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News on e-invoicing in the public administration

Peppol for the Federal Administration

by | Dec 17, 2020

In this section you will find a lot of important information about ZRE’s input channel Peppol.

Today, the federal ministries and their downstream authorities use Peppol as one of four possible input channels of the ZRE. Peppol (Pan-European Public Procurement OnLine) was the result of an international project with the aim of standardising public procurement and tender procedures.  It provides a network of access points for secure data transmission as well as specifications for document standards (Peppol Business Interoperability Specifications ‘BIS’). For more information on OpenPEPPOL, see the Peppol FAQ below.

Peppol as the preferred input channel for e-invoicing

Peppol is the preferred channel in the Federal Administration for automated, machine-to-machine (m2m) based acceptance of electronic invoices. It makes it possible for your ERP system to automatically transmit e-invoices via the ZRE to the ERP system of the corresponding authority. However, using Peppol is only worthwhile if you submit a large number of invoices (currently more than 100 invoices per month). Otherwise, please use another channel, such as webupload. You can find more information about this topic in the FAQ section about ZRE.

The Federal Administration has three different options for using Peppol to submit invoices. You should choose one of them. Information on this topic can be found in the chapter under: How can I use the Peppol network as an invoice sender? The technical implementation is complex. Therefore, it is advisable to coordinate your ERP provider with an IT service provider so that you can use an existing Peppol access point in the first step. You can find a list on the Peppol page.

How exactly does an e-invoicing procedure via Peppol look?

KoSIT guidelines/specifications

Your ERP system must be capable of creating electronic invoices according to the current standard. In the Federal Administration, we rely on the KoSIT (Coordination Office for IT Standards) specifications. It manages the standard and provides information for technical implementation. Furthermore, it provides a testing tool, the KoSIT Validator, which is also used in the ZRE. You can find more information about this on the KoSIT website.


Pan-European Public Procurement OnLine (Peppol) as interface

Your ERP system must be enabled to interact with the interface to Peppol. Hence, it is advisable to implement it together with a Peppol service provider. This provider will also handle your registration in the Peppol network so that you can use your personal Peppol Sender ID. Alternatively, you can use the Federal Government’s web service or set up your own infrastructure to use Peppol. You can find more information about this topic in the FAQ section about Peppol.

m2m transmission of e-invoices via Peppol is only possible when these two prerequisites are met. You can find more information on the Peppol service provider below in the FAQ on Peppol.

Verification using the KoSIT Validator

Before submitting your electronic invoices, you must use the KoSIT Validator to ensure that they are standard-compliant and acceptable; otherwise, the ZRE will reject your invoices at the end of the process. Click here to access the KoSIT Validator.


Addressing via the Peppol Participant ID

In order to submit the invoices, you need the unique Peppol Participant ID of the respective invoice recipient or your contact person in the relevant public authority. In the Federal Administration, it is derived from a prefix and the public authority’s buyer reference ID (0204:99x-xxxxx-xx). When you submit your invoice, you also need to include your Participant ID; for companies in Germany, for example, it begins with the prefix 9930: followed by the VAT identification number (9930:DExxxxxxxxx) or the prefix 0088: followed by the Global Location Number.


Submission of your e-invoice

A correct invoice can now be submitted via the correct Participant ID from your in-house ERP system. From the ZRE, the invoices are ultimately picked up by the ERP system of the respective Federal Authority for further processing. A log with the status of all invoices you submitted can be viewed in the ZRE.

If you submit invoices to the ZRE via Peppol, registering with the ZRE as well as using it are optional, but you should still do it. Why? As of today, Peppol does not have a back channel. This means that if your invoice is rejected by the ZRE (e.g. because of a virus), you will not receive any further information about it via Peppol. As a ZRE user, you will be provided with an invoice receipt log that shows the current status. Simply register at the ZRE. The service is free of charge for you.



Currently, in order to ensure transmission, e-invoices should not exceed 15 MB.

