Glossary

In this A-Z, we have put together a list of all the main e‑invoicing keywords with brief explanations.

A

 

Access-Points (Peppol)

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.

Attachments

Files and supporting documents can be added to the invoice. They must be embedded in the invoice data file. The maximum size of an invoice depends on the transmission method (input channel) selected. Concerning this, please refer to the terms of use of the portal in question. Documents having the following file types may be embedded: “png”, “pdf”, “jpg”, “jpeg”, “xlsx”, “ods” and “csv”, as well as the file type “xml” if using the XRechnung extension. Attachments may not contain any active content such as macros.

B

 

Buyer reference

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.

FAQ about buyer reference ›

C

 

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.

FAQ about ZRE ›

CIUS

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.

D

 

Data

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.

Deadline

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).

Direct contracts

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).

Documents

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”.)

E

 

E-invoicing

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.

Email

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.

ERP systems

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

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)

Extension

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.

F

 

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.

Federal states

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.

H

 

Help

For help with the most frequently asked questions, go to our FAQ section.

I

 

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).

Invoice content

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:

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.

K

 

KoSIT (Coordination Office for IT Standards)

The Coordination Office for IT Standards (KoSIT) maintains and develops the XRechnung standard on behalf of the IT Planning Council.

L

 

Leitweg-ID

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.

FAQ about buyer reference ›

O

 

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.

Operating Guide

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):

download Download ZRE DE

download Download ZRE EN

download Download OZG-RE DE

Ordinance

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

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.

FAQ about OZG-RE ›

Support hotline for invoice issuers:

E-Mail schreiben an sendersupport-xrechnung@bdr.de  Submit contact request

030 2598 4436 anrufen  +49 (0)30 2598 4436

 

Order

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.

P

 

PDF

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

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.

FAQ about Peppol ›

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.

Q

 

Quality assurance

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.

R

 

Registration

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.

S

 

Shared use

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.

 

Support

The Support service for parties issuing invoices to the Federal Government invoice submission platforms (ZRE and OZG-RE) is available Mon-Fri from 08:00 AM – 4:00 PM.

Kontaktanfrage stellen Contact form

030 2598 4436 anrufen  +49 (0)30 2598 4436

T

 

Test invoices

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/.

Tutorials

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).

Test

To test the submission of electronic invoices, invoice issuers can use the ZRE and OZG-RE test environments:

ZRE reference environment ›

OZG-RE test environment ›

 

Transmission methods (input channels)

E-invoices can be transmitted to the federal administration in various ways. The transmission method you choose may depend on the number of invoices you have to send. The methods best suited to sending large numbers of invoices are the web service (via Peppol), email and De-Mail (ZRE only). Alternatively, you can submit your invoices via upload or web submission.

Terms of use

The terms of use of the ZRE (Federal Central Invoice Submission Portal) can be found at xrechnung.bund.de or down below. The terms of use of the OZG-RE (Online Access Act-compliant Invoice Submission Portal) can be found at xrechnung-bdr.de or down below. Compliance with the terms of use is a requirement for using the ZRE and OZG-RE invoice submission portals; the terms of use include all relevant information on the use of the portals.

Terms of use of the ZRE ›

Terms of use of the OZG-RE ›

 

U

 

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 erechnung.bund@nortal.com.

User account

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.

V

 

Visualisation

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.

W

 

Web service and web submission

Web service

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.

Web submission

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.

X

 

XRechnung

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.

Z

 

ZRE

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:

E-Mail schreiben an sendersupport-xrechnung@bdr.de  Contact request

030 2598 4436 anrufen  +49 (0)30 2598 4436

 

ZUGFeRD

In general, invoices for the federal administration must be issued using the valid XRechnung standard. Other standards may be used (such as ZUGFeRD (version 2.1.1 or later) in the XRECHNUNG profile) as long as they meet the requirements of the European standard (EN 16931), the terms of use for the invoice submission portals, and the requirements of the federal E-Invoicing Ordinance.