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UBL Invoicing, Today’s Business is Digital

Digital invoicing was invented a long time ago For example,
an EDI standard was developed in 1960.

Then the realization came that increased efficiency of administrative
tasks can be achieved using a single standard. That’s when the EDI
standard was born – a uniform language that, for the first time in the history of office automation, exchanged between different computer systems. 

EDI stands for Electronic Data Interchange and is still used today in various applications. In the Netherlands, we use it mainly in the food industry and related logistics companies. Given the current interest in office automation, a vibrant digital communications industry has arised around this topic over the past few years.


In line with the EDI standard development, John Bosak of OASIS invented the first version of UB as we know it back in 2001. This first UBL XML was released in 2004 and showed similarities to the previous EDI standard. An important difference was that the UBL standard is free to use.

UBL and standardization development

Standards are never finished, and remain in development, especially when the foundation is not yet set in stone.
In 2006, the results of progressing insights led to the basis of what we know today as UBL 2.0. Of course there have been several additions since, and changes will continue to happen as market demands keep changing, managed by OASIS.
OASIS itself is a non-profit organization and specialized in the development of open standards. The bill for development and their housing is paid by their members, such as IBM, Microsoft, etc. More on OASIS and specifically the UBL standard can be found on the OASIS website. A standard like that is a wonderful thing of course, but it’s only worth something if it helps the user! This OASIS website does not help with this directly, although a technically-minded person can find relevant information here.

UBL acceptance and status quo

The UBL standard is currently adopted by many accounting packages. The circle of invoicing automation can be considered a closed one from a technical point of view.

EasyData automates any invoice reading process, even outside the scope of UBL, for example for systems that cannot create their own UBL. At the same time, EasyData is not the only company on the market in this area. The number of developments with different approaches is growing, and some of them use our technologies as well.
We are always open to partnership.

The UBL solution that produce PDF’s!

As most invoices are sent as PDF nowadays, it just show the visual expression of an E-Invoice. For efficient processing this PDF need to be combined with an invoice data XML. PDFCommunicator is delivering right that, a PDF with line item XML content. UBL (Universal Business Language) is used as our XML output standard. Although PDFCommunicator delivers any XML, the solution to get office automation done!

Notice Line-Item conversion to UBL

PDFCommunicator realize standard line recognition: The most complex invoices are made insightful in an UBL XML using PDFCommunicator. Online providers of invoice line recognition charge mostly more for converting Line items into UBL. There is nothing wrong with that, but we choose not to do so. Just get your line items to UBL without paying extra. And the other good part PDFCommunicator works on your own computer, no Cloud application.

We believe that with UBL the standard for business communication is created: Information exchange without a third party. The freely usable UBL format provides freedom in financial communication between involved partners. Naturally PDFCommunicator does not solve everybody’s needs directly. That’s where you find EasyData as flexible partner at your side.
You can get Cloud applications with our digital transformation platform for evaluation purposes and installed on premises too. It’s all about your needs based on your requirements. And it hasn’t to be invoice UBL reading or UBL invoice printing always. The exchange of UBL format is much wider than just invoices, there is no need to be limited to just invoicing information. Or generally speaking the UBL Schema, flexible as we are any XML schema can be inplemented. Think of automatic XML generation of orders for instance, or standardization of quote information. The possibilities are endless and will lead to a reduction of administrative burdens!

Because of the overview, we limit ourselves to the popular UBL invoicing solution. Although we do have the technology to convert any type of document to XML and able to convert any XML to the UBL standard. Try UBL invoicing today!

To sum up, there are no technical limitations to make e-invoicing through XML possible.
Does this mean the eventual end of traditional OCR invoice recognition?

The answer is a resounding: Yes!
But it will still be a while…

UBL Nuances in practice

The Dutch government proposed switching to electronic invoicing on January 1, 2017, since electronic invoicing is the future. It is faster, easier, more accurate and saves human resources on administration. The main idea is to reduce bureaucratic procedures for companies. With this in mind, various stakeholders in invoicing automation came up with their own proposals.

Individual approaches have led to the fact that each country today has its own version of the UBL standard. For example, SI-UBL 2.0 works in accordance with European standards (EN-16931). Basically it is UBL, but there are some variations of the OASIS UBL standard. In addition, we have UBL-OHNL, which is a standard format for the purchase of goods and services based on the international UBL standard used by the government for digital procurement and e-invoicing. UBL-OHNL was created by Logius to send electronic invoices to the country’s government. The UBL-OHNL format is expected to be obsolete in the future and eventually replaced by SI-UBL.

Organization-specific integration can be achieved through the various portals and accounting systems available today.

So the government’s invoicing requirements can be met simply by submitting a UBL. In this case, the e-invoice format will be converted by the platform used. This is a new phenomenon in modern electronic invoicing, where whoever sends e-invoices autonomously ends up with different providers.

One such initiative is the PEPPOL network, with large companies at the forefront. They see the advantage of such a platform in reducing administrative costs,for example electronic invoicing saves money and does not allow for errors in the interpretation of invoices. As such, more and more organizations are seeing the benefits of electronic invoicing through PEPPOL. And you, too, can take advantage of the extensive capabilities of PEPPOL.

On July 7, 2012, Belgium first created its own ‘proprietary’ e-fff UBL 2.0 format, based on UBL 2.0. It significantly restricts fields (up to 200 virtual fields) and acts like a ‘general’ UBL. But it was quickly overtaken by the portal The standard is also slightly different, and more importantly, you need a third party to send your invoice. Interestingly, the Belgians see it as a new standard, and the CENBII working group is preparing a European standard.

Our other neighbor, viewed from the Dutch point of view, is Germany, and they have a completely different system, which they say will become the standard. Germans wrap XML to PDF, so the document contains PDF A/3 and XML XRechnung. Again, the German way to automate invoices is a document that contains both PDF and XML in one file. EasyData has been using this XFA technology for over 10 years, in particular for archive applications, but more recently for invoice automation.

Let’s take a closer look. The new ZUGFeRD 2.0 is compliant with the European standard EN 16931 and includes the “Leitweg-ID” field, a government department identifier field required for electronic invoicing of government administrations. You can find further information on the website or from the EasyData specialists.

The main idea of ZUGFeRD is that everyone should be able to exchange electronic invoices without prior
consultation or approval. The ZUGFeRD data format for e-invoices is available free of charge.

To sum up, each country believes that their solution will be elevated to the European standard. The above interpretations are not intended to criticize standardization, but is rather a summary to indicate different technical and political sentiments. Initially, an open standard will be perceived differently by different governments. The advantage is that most accounting systems nowadays can use UBL XML. If other XML formats are used for incoming invoices, EasyData can handle any format other than XML in our automated invoicing process.

The Brexit is an established fact. What about electronic invoicing in the United Kingdom? In 2015, the UK passed the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act, which regulates electronic invoicing. At the same time, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own rules, and the above-mentioned law does not apply to them. The UK is trying to be careful about the costs associated with invoicing technology.

EasyData can help you solve your UK account problems.