The 4-corner model describes the technical implementation of file transfers within the Peppol network. Corner 1 represents the invoice sender and corner 4 the invoice recipient. Invoice recipients must be registered in the SMP (Server Metadata Publisher) server. When Peppol participants register, they contact the SML (Service Metadata Locator here) server. There is only one of these servers in the entire Peppol network and it is operated centrally by the Peppol organisation. This server then creates a DNS entry for that participant from certain data. The DNS entry for the registered participant appears on the SMP server with which the participant registered.

To send an invoice via Peppol, sender 1 (corner 1) must have access to an Access Point 2 (corner 2). When sending the invoice, the invoice sender now provides the recipient’s participant ID. Using this ID, Access Point 2 generates the correct DNS names for the invoice recipients and thus reaches the associated SMP server. There are a number of SMP servers in Europe that can be used or operated by Access Points 3. All recipients connected to Access Point 3 are registered there. This includes the recipient’s unique Participant ID and specific settings for the documents to be received via Peppol. Thus, upon a request from Access Point 2, the SMP server checks which Access Point 3 is to be accessed and whether or not said Access Point accepts the document supplied (compatibility check). Once approved and upon confirmation of other specific data, Access Point 2 can now access the recipient’s specific Access Point 3. This makes the invoice available to the recipient.

To ensure that exchanges in the Peppol network proceed in a standardised manner, communication is implemented using the so-called BIS (Business Interoperability Specification). This defines a clear standard for the exchange of documents within the network. For example, if an XRechnung invoice is to be sent to a recipient via Peppol, a Standard Business Document (SBD) forms the technical envelope in which the XRechnung invoice is embedded. Nothing on the invoice needs changing but the PEPPOL network standard will still be used. This is possible with an XRechnung invoice with BIS 3.0.


Further information:
A list of compliant SMP implementations can be found on the Links to Software for PEPPOL Implementations page.

To see if your invoices arrived at the ZRE and can be processed without any problems, registration on the ZRE reference environment is recommended. Please never send test invoices to the ZRE productive environment.

You can create your own account in the reference environment. You must enter your Peppol Sender ID to display any messages sent via Peppol in the invoice log in the ZRE reference environment. This is done via the “User administration” menu in the ZRE reference environment. 

To send test invoices to the ZRE reference environment, please use the following IDs:

  • Peppol Receiver ID: 0204:991-33333TEST-33
  • Buyer reference: 991-33333TEST-33

If you are already in contact with an invoice recipient, and you wish to test with them directly, you can also use their buyer reference.

Once transmission to the ZRE reference environment via Peppol is working, you may also send productive invoices. Please note that you also need to enter your Peppol Sender ID in User Administration in your account in the ZRE productive environment. The following should be noted for sending invoices via the ZRE productive environment:

  • Peppol Receiver ID = 0204: Your customer’s buyer reference
  • Buyer reference: provided by your customer.

The Peppol Coordinating Authority is a committee within the Peppol organisation that takes on the tasks, in particular, of technical specification within the network, server administration and overall contract management. The Peppol Coordinating Authority in turn passes on specific tasks to so-called Peppol Authorities. These are distributed throughout Europe. In Germany, the Peppol Authority is the Coordination Office for IT Standards (KoSIT). It pursues, in particular, the tasks of informing and advising companies and administration, as well as contract management in Germany. It also provides specialist and technical support and represents German interests within the umbrella organisation in Brussels.

A Peppol Access Point (based on the AS4 profile) is required to accept electronic invoices. There are ready-to-use products for this (sometimes open source) which just need to be installed and configured. For further specifications of the AS4 profile, see the Peppol AS4 profile page.

A list of compliant products can be found on the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) Digital page.

A public or private contracting authority can also connect to an existing Peppol service provider, which means they do not need to set up and operate their own Peppol Access Point (or their own SMP server) to be able to accept electronic invoices, specifically XRechnung invoices, from the Peppol network. Peppol service providers provide their contracting partners with various interfaces to enable retrieval of the invoices received.

An up-to-date list of existing Peppol service providers (Access Point and SMP), can be found on the Certified Peppol Access Points (APs) page.

