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Key Differences Between ZUGFeRD and XRechnung

Updated: Jul 4

While both ZUGFeRD and XRechnung are designed to facilitate electronic invoicing in Germany, they serve different purposes.

Electronic invoicing (e-invoicing) is an essential part of modern business operations, offering numerous benefits such as cost savings, efficiency, and compliance with regulations. In Germany, the e-invoicing landscape is characterized by two prominent formats: XRechnung and ZUGFeRD. Both formats are designed to facilitate efficient and structured data exchange, but they differ in several key aspects.


What is ZUGFeRD?

ZUGFeRD has two components: a PDF file and an embedded XML file. Forum elektronische Rechnung Deutschland (FeRD) has developed a standardized data format called ZUGFeRD to enable small and medium-sized businesses and government authorities to benefit from e-invoicing. The data structure of ZUGFeRD 2.1 is based on the EN 16931 standard.

ZUGFeRD is a hybrid electronic invoice format.

1. Structure:

  • PDF/A-3: A standardized PDF format designed for long-term archiving and human readability.

  • XML: Embedded within the PDF, this structured data can be automatically processed by accounting systems.

2. Versions:

  • ZUGFeRD 1.0: Based on the UN/CEFACT Cross Industry Invoice (CII) standard.

  • ZUGFeRD 2.0: Aligned with the European standard EN 16931, ensuring broader compliance across Europe.

3. Benefits:

  • Interoperability: Facilitates seamless exchange of invoice data between different ERP and accounting systems.

  • Human Readability: The PDF format ensures that invoices can be easily read without special software.

  • Compliance: Meets both national and European regulatory requirements, making it suitable for cross-border transactions.

4. Use Cases:

  • Business-to-Business (B2B): Widely adopted by private sector companies for its ease of use and flexibility.

  • Business-to-Government (B2G): Can be used for transactions with government entities, though not mandated.


What is XRechnung?

XRechnung is a purely XML-based e-invoicing format mandated by the German government for public sector transactions. The XRechnung standard represents a national version of European standard EN 16931.

X-Rechnung is the official format which is available only in XML.

1. Structure:

  • XML: Contains detailed and structured invoice data, adhering strictly to the European standard EN 16931.

2. Compliance:

  • XRechnung is specifically designed to comply with the requirements of the German public sector and is mandatory for all B2G transactions.

3. Benefits:

  • Regulatory Compliance: Ensures that invoices meet all legal requirements for transactions with the public sector.

  • Standardization: Provides a consistent and uniform format for all public procurement processes.

4. Use Cases:

  • Business-to-Government (B2G): Mandatory for invoicing public sector entities in Germany, ensuring compliance with national and European regulations.

Key Differences Between ZUGFeRD and XRechnung

ZUGFeRD and XRechnung
Key Differences Between ZUGFeRD & XRechnung

1. Format:

  • ZUGFeRD: Hybrid format that combines a PDF/A-3 document with embedded XML data.

  • XRechnung: Pure XML format, designed for machine readability and automated processing.

2. Primary Use:

  • ZUGFeRD: Suitable for both B2B and B2G transactions, with a focus on flexibility and ease of adoption.

  • XRechnung: Specifically designed for B2G transactions, mandated by law for public sector invoicing.

3. Readability:

  • ZUGFeRD: The PDF part of the invoice ensures it can be easily read by humans without specialized software.

  • XRechnung: The XML format is not directly readable by humans and requires specialized software for viewing and processing.

4. Compliance:

  • ZUGFeRD: Voluntarily adopted by businesses but complies with European and national standards.

  • XRechnung: Mandatory for public sector invoicing, ensuring strict adherence to regulatory requirements.

5. Adoption and Flexibility:

  • ZUGFeRD: Offers a more flexible approach, making it easier for businesses of all sizes to adopt e-invoicing.

  • XRechnung: Ensures uniformity and standardization in public sector transactions but may require more technical adjustments for businesses.

6. Implementation:

  • ZUGFeRD: Businesses can implement it gradually, integrating it with existing processes without significant disruption.

  • XRechnung: Requires compliance with specific technical standards, which may necessitate more comprehensive changes to invoicing systems.


While both ZUGFeRD and XRechnung are designed to facilitate electronic invoicing in Germany, they serve different purposes and audiences. ZUGFeRD’s hybrid format and flexibility make it ideal for businesses seeking an easy transition to e-invoicing, suitable for both B2B and B2G transactions. In contrast, XRechnung’s purely XML format is specifically tailored for mandatory B2G transactions, ensuring strict compliance with public sector requirements. Understanding these differences is crucial for businesses to choose the right e-invoicing format to meet their operational needs and regulatory obligations.


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