EDI projects require a wide variety of specialized knowledge. In our glossary, we provide answers to most of the terms you may encounter in your EDI project.


What is an XRechnung?

The XRechnung is an XML-based semantic data model and enables a standardized electronic invoice exchange between suppliers and public clients in Germany. The basis of this format/the XRechnung is the Directive 2014/55/EU of the European Parliament, as well as the EN 16931. While the EU Directive defines the framework conditions for electronic invoice exchange, the EN 16931 defines the format, data structure and syntax as standards. The specific requirements of the individual EU countries are defined in the form of so-called Core Invoice Usage Specifications (CIUS). This is also the case for Germany: XInvoice additionally contains country-specific aspects, such as business rules, descriptions, etc., and can thus be understood as a national variant of the EU standard EN 16931.

XRechnung development and history

Date Description
26.05.2014 Entry into force of EU Directive 2014/55/EU on electronic invoicing for contracting authorities.
01.12.2016 E-bill law passed
16.10.2017 E-invoice ordinance designates XRechnung as standard for Germany
16.10.2017 Publication of EN 16931 standard. A syntax-neutral semantic data model that defines the mandatory elements of an electronic invoice.
18.04.2019 Mandatory acceptance of eInvoices for top federal authorities.
18.04.2020 Mandatory acceptance of eInvoices for all federal invoice recipients.
27.11.2020 Invoice exchange with XRechnung mandatory for all state and local governments.

What is an electronic invoice
and what is it not?

An invoice in digital form does not automatically constitute an electronic invoice. An electronic invoice according to the EU standard represents a structured data record. The key difference is the fully automated machine readability of this structured data, which enables electronic processing without media breaks. The situation is different with digital invoices, for example as PDF, scan, jpeg or docx. In this case, the invoice can be sent and received electronically, but the invoice information it contains is only available in image form and must be structured manually or by additional systems and transferred to an accounting system.

XRechnung fulfills the requirement of structured data by being based on XML. XML as a markup language represents hierarchically structured data in the format of a text file and can be read by machines as well as by humans. In the ZUGFerd format, XML data is embedded in a PDF format, i.e. structured data is linked with image-based data. Such hybrid formats also count as electronic invoices as long as the invoice information can be processed by machines in accordance with the EN 16931 standard.

Use of XRechnung / For whom is XRechnung mandatory?

Since November 2020 at the latest, electronic invoicing to public authorities has been a legal requirement in Germany. This means that all companies operating in the B2G sector are affected. Suppliers and public authorities must be able to send, receive and process an XRechnung as an exchange format.


  1. Direct order according to §14 UVgO: order value is below 1.000 € (excl. VAT)
  2. Invoice data that is subject to secrecy (defense and security-specific orders)
  3. Matters of the foreign service (as far as the threshold value is not reached or exceeded)

The XRechnung standard

XRechnung has all the core elements specified in EN 16931.

The core elements of an electronic invoice include the following

  • Routing identification number (routing ID)
  • Process and invoice IDs
  • Invoice period
  • Information about the seller
  • Information about the buyer
  • Information about the payee
  • Information about the seller's tax representative
  • Order reference
  • Delivery details
  • Instructions for the execution of the payment
  • Information about surcharges or discounts
  • Information on individual invoice line items
  • Invoice totals
  • VAT breakdown

In addition, the EU standard specifies two syntaxes that are permitted for the transmission of e-invoices:

  1. Universal business language (UBL)
  2. UN/CEFACT Cross Industry Invoice (CII)

Thus, an XRechnung is only valid if the above information is contained in a structured form and transmitted in UBL or CII.

What is a routing ID?

In Germany, the routing ID number is used to identify the invoice recipient and to correctly allocate incoming invoices to the responsible public authority. For the transmission of XRechnung, the federal government has set up a central office, the ZRE (Central Invoice Receipt Platform of the Federal Government). Here, all incoming XRechnung are checked for conformity and forwarded to the public invoice recipient on the basis of the routing ID.

A routing ID is provided exclusively for invoice recipients. Contractors do not need an identification number. The routing ID is transmitted to the biller when the contract is awarded - a central database does not currently exist.

Structure of Routing Identification Number:

The routing ID consists of mandatory and optional components. Coarse addressing and check digit are required, while fine addressing can be assigned by the federal and state governments according to their own systems.

  • Coarse addressing: codes for federal state, administrative district, county and municipality
  • Fine addressing: limited to max. 30 alphanumeric characters
  • Check digit: numeric checksum, calculated from the previous digits

Convert and create XRechnung

Creating an XRechnung is done using conversion solutions. During conversion, the data is exported from the in-house ERP system and transferred to the required XML format using a conversion module. The resulting XRechnung can now be sent to the invoice recipient. Conversely, data received by the invoice recipient in XML format is written again by a converter into interfaces of the recipient system. The converter is thus a tool for converting and transforming internal formats into the standardized, uniform XRechnung and vice versa.

Sending XRechnung

The transmission of XRechnung is usually specified by the authority involved. There are various ways of sending them.

Especially suitable for single orders or in exceptions:

E-mail with XML attachment De-mail with XML attachment EGVP (electronic court and administrative mailbox)/VPS (federal virtual mailroom) Web form

If you have a high volume of XRechnung (approx. 100 or more per month), the fully automatic transmission via PEPPOL is particularly suitable.

XRechnung versenden

Conversion to XRechnung in your company

The creation and processing of XRechnung requires a digital invoice workflow, digital invoice receipt, and an audit-proof invoice archive. It is recommended to create an as-is analysis within the scope of an internal project in which invoice volume, invoice types, internal IT system, organizational structure, customer and supplier requirements are to be recorded and evaluated. It is also helpful to involve several departments in the project, such as purchasing, IT and accounting, so that upstream and downstream processes can be better taken into account for the conversion.

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