OpenPEPPOL is an AISBL, a non-profit organisation under Belgian law, headquartered in Brussels, which is responsible for operating the Peppol network. OpenPEPPOL is democratically organised. Its management is therefore elected by the members. The collaboration on, and further development of, topics takes place in domain-specific working groups open to all OpenPEPPOL members. The aims pursued by OpenPEPPOL relate to

  • Promoting the use of electronic procurement processes by public administrations in Europe and their suppliers applying the Peppol specifications.
  • Publicising successful usage examples.
  • Publicising and using innovative, Peppol-based information and communication technology products (ICT products) and services to support public procurement processes.
  • Associated with this is promoting the use of such products and services within private sector business (B2B) to simplify the use of electronic procurement processing in small to medium-sized enterprises (SME).
  • Ensuring the continual growth of the Peppol network in an open, accessible and compliant manner.
  • Ensuring interoperability for European public administrations with the aim of Europe growing together into a unified digital market.

Essentially, any organisation can become a member of Peppol. In so doing, the amount of the membership fees will be determined based on status and organisation size.

During the course of developing the XRechnung standard, an address coding scheme was defined for the German public contracting authorities, the so-called buyer reference. This address coding was registered with Peppol for addressing in the transport network as the permitted scheme for the Participant Identifier. The VAT identification number (VAT ID) and Global Location Number scheme are also registered with Peppol for companies in Germany.  Private contracting authorities can therefore use their VAT ID as the Peppol Participant Identifier for clear identification as a sender or recipient. For public contracting authorities, the buyer reference is now also available as a valid scheme.

The relationship between the Peppol Participant ID and the buyer reference or VAT ID is established using different prefixes. A four-digit numerical code, placed before the buyer reference or VAT ID, creates the Peppol Participant ID.

PrefixSchemePeppol Participant ID
0204Buyer reference0204:BuyerReference
9930VAT ID9930:VATID
0088Global Location Number0088:GlobalLocationNumber
List of how Peppol Participant ID and buyer reference are related

For a sender to be able to address the correct recipient unambiguously, all Access Points and associated recipients must recognise one another.

The Peppol Participant Identifier (Peppol Participant ID) is used in the Peppol network to clearly identify a participant. Recipients must be registered in an SMP (Server Metadata Publisher) server in order to even be discoverable in technical terms. Additional metadata for a participant, for example which document types the participant can accept and which Access Point they are connected to, is also saved in the SMP. The Participant Identifier for a sender is not registered in an SMP if the latter only wishes to send.

There are three ways an invoice sender (corner 1) can access the Peppol network via an Access Point (corner 2).

1. Connect to a Peppol service provider

You can choose a Peppol service provider who will provide you with an Access Point for Peppol. You can find a list of certified providers across Europe on the Certified Peppol Access Points (APs) page.

Costs may be incurred if sending is done via a service provider. The respective provider’s terms of use will be authoritative in this respect.

2. Use the Federal Administration’s existing Access Points

As an invoicing supplier to public contracting authorities, you can use the Federal Government’s web service free of charge to submit invoices in the Peppol network. Doing so will reach the Federal Administration public contracting authority (invoice recipient) and the associated states. Please note that only the buyer references of the Federal Government and the states of Berlin (starting with 11), Brandenburg (starting with 12), Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (starting with 13), Saxony (starting with 14) and Thuringia (starting with 16) can be accessed in this way. Costs for external support may be incurred while implementing and integrating the interface. 

If you are interested in the web service, please contact us via our contact form.

For more information about PEPPOL as a web service, see the following page: PEPPOL eDelivery Network – An overview.

3. Establish and operate your own Access Point

It is also possible for you to implement your own so-called Access Point (from scratch or using existing Access Point software) and thus deliver your own invoices or be active in the market for customers.
If setting up your own Access Point, membership costs for OpenPEPPOL will be incurred in addition to the development costs. If you wish to implement this option, you should also clarify to what extent the company’s internal IT systems landscape is prepared for this and how much work will be involved in implementing it.

