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Author's profile photo Francois Vigneron

XRechnung, ZUGFeRD and Peppol – All you wanted to know about the electronic invoice in Germany – ZUGFeRD (part 3/4)

Knowing the context of the electronic invoice, and what XRechnung is, let us now look at ZUGFeRD. ZUGFeRD stands for the Central User Guide of the Electronic Invoicing Germany Forum. ZUGFeRD is not just a long acronym, it is also the smart idea to combine a structured and an unstructured format. The PDF image of the invoice can serve as a carrier for a structured XML invoice. Invoice recipients receive PDFs with attached structured UN/CEFACT XMLs. It is up to the recipients to determine whether they use the one or the other, whether they enter the invoice manually or automatically. ZUGFeRD 2.1 is available in the variations Basic, Comfort, Extended, thus enabling, depending on the variant, conformance or compliance with the EU/CEN standard.

Illustration: All roads lead to X-Rechnung


Since ZUGFeRD has been known for longer than Peppol in Germany and since only a few German companies have gathered experiences with Peppol, you might still come across older half-true statements such as:

  • “Only ZUGFeRD is international” – assuming that Peppol is not. The Peppol acronym originally stood for Pan-European Public Procurement Online. Peppol has meanwhile broken the borders of Europe: Singapore, Australia and New Zealand are Peppol countries since 2019. ZUGFeRD is limited to France, Switzerland and Germany.
  • “Everyone can receive ZUGFeRD because everyone has an e-mail address.” Correct, but as an invoice issuer you might be concerned about systematically receiving receipt confirmations from your buyers. Furthermore, e-mail encryption is cumbersome for both invoice senders and recipients and is therefore rarely implemented. The Peppol infrastructure embeds security and receipt confirmations.
  • “Only ZUGFeRD is widespread in Germany. My customers want ZUGFeRD, not Peppol.” Correct, but the wind is turning rapidly. Many SAP users are currently receiving letters from public services listing Peppol as a receiving option.

Our personal view: multiple EDI providers in Germany will be able to support Peppol by the end of 2020 and the Pro and Cons will soon be better balanced. Both variants make sense and have their sweet spots.

So the question is: when should e-mail and when should Peppol be used?

As a biller, you will have to decide for each of your buyers based on theinput channels that they offer? If Peppol is there, it is a better option because:

  • Invoices systematically undergo content checks (so-called schematron checks, which not only check the invoice structure but also content dependencies[1]). For example: Is the sum of the individual line amounts equal to the specified total amount of line items?
  • Invoices are transmitted securely and encrypted.
  • The recipient’s service provider is systematically confirming reception with a technical acknowledgment.
  • Peppol continues to develop functionally. Business-related rejections of invoices will soon be available in the standard implementation, as well as other business documents such as orders and shipping notifications.
  • The technical implementation is much easier than an EDI connection but has the same deepness of integration as EDI. Only the recipient’s Peppol ID has to be entered in customer master data to set up a new connection.

If the invoice recipient is not (yet) registered in the Peppol network, then the advantages of sending e-mails apply. Typical e-mail implementations might e.g. include the connection of business partners in non-Peppol countries or of smaller customers. Therefore, most billing organizations should be able to support both delivery options and easily switch business partners from the one to the other.

The fourth part of this series briefly presents the standard SAP solution for electronic invoicing in Germany.


The series is drawn from the German blog XRechnung, ZUGFeRD und Peppol – Alles, was Sie über die elektronische Rechnung wissen wollen (und vielleicht mehr).

[1] Although not required by ZUGFeRD, the SAP solution for e-mail delivery (included in SAP Document Compliance, invoicing option for Peppol) does schematron checks in order to ensure high-data quality in e-mail processes. But this is not done by most senders leading to a wide range of interpretation of the standard not to speak of the Basic, Comfort and Extended versions offered by ZUGFeRD.

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