ZUGFeRD

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Definition ZUGFeRD Invoice

ZUGFeRD is a hybrid e-invoice format consisting of a machine-readable XML file and a PDF. The abbreviation stands for “Zentraler User Guide des Forums elektronische Rechnung Deutschland”.

The format was developed in 2014 by representatives from business, associations and public administration. The aim was to create a uniform standard for the electronic exchange of invoices between companies.

The ZUGFeRD format

ZUGFeRD is based on the PDF/A-3 standard, which makes it possible to integrate structured invoice data in a PDF document. In accordance with Directive EU/2014/55 and the EN16931 standard, it combines a human-readable PDF with embedded structured data in XML format. The Cross Industry Invoice (CII, from UN/CEFACT) standards developed by the CEN standardization committee and the Message User Guides (MUG) based on them are used. The hybrid version allows companies to process their invoices efficiently electronically and at the same time have access to a familiar and easy-to-read invoice.

The content of ZUGFeRD is (now) identical to the French e-invoice format Factur-X (from FNFE MPE = Forum National de la Facture Electronique et des Marchés Publics Electroniques).

ZUGfeRD XML and PDF example invoice

Example Invoices

PDF/A-3 with embedded XML file as attachment

Structured data in the XML file, machine-readable

The example shows a ZUGFeRD invoice in version 2.2 and is included in the version download at https://www.ferd-net.de.

Compatibility / ZUGFeRD Software

ZUGFeRD is designed to be compatible with all common accounting and ERP systems and software solutions. It can therefore usually be implemented easily.

FeRD (The Forum of Electronic Invoices Germany) provides a list of software with which you can create ZUGFeRD invoices.

When processing incoming invoices, it is worth using a solution that can handle both e-invoices and conventional invoices (paper, scans, PDF, etc.). This prevents different incoming invoice processes having to be carried out in parallel in order to handle all formats. This is where AI-supported incoming invoice processing with automatic data extraction comes in.

Processing ZUGFeRD XML and ZUGFeRD PDF

When processing incoming ZUGFeRD invoices, both the human-readable PDF and the structured data are automatically read and digitally processed.

The five profiles

ZUGFeRD defines five different profiles that cover different requirements for electronic invoice exchange.

Minimum:

  • Basic information required for an electronic invoice

  • Invoice date, invoice number, supplier and customer information, total invoice amounts

  • No invoice items, therefore not recognized for VAT purposes

  • Enables simple electronic invoice exchange, but no detailed structuring of the invoice data

Basic WL:

  • No invoice items, therefore not recognized for VAT purposes

  • The information required for posting the invoice is available at document level

Basic:

  • Header and footer data, as well as item data for processing simple invoices in structured form

  • Further information can be added as free text

  • Subset of EN16931-1 and recognized for VAT purposes (suitable for simple VAT-compliant invoices)

EN16931, formerly Comfort:

  • Extension of the basic profile with additional information on the invoice

  • More detailed information on the individual invoice items, such as product descriptions, quantities, prices, tax rates

  • Improved automation and accuracy in invoice processing

  • Fully complies with EN16931-1 and is recognized for VAT purposes

Extended:

  • Comprehensive options for structuring invoice data

  • Integration of additional information, such as article numbers, discounts, delivery terms, payment terms, VAT details at item level

  • Particularly suitable for complex invoice processes (across multiple deliveries/delivery locations, structured payment terms, etc.) and supports detailed analysis and processing of invoice data in the ERP system

  • Recognized for VAT purposes

Versions

ZUGFeRD Standard in the B2G & B2B sector

The German standard for transactions in the B2G area is the XRechnung, which can be created and sent as a standalone XML file from ZUGFeRD 2.1.1 using a separate profile. This means that ZUGFeRD can be used for invoicing with German authorities.

The Federal Ministry of Finance has also confirmed that ZUGFeRD version 2.0.1 meets the requirements of the upcoming mandatory B2B e-invoicing.

The format is also increasingly being accepted in other European countries.

ZUGFeRD in Austria

In Austria, the format is not yet widely used; the Austrian standard ebInterface is in the foreground.

The current ebInterface version 5.0 corresponds to the e-invoice standards UBL and CII and is compatible with both formats. They can therefore be converted relatively easily. Currently, ebInterface can be converted to ZUGFeRD 1.0 (Basic/Comfort/Extended).

More information for Austria can be found on the WKO website.

Benefits

There are numerous reasons for using ZUGFeRD:

Useful Combination
Durch die hybride Herangehensweise können die Vorteile des elektronischen Datenformats mit der leichteren manuellen Bearbeitung von herkömmlichen Rechnungen kombiniert werden.
Error Reduction
Invoices no longer have to be read, transferred or processed manually. This reduces a major source of error.
Faster Turnaround Times
Thanks to extensive automation, invoices are sent to the approval process more quickly and are more easily approved digitally.
Transparency
All steps in the processing procedure can be viewed digitally and are easily traceable for the responsible employees.
Cost Reduction
Costs are significantly reduced thanks to shorter processing times, the elimination of printing and logistics costs and easier compliance with discount deadlines, for example.

Mandatory e-invoicing from 2025

From 01.01.2025, all companies based in Germany will be subject to mandatory electronic invoicing for B2B transactions. ZUGFeRD meets the defined requirements and can be used by companies.

Glossary

Digitization topics explained in a nutshell

Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) is a technology that enables the exchange of business documents between companies in a standardized electronic format. Structured data is transferred directly from the sender’s ERP or accounting system to the recipient’s corresponding system.

More about EDI

EDIFACT is an international EDI standard developed by the United Nations/Economic Commission for Europe (UN/ECE), which provides a universal structure for data exchange. The standard is widely used not only, but especially in Europe.

More about EDIFACT

XRechnung is a standardized electronic invoice format that is used in Germany. It is an XML-based format that was specially developed for electronic invoicing in the public sector.

More about XRechnung

ZUGFeRD is a hybrid e-invoice format consisting of a machine-readable XML file and a PDF. The abbreviation stands for “Zentraler User Guide des Forums elektronische Rechnung Deutschland”.

More about ZUGFeRD