The Federal Ministry of Finance (BMF) plans to make e-invoicing mandatory in Germany, and is currently consulting experts in this regard. Comarch, which is a provider of e-invoicing services, participates in these consultations, and in recent days was part of the panel of experts, during which the current status and planned dates were summarized.
At the current stage of work on the project, the following topics are regulated.
E-invoicing obligation according to CEN
After the changes that were announced in July 2023, from January 1, 2026, German companies will be required to issue electronic invoices for VAT-taxed transactions, while from January 1, 2025, electronic invoicing will be voluntary. This obligation will apply when issuers and recipients of invoices are based in Germany (including foreign companies established in Germany). This obligation will not apply to B2C transactions or those exempt from VAT. Mandatory e-invoices will have to comply with CEN’s format, which is the standard of the European Committee for Standardization. No other country has made such an obligation so far, so Germany is a pioneer in the area of CEN compliance. The authorities are keeping in mind the EU's VAT in the Digital Age (ViDA) as part of the 2028 e-invoicing requirement for cross-border invoices.
Transitional phase with e-invoicing obligation but without CEN obligation
As part of the transition period, which will be implemented from January 1, 2025 to December 31, 2027, e-invoices that do not comply with CEN still will be accepted but under certain conditions. However, it will be required to transmit them via EDI and provide the recipient's consent to such an invoice format. This means that, in order to proceed with the exchange of existing non-CEN compliant formats (such as EDIFACT, VDA, X12, TRADACOM, etc.), the consent of all recipients must be obtained.
The sender of a CEN-compliant electronic invoice will not need the consent of the recipient of the electronic invoice to send it. A non-CEN compliant electronic invoice will have the same legal classification as a paper invoice: however, it will be classified under the "Other invoices" category. Exemptions from the electronic invoicing obligation are currently being discussed for small invoices below €250 according to § 33 UStDV and for travel documents according to § 34 UStDV.
E-reporting obligation in Germany
The obligatory use of the e-bill is a prerequisite for the obligation to be introduced later for transaction-related reporting of sales in the B2B area by entrepreneurs to a nationwide uniform electronic management system (including e-reporting system). The mandatory e-bill should therefore already be introduced in anticipation of the implementation of the reporting system mentioned.
Political discussion on e-invoicing models
During the discussions in the German parliament, one of the topics raised was free access to the portal for small and medium-sized enterprises. In addition, there was a desire to provide a central, state-owned platform. Considering these issues, the Belgian model was analyzed, which is assessed rather critically, while the French model received positive opinions. Differences between political players have also come to light: some aim to accelerate digitization, while others focus on closing the VAT gap.
This brief overview shows the current plans. The BMF is targeting August 18, 2023, as the deadline for the draft law.
The Comarch experts are always happy to answer any questions you may have about e-invoicing.