ZUGFeRD and Factur X, the format for electronic invoices

ZUGFeRD and Factur X are both XML-based formats that allow you to send invoices as attachments or embedded within an email. This means that clients can open and view them directly in their web browsers without any special software.

If you always print out your invoices and email them to clients, you may be interested in ZUGFeRD and Factur X. These electronic invoicing formats allow big and small businesses to send electronic invoices seamlessly.

What's more, ZUGFeRD and Factur X both conform to the EU's requirements for electronic invoicing, meaning that you can rest assured that your invoices will be compliant.

Let's take a look at what these formats are, how they work, and whether or not they might be a good fit for your business.

What is ZUGFeRD?

ZUGFeRD, short for Zentraler User Guide des Forums Elektronische Rechnung Deutschland (or Central User Guide for Electronic Invoicing in Germany), is an international standard for electronic invoices embraced by the majority of German-speaking countries.

The ZUGFeRD invoice standard is based on PDF and XML file formats and has already been adopted by many big names in the business world, including Adobe Document Services, SAP, and DocuWare GmbH.

The "Forum Elektronische Rechnung Deutschland" (FeRD) is responsible for developing and managing the ZUGFeRD standard.

How does ZUGFeRD work?

ZUGFeRD invoices are created in a PDF format containing an invoice PDF and a data file. This makes it readable in PDF format and directly by the information systems.

The invoice PDF is the standard invoice that you will email to your clients as you usually would.

The data file is a JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) file containing all the invoice data.

When your client receives the invoice PDF, they can open it and extract the data file. They can then import this file into their accounting software, extract the data, and process the invoice.

Benefits of ZUGFeRD

ZUGFeRD offers several benefits over traditional paper invoices, including:

Cost savings

No more printing, folding, stuffing, and stamping invoices. This means significant cost savings for businesses of all sizes.

Speed and efficiency

ZUGFeRD invoices can be processed and paid much more quickly than traditional paper invoices.

Environmental sustainability

ZUGFeRD invoices are digital, and you can send and receive them electronically, saving paper and reducing your company's carbon footprint.

International compatibility

ZUGFeRD invoices are standardized and can be used in any country that has adopted the standard.

What is Factur X?

Factur X is a French name for a popular german-french e-invoicing standard. Its current and complete version (Factur-X 1.0) is equivalent to ZUGFeRD 2.1 version making them compatible. The two standards combine the most commonly used invoice formats: PDF and XML.

How does Factur X work?

Like ZUGFeRD invoices, Factur X invoices are created in a PDF format containing two files – an invoice PDF and a data file.

Benefits of Factur X

Factur X offers the same benefits as ZUGFeRD, with the added benefit of being French-language compatible.

How do ZUGFeRD and Factur X work?

France and Germany combined to develop the hybrid format ZUGFeRD and Factur X, ending up with a standard accessible to all businesses despite their size.

What is a Hybrid Invoice?

A Hybrid Invoice is an invoice that is partially electronic and partially paper. The electronic part of the invoice is created in the same way as a standard ZUGFeRD or Factur X invoice.

You create the paper part of the invoice in the same way as a paper invoice that you would print out and mail to your clients.

The Hybrid Invoice combines the best of both worlds – it allows businesses to send invoices electronically while also providing a paper copy that can be filed and tracked traditionally.

The hybrid invoice is divided into two parts:

  • The first part, consisting of a PDF document, contains the invoice template and can be personalized by the sender.
  • The second part is an XML file that includes the invoice data, allowing it to be read and processed by third-party applications such as ERP, CRM, or even tax calculation software.

An invoice following the hybrid standard will generally go through the following processes:

1. Processing the invoice before sending

The recipient retrieves the invoice data by entering the URL link (provided by the sender) in a web browser. They can then either print the invoice or save it for future reference.

2. Validating the invoice

The data included in the XML part of the invoice is sent to a validation service that verifies it. This service also adds an electronic signature to the invoice and returns the validated file.

The recipient can then read and process the invoice in their system, knowing that the data has been thoroughly checked and is valid.

Some ways of validating ZUGFeRD and Factur-X Invoices include:

  • You can use a PDF/A-3 validator to verify compliance with the PDF/A-3 standard. The Preflight function in Acrobat XI and higher, for example, offers PDF/A-3 validation.
  • You can validate the XML file with an XSD schema. The required XSD schema files are included in the ZUGFeRD and Factur X.
  • You can also validate the invoice data with the help of a tax authority or an accredited certification body.

3. Archiving the invoice

You save the invoice as a PDF document, which is set up with the correct password to prevent unauthorized modification of any kind. The recipient can then log in at a later date and download the file if it's needed.

What are the requirements for Factur X and ZUGFeRD e-invoices?

You must stick to a few regulations to create and send an invoice following the hybrid e-invoicing standard. They include:

Supported data profiles

They include:

  • MINIMUM: The primary data set, which is mandatory for all types of invoices. It corresponds to minimum requirements on CHORUS Pro.
  • BASIC WL corresponds to the document-level information required for buyers for their automation processes.
  • BASIC: It corresponds to the BASIC WL profile with the crucial information required for buyers for their process automation.
  • EN 16931: This data profile corresponds to the ZUGFeRD standard and includes all necessary information for an electronic invoice.
  • EXTENDED: This data profile extends the EN 16931 data profile and includes additional information, like delivery addresses.

Your company must decide which profile to use when sending an invoice since they are not compatible with one another.

Supported browsers

You cannot modify the sender's invoice after creating it. This means that if the recipient cannot view the document, it is likely that the data profile you used is not supported.

To ensure compatibility, your recipients must use Firefox or Chrome browsers with Viewer and Editor plug-in extensions.

Supported data formats

All the elements of an invoice, such as customer details and items, must be included in the data. You can input data to fill some fields automatically, but you must not change it after the creating invoice. You must also include a link to an HTML version of the invoice before sending it.

Get started with e-invoicing with Storecove

The hybrid standard for electronic invoices, Factur X and ZUGFeRD, is becoming more popular as businesses strive to become more efficient and environmentally friendly.

By following the proper validation and archiving procedures, you can ensure that your recipients can view and process your invoices correctly. If you are looking for a way to help you create Factur X and ZUGFeRD compliant invoices, register on Storecove's e-invoicing platform.

More information about e-invoicing formats?

Contact us for more information or schedule a consult with one of our e-invoicing experts.

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