SER Blog  Innovation & Technology

ZUGFeRD/Factur-X: The hybrid format for mandatory eInvoicing

Businesses that have already set up their invoicing processes electronically are well positioned for the upcoming mandatory eInvoicing. ZUGFeRD/Factur-X is a digital invoice format for electronic invoices that businesses in Germany are already using to send eInvoices to customers in the public sector. For this reason, popular ERP systems and invoicing programs support the data format. This makes it easier for you to switch from manual to electronic invoice processing. 

However, the biggest benefit is the hybrid character of ZUGFeRD/Factur-X: this format allows for both electronic and non-electronic invoice processing. 

ZUGFeRD/Factur-X simply explained

ZUGFeRD/Factur-X is the German abbreviation for “Central User Guide of the Forum for Electronic Invoicing Germany” (orig.: Zentraler User Guide des Forums elektronische Rechnung Deutschland) and it corresponds to the EU standard EN 16931. ZUGFeRD/Factur-X is a standardized invoice data format for the generation and further processing of electronic invoices (eInvoices). As a hybrid data format, it can be read by us regular old humans and eInvoicing systems. 

How does ZUGFeRD/Factur-X work? 

An eInvoice in the ZUGFeRD/Factur-X data format consists of two components: 

  1. A PDF document (PDF/A-3) 

  1. Integrated invoice data in XML format 

The PDF document forms the visual component of the eInvoice, designed to be read by us humans. An identical copy of the invoice in XML format is included in the PDF. If you send an invoice in the ZUGFeRD/Factur-X data format, you automatically send the structured, machine-readable XML data. This ensures that programs can further process the eInvoice electronically. 

eInvoicing: ZUGFeRD/Factur-X or XRechnung?

There are other data formats that your business can use to create eInvoices. In addition to ZUGFeRD/Factur-X, the federal government recommends the XRechnung format. 

While ZUGFeRD/Factur-X is a hybrid data format, XRechnung data is only in XML format. This eliminates the visual component of the invoice entirely. Instead, the invoice is available only as an encoded XML file. Machines transmit, receive, and process the invoice automatically without human intervention. 

The advantage of ZUGFeRD/Factur-X: through electronic processing, invoice formats such as XRechnung save manual effort and resources in a business. However, with ZUGFeRD/Factur-X it remains possible for recipients and senders to view the invoice themselves and – at least temporarily until eInvoicing becomes mandatory – to process it manually.

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The development of the ZUGFeRD format

From the outset, the aim in developing ZUGFeRD/Factur-X was to create a solution that would help simplify the rollout of eInvoicing in Germany. The format was developed by the Forum for Electronic Invoicing Germany (FeRD) in cooperation with the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. 

ZUGFeRD/Factur-X has continued to develop over the years: 

ZUGFeRD 1.0 

In version 1.0, the electronic data for an invoice are linked to the PDF file. National as well as international businesses receive ZUGFeRD 1.0 invoices. Internationally, ZUGFeRD is known as the French standard Factur-X. 

ZUGFeRD 2.0 

The ZUGFeRD 2.0 version takes into account the requirements of DIN EN 16931. This update was necessary to ensure that ZUGFeRD remains a valid invoice format for invoicing of public authorities. 

ZUGFeRD 2.0.1 

In version 2.0.1, the developers corrected certain components so that the new version actually meets the requirements of DIN EN 16931. Among other things, the newer version fixes bugs and updates code lists. However, ZUGFeRD 2.0.1 also serves to further align version 2.0 with the French standard Factur-X. 

ZUGFeRD 2.1 

Since version 2.1, ZUGFeRD and Factur-X have been technically identical. ZUGFeRD and Factur-X now refer to the same invoice format. 

ZUGFeRD 2.1.1 

In version 2.1.1, ZUGFeRD is being expanded to include the XRechnung profile. In addition to DIN EN 16931, it complies with national business rules and administration-specific provisions that also have to be met for invoicing of German authorities. 

ZUGFeRD 2.2 

Version 2.2 expands the EXTENDED profile with elements designed to improve interoperability with Order-X. At the same time, the developers harmonized the documentation for the two formats.

Does ZUGFeRD/Factur-X comply with mandatory eInvoicing?

Starting on January 1, 2025, German businesses will be required to process B2B sales electronically. In the B2G sector, eInvoicing has been mandatory since 2020. 

Transitional rules for mandatory eInvoicing 

The following transitional rules are for all businesses that will now have to change their invoicing processes: 

  1. By the end of 2025: Paper invoices for B2B sales are still allowed, as are invoices in other electronic formats with the consent of the invoice recipient. 