Find more information about setting up your own Access Point here:  

Download document Download How to set up a (Post-Award) PEPPOL Access Point (AP)

Process sender to peppol network

When deciding between the two options, you should consider the following:

  • What is my annual invoicing volume?
    If the annual invoicing volume is sufficiently high to justify setting up your own Access Point, then this is recommended. If your annual invoicing volume is not sufficiently high, connecting via a Peppol service provider is recommended.
  • How much does it cost to connect to a service provider compared with setting up our own Peppol Access Point?
    Peppol service providers apply standard billing methods based on the invoice volume of the invoices submitted.

Peppol’s aim is to connect senders and recipients of electronic documents with one another. For this, senders and recipients require a so-called Access Point to gain access to the Peppol network.

The invoice sender sends their invoice to an Access Point. This reaches the recipient’s Access Point by means of the Peppol Participant ID. When the invoice is provided on the recipient’s Access Point, the invoice is available to the recipient. At this point, the ZRE and OZG-RE invoice submission platforms are connected to the recipient’s Access Point. The buyer reference is now used within the invoice submission platforms to address the authorities. Once the supplier has entered its client’s Peppol Participant ID in the relevant platform, and has activated the Peppol transmission channel, it can send XRechnung invoices to the invoice submission portals via Peppol. The connected authorities can then retrieve submitted XRechnung invoices as normal via Peppol as well on the respective platform and subsequently process them in their own systems.

process sending and receiving documents via peppol

Using Peppol creates a consistent and central channel for invoice issuers to send e-invoices. Sending invoices to the Peppol network means that any connected transmission channels, such as the administration portal, the web service or other networks, can receive e-invoices and forward them to the relevant invoice recipient. For this, the submission platform used by the recipient must also be connected to Peppol. Please ask your clients about this, and about their Peppol Participant ID.

Note: For direct Federal Administration authorities, and indirect Federal Administration authorities and associated federal states connected to the OG-RE, the Peppol Participant ID is a combination of a prefix and the buyer reference: 0204:buyer reference. For other federal states, the Peppol Participant ID and buyer reference are separate.

Peppol (Pan-European Public Procurement OnLine) was the result of an international project with the aim of standardising public procurement and tender procedures within the European Union and worldwide. The organisation OpenPEPPOL AISBL, a non-profit organisation under Belgian law, headquartered in Brussels, is behind Peppol.

The core of Peppol’s vision is the creation of an overall interoperability of the various systems. This means that every company in a country with management in the same, or a different, country can handle all procurement and tendering procedures electronically. For this purpose, Peppol provides a network for transmitting data (the Peppol eDelivery Network) and specifications for the documents to be submitted (Peppol Business Interoperability Specifications [BIS]). The biggest advantage of this organisation is the comprehensive, electronic, seamless and automated exchange of documents. It is also possible to mass import documents automatically via Peppol.

The Peppol network is used by the ZRE invoice submission platform for the direct Federal Administration, and OZG-RE for the indirect Federal Administration, as well as by cooperating countries, to enable suppliers, as invoice senders, to send e-invoices automatically.

In terms of technology, Peppol is based on the “4-corner model”.

For more information about Peppol, see the Peppol website.

To send test invoices to the OZG-RE reference environment, please use the following IDs:

Peppol receiver ID = 0204:99661-WEBSERVICEOZG-28
Buyer reference = 99661-WEBSERVICEOZG-28

If you are already in contact with an invoice recipient, and you wish to test with them directly, you can also use their buyer reference.

Once transmission to the OZG-RE reference environment via Peppol is working, you may also send productive invoices. Please note that you also need to enter your Peppol Sender ID in User Administration in your account in the OZG-RE productive environment. The following should be noted for sending invoices via the ZRE productive environment:

Peppol receiver ID = 0204:Leitweg-ID Ihres Kunden
Buyer reference = teilt Ihnen Ihr Kunde mit.

More current information on the topic of e-invoicing

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Current information

Further information on e-invoicing in the Federal Administration

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