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XRechnung format is mandatory when issuing invoices for public sector contracts

Since 27.11.2020, German federal agencies have only been paying invoices issued and submitted electronically in the XRechnung format. At the level of the federal states the obligations with respect to issuing invoices in the XRechnung format are non-uniform. In the following sections, we highlight important particularities that need to be taken into account with respect to the XRechnung format, its tax treatment and the contracts to which it applies.


Issuing and submitting invoices electronically has been an option for German federal contractors since 27.11.2019 and for contractors of the federal states and municipalities since 18.4.2020. Ever since 27.11.2020, German federal contractors have been required to issue invoices solely in the XRechnung format and to submit them electronically. The legal basis for this is the E-Invoice Regulation (E-Rechnungs-Verordnung, ERechV) of 13.7.2017. Electronic invoices will thus ultimately become an essential feature of public sector contracts at the federal level – apart from the exceptions in the following sections.

Definition and transmission

According to Section 4a(2) of the E-Government Act (E-Government-Gesetz, EGovG) of 25.7.2013, an electronic invoice is one that has been issued, transmitted and received in a structured electronic format that allows for the electronic processing of the invoice. Under Section 4(3) clause 1 ERechV, the electronic invoice here has to be transmitted via a German federal administrative portal. Two options have been made available for this purpose:

  • the ZRE (= Zentrale Rechnungseingangsplattform [Central Invoice Submission Platform]) for invoice recipients from the direct federal administration, or
  • the OZG-RE (= Onlinezugangsgesetz-konforme Rechnungseingangsplattform [Invoice Submission Platform which complies with the Online Access Act]) for invoice recipients from the indirect federal administration and recipients of funding provided by the federal government

Components of an XRechnung invoice

For subsequent electronic processing an electronic invoice has to contain the mandatory elements in accordance with Section 5(1) and (2) ERechV in addition to the invoice components for VAT purposes pursuant to Section 14(4) of the German VAT Act (Umsatzsteuergesetz, UStG). Accordingly, the following information also needs to be provided:

  • routing identification number,
  • bank account information,
  • payment terms,
  • De-mail address or e-mail address of the issuer of the invoice,
  • supplier code and purchase order number, insofar as these were already transmitted to the issuer of the invoice when the order was placed.

Differences at the level of the federal states

While the e-invoice requirement has been applicable for German federal agency contractors since 27.11.2020, at the level of the federal states the respective requirement is currently only applicable in Bremen. As the federal states are autonomously implementing e-invoicing there will be delays, which we have listed in the following table.

Tab. 1. Differences in the implementation of the e-invoice requirement

Federal State E-invoice requirement for suppliers
Baden-Württemberg from 1.1.2022
Bavaria No
Berlin No
Brandenburg No
Bremen from 27.11.2020
Hamburg No
Hesse from 18.4.2024
Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Still at the planning stage
Lower Saxony No
North Rhine-Westphalia No
Rhineland-Palatinate from 1.1.2024
Saarland from 1.1.2022
Saxony No
Saxony-Anhalt No
Schleswig-Holstein No
Thuringia No

Deviation in the case of small amounts

Section3(3) ERechV lists the exceptional cases where the e-invoicing requirement does not apply. An XRechnung invoice would accordingly not have to be issued and the paper format would still be possible if

  • the orders are direct and up to an order value of € 1,000 (net), or if
  • confidential invoice information and certain foreign service matters or other foreign procurement are affected.

Therefore, apart from these exceptions, as of 27.11.2020, neither paper invoices nor invoices in electronic formats that solely contain a visual representation of the invoice (e.g. JPG photo files) have been permitted for orders placed by German federal agencies.

Tax requirements

For tax purposes, electronic invoices have been on an equal footing with paper invoices already since 2011. The requirement in clause 7 of Section 14(1) UStG, according to which the consent of the invoice recipient has to be obtained for electronic transmission, should not be applied if the clients are obliged to accept electronic invoices via the applicable EGovG. According to Section 147(1) no. 3 and 4 of the German Fiscal Code and Section 14b(1) clause 1 UStG, electronic invoices are documents subject to the record keeping requirement that have to be stored electronically in their original form and able to be provided in a readable format at all times during the mandatory record keeping period. The process to be implemented for the transmission of XRechnung invoices has to either be provided with controls or integrated into the internal control system (ICS) for taxes.

Please note: The selected procedure has to be described in documentation relating to tax procedures.

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