  1. By the end of 2026: The above regulations are extended for all invoice issuers whose total sales in the previous year do not exceed 800,000 euros. 

  1. By the end of 2027: Businesses may submit invoices in any other electronic format as long as the invoice is submitted electronically via EDI transaction and the recipient consents. 

The transitional rules only apply to the sending of invoices. Your business will have to be able to receive, process, and archive electronic invoices starting in January 2025. The principles of proper accounting also have to be observed. These include an audit-proof archive and a compliant document management system (DMS). 

Read more about this topic in our blog post on mandatory eInvoicing.

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Approved formats for eInvoices 

You will have to meet all eInvoicing requirements by 2028, at the latest. Then you may only send and receive invoices in an approved format. ZUGFeRD/Factur-X is considered an allowable format and is therefore compliant with mandatory eInvoicing requirements. The same applies to XRechnung. 

Is ZUGFeRD/Factur-X also relevant internationally?

ZUGFeRD is relevant nationally as an invoice format, because businesses can use this format to meet requirements for eInvoicing. In addition to national business rules, ZUGFeRD/Factur-X also complies with the Cross Industry Invoice (CII) and Message User Guides (MUG) standards of the European standardization body CEN. This makes ZUGFeRD/Factur-X an invoice format that you can use nationally and internationally for invoicing. Internationally, ZUGFeRD/Factur-X is known by the name Factur-X. 

Incidentally, it is not only the eInvoicing law that is changing how businesses process invoices across Europe. In addition to electronic invoicing processes, the EU also plans to harmonize the VAT system across Europe. As a result, the ViDA package of measures (or VAT in the Digital Age) will place new requirements on corporate billing systems. At the latest when ViDA comes into force, a consistent EU invoice format will be mandatory. ZUGFeRD/Factur-X meets these requirements.

The digital invoicing process with ZUGFeRD

Hey Doxi, how does Doxis manage the invoicing process with ZUGFeRD/Factur-X?

Digital invoice processes for recipients 

ZUGFeRD/Factur-X invoices are received by systems entirely automatically. Because ZUGFeRD/Factur-X provides invoice data directly in XML data format, no OCR (Optical Character Recognition) technology is required. You also don’t need to extract and classify the data. These are available already as structured data, so that the software can import them directly. 

However, your solution has to support the ZUGFeRD/Factur-X format. In Doxis, the invoicing process comprises the following steps: 

  • Step 1: Doxis accepts the digital inbound invoice directly for processing. 

  • Step 2: Doxis automatically stores the invoice in the context-related digital file. 

  • Step 3: Doxis checks whether the inbound invoice is formally and factually correct. 

  • Step 4: Doxis launches the invoice approval workflow. 

  • Step 5: Doxis automatically posts invoices with purchase order reference (AP automation). 

In addition, Doxis’s inbound invoice process supports both ZUGFeRD/Factur-X and XRechnung formats. 

Digital invoicing processes for senders 

To send ZUGFeRD/Factur-X invoices, you have to connect your ERP system to a software that creates invoices in ZUGFeRD/Factur-X format. If this is the case, you generate the invoice in the ERP system. The invoice is then transferred automatically to ZUGFeRD/Factur-X format and sent. 

If you send invoices to public services, please note that they often work with an invoice portal such as Peppol. So the corresponding connection is necessary. On the other hand, your billing system ideally also needs a Peppol connection to collect invoices. Then you can receive, process, and transmit ZUGFeRD/Factur-X invoices entirely automatically. 

Receive and process eInvoices with ZUGFeRD/Factur-X

German businesses have to prepare to receive and process eInvoices starting in January 2025. In order to be ready, they need an invoicing solution that supports approved data formats such as ZUGFeRD/Factur-X for eInvoices. With Doxis as a solution, you can create consistent electronic processes and manage invoice processing and archiving according to the law.

FAQs about the ZUGFeRD/Factur-X eInvoicing format

What does ZUGFeRD mean?
ZUGFeRD is the German abbreviation for “Central User Guide of the Forum for Electronic Invoicing Germany” (orig.: Zentraler User Guide des Forums elektronische Rechnung Deutschland). This refers to a hybrid data format for electronic invoices that can be read by machines and people.
Does ZUGFeRD comply with mandatory eInvoicing?
The ZUGFeRD invoice format meets all of the requirements for mandatory eInvoicing. Businesses can use it to share invoice data nationally, throughout Europe, and internationally.
Who needs ZUGFeRD?
ZUGFeRD is an electronic invoice format that meets the requirements of mandatory eInvoicing. All businesses required to issue eInvoices need ZUGFeRD or another approved invoice format.

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