables the user to generate and send invoices on the same system, at the touch of the button. A free web service is provided for the ZRE and OZG-RE submission portals. It transmits e-invoices to those portals via Peppol. Please contact Peppol.Support@nortal.com for information on how to connect to the web service.
The web submission option in the ZRE and OZG-RE invoice submission portals allows you to enter invoice data manually in your web browser. The invoice submission portal then generates the e-invoice and makes it available to the recipient. No special software is required to generate electronic invoices using manual web submission.
XRechnung is a standard for converting invoice information into an XML data file. The XML data file constitutes an electronic invoice. The standard allows invoices to be received and processed by different software systems. XRechnung is a national version of the European standard EN 16931 (a Core Invoice Usage Specification, CIUS). For more information, see FAQs about the German e-invoicing standard.
ZRE stands for Zentrale Rechnungseingangsplattform des Bundes, meaning “Federal Central Invoice Submission Portal”. Invoice issuers use this portal to submit e-invoices to offices of the direct federal administration (e.g. ministries and superior federal authorities).
Support hotline for invoice issuers: