ZUGFeRD – the new standard for electronic invoices

The ZUGFeRD standard for human and machine-readable electronic invoices supports manual and fully automated processing and long-term archiving. PDF Tools AG offers various products that can be used to create and check ZUGFeRD-compliant documents.

Optimum readability

Paper invoices are becoming a thing of the past. Many more companies are now issuing their invoices electronically and thus reducing their printing and postage costs. The recipient can print the electronic invoices as and when required and process them like a conventional paper invoice, or integrate them directly into automated processes within their business software. Like conventional invoices, electronic invoices are also subject to certain storage obligations. However, by using an IT archiving solution, they can be stored in a way that saves space. If the invoices already exist as files, there is no need to go through the unreliable process of scanning paper documents.

The best of both worlds

A file format that supports manual and automated processing and long-term archiving must display the invoice as it would look on paper and contain machine-readable data. In addition, the archiving process must ensure that the data cannot be changed retroactively. FeRD (the forum for electronic billing in Germany) has developed such a standard in collaboration with ministries, associations and companies: ZUGFeRD (central user guidelines of the forum for electronic billing in Germany). It is based on the international PDF/A standard, which is designed specifically for long-term archiving. PDF/A ensures that the archived document displays correctly in the long term.

ZUGFeRD is based on PDF/A-3, part 3 of the standard. This extension allows structured data in XML format to be embedded in the PDF/A file. A ZUGFeRD invoice therefore always consists of a PDF file with integrated XML data. The PDF can be read easily by a person, while XML ensures optimum machine readability.

With its 3-Heights product range, the PDF specialist PDF Tools AG offers the perfect developer tools for ZUGFeRD-conform software solutions. The Document Converter converts files of various formats into standard-conform PDF and PDF/A documents. With the PDF to PDF/A Converter, conventional PDF files can be transformed into valid PDF/A documents.

Electronic billing for all

The specification for the XML scheme and file embedding was published in the form of ZUGFeRD Standard 1.0 at the end of June 2014. PDF/A has been an ISO standard since 2005 and PDF/A-3 since 2012. ZUGFeRD also takes into account the European standards CII and MUG. In principle, nothing stands in the way of ZUGFeRD as a file format. The legal foundations are also in place, at least in Germany: under the tax simplification law, electronic invoices are now considered equal to paper invoices. ZUGFeRD is not only suitable for large enterprises, SMEs and the public sector, but also for small businesses. ZUGFeRD-conform invoices can be generated and shared much more easily than existing electronic invoicing procedures. ZUGFeRD does not stipulate how to send the invoices. The documents can be sent and received by email, FTP or other means.

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Nadine Schuppisser

Written by Nadine Schuppisser

Nadine Schuppisser is Head of Marketing and Communication of PDF Tools AG. Pdftools offers PDF & PDF/A components and solutions for digitization, the document process and legally compliant long-term archiving. PDF Tools AG is the Swiss representative on the ISO committee for PDF/A and PDF and a founding member of the PDF Association.

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