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ZUGFeRD: E-Invoicing with PDF Documents

 ZUGFeRDElectronic invoicing (E-Invoicing) is an increasingly common way to bill goods and services. Compared to the classical paper invoice, it helps to save time (for example for the creation, transport and processing of the invoice document), costs, and other resources. On the other hand, the current situation is characterized by the fact that E-Invoicing still lacks general standards for processing invoices that are easy to apply for the invoicing party and for the bill-to party alike. This is especially true for the normal case of business operations, which often sees parties with differences in billing infrastructure (billing and accounting system software) and divergent organization structure.

In order to overcome the obstacles mentioned above, the German organization FeRD (Forum elektronische Rechnung Deutschland e. V.) has been founded to develop and establish an appropriate standard. FeRD works as a hub to link the key players and interested companies in the field of E-Invoicing. Details on the current state of the developed standard (ZUGFeRD format) are available on the FeRD website.

What does ZUGFeRD stand for?

ZUGFeRD (German language acronym for „Zentraler User Guide Forum elektronische Rechnung Deutschland“, i. e. „Central User Guide Forum electronic Invoice Germany“) is a digital data format. It combines a printable invoice (PDF/A-3 file as visual representation of the invoice data as digital media format instead of the corresponding paper invoice) with an embedded XML file that presents the invoice data in a specifically structured way. This special data structure enables billing and accounting applications to read information like for example the invoice amount, date or number in a standardized way and to process this data. The overall goal is to further develop elaborate ways of working with invoices without having to switch media, for example between paper and computer data. In the long run, the concept aims at replacing the existing OCR recognition methods. Since 2014, the standard is developed by a cooperation between FeRD, various private organizations, companies and government departments.

Like PDF/A-1 and PDF/A-2, PDF/A-3 is a special type of PDF format. All three formats may be used for the long-term archiving of documents. The distinctive feature of PDF/A-3: it allows to embed any other file type into the PDF/A file. Therefore, it is possible to embed XML files. The PDF/A-3 specification has been published in October 2012.

XML files are a special type of text files, since they save data in a hierarchically structured way. The structure allows various applications (e.g. billing and accounting system software) to read the data from these files.

How does soft Xpansion support the ZUGFeRD format?

Soft Xpansion is an active FeRD member. The developer tool PDF Xpansion SDK 12 offers powerful ZUGFeRD functionality. It enables software developers to implement the creation and processing of various PDF formats and of the ZUGFeRD format into their own applications. Thus, the end user does not need any additional programs to work with these formats.

The ZUGFeRD API of PDF Xpansion SDK 12 allows E-Invoicing with the following features:

  • Reading and comprehensive validation of incoming ZUGFeRD files (electronic invoices)
  • Read structured and unstructured invoice data
  • Display and / or print the PDF part of invoice in PDF viewer
  • Save outgoing invoices as ZUGFeRD compliant files (including conversion of visual part of the invoice to PDF/A-3 format and saving invoice data in embedded XML attachment)
  • Support of all ZUGFeRD profiles: Basic, Comfort, Extended
  • PDF/A-3 conversion from
    • existing PDF files
    • existing XPS or OXPS files
    • text files
    • dynamic PDF pages
    • scanned paper documents (images)

Detailed information is available on the PDF Xpansion SDK web site.

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