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European Commission Digital

eInvoicing Documentation

What is eInvoicing

Electronic invoicing is the exchange of an electronic invoice document between a supplier and a buyer. An electronic invoice (eInvoice) is an invoice that has been issued, transmitted and received in a structured data format which allows for its automatic and electronic processing, as defined in Directive 2014/55/EU.

A structured electronic invoice contains data from the supplier in a machine-readable format, that can be automatically imported into the buyer's Account Payable (AP) system without requiring manual entering.

When comparing eInvoices to paper invoices it is useful to note that paper invoices have three characteristics that are so integrated that we typically do not notice that they can be separated. Paper invoices:

  • contain data details such as amounts, descriptions and quantities.
  • render that data in a visual format, on printed paper, that can be manually read.
  • have a physical form that allows them to be manually handled and exchanged.

Digital images, PDF and other visual digital forms of invoices remove the physical element and allow the invoices to be handled and archived in a more efficient way than paper. These formats however still require the invoice to be manually viewed and their data to be manually read and entered into AP systems.

eInvoices only contain the data in a structured form and can be automatically imported into AP systems. They do not include a visual presentation of the invoice data although they can be temporarily rendered during processing or transposed into visual formats. For eInvoices, the visual format is secondary and the objective in automation is not to view the invoice, except in irregular cases.

A visualised, human-readable version of the invoice may be created for reading purposes and may flow within the structured message, but it is not considered part of the invoice itself.

eInvoices are not:

  • Unstructured invoice data issued in PDF or Word formats.
  • Images of invoices such as JPG or TIFF.
  • Unstructured HTML invoices on a web page or in an email.
  • OCR (Scanned paper invoices).
  • Paper invoices sent, like images, via fax machines.

The use of eInvoices requires two key functions:

  • The eInvoice needs to be created with the correct structure.
  • The eInvoice needs to be transferred from the seller’s system to the buyer’s system.

The European standard on eInvoicing, EN16931, defines the structure of an eInvoice and various options for the transmitting the invoice.

DIGITAL eInvoicing building block

Until 2021, eInvoicing activities were managed under the Connecting Europe Facilities programme. Starting 2022, eInvoicing work is conducted within the scope of the Digital Europe Programme (DIGITAL). Information displayed on this video is still valid (Discover a retrospective and achievements completed under the CEF Programme presented in the “Six Years of Connecting Europe” report). 

The DIGITAL eInvoicing building block aims at promoting the uptake and accelerating the use of eInvoicing in respect of the European standard, amongst both public and private entities established in the EU, as well as in participating EEA countries.

The DIGITAL eInvoicing building block serves to support public administrations in complying with EU eInvoicing legislation and helps service & solution providers adapt their services accordingly, therefore, foresees Business to Government (B2G). However, eInvoicing and the European standard can also be used to enable the Government to Government (G2G) and Business-to-Business (B2B) communication.

Business to Business (B2B) and Government to Citizen (G2C) or Business to Consumer (B2C) are not addressed in the context of DIGITAL eInvoicing.

The technical management of the eInvoicing DSI is carried out by the Directorate-General for Informatics (DIGIT) of the European Commission. Implementation of the EU policy directly related to eInvoicing is the responsibility of the Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (DG GROW) of the European Commission.

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