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Why is e-invoicing not the same as a PDF?

Many think that electronic invoices and PDFs are simply the same thing. But this is not the case. Explore they key differences.

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When they hear e-invoicing, companies often think that this is sending invoices by e-mail. Not only sending the invoice is part of this, but also the electronic booking, payment and collection of the money belongs to this process. Electronic invoicing leads to a major save of costs. For the sender, but especially for the receiver. Since e-invoicing is digitalising invoicing for the sender as well as the receiver, a PDF-invoice is not seen as electronic invoicing.

When receiving a PDF the receiver still has to, with or without the help of OCR software, manually put data into a systems or he has to correct it. In the case of e-invoicing, the receiver gets all the data electronically which can be automated with their accounting systems. Manual input is not necessary anymore and the control of the content of the invoice can be automated.


When a sender decides to do electronic invoicing (e-invoicing) instead of just sending a PDF, there is a world of benefits for the entrepreneur. First of all, e-invoicing is like registered post but faster. You always know for sure that the invoice has been received and you’re always being informed about that. Since the payment period usually starts at the moment the invoice is registered, the e-invoice can shorten the payment period with a couple of days.

Without intervention of the post or post rooms or other internal departments, the e-invoice lands directly into the financial system of the receiver. Reminders can be sent automatically and payment options can be built into the invoice or reminder. E-invoices can be simply archived digitally which makes them easy to find and this way they’re always accessible within the organisation.

With e-invoicing you are ready for the future. It’s only a matter of time until receivers don’t want to receive invoices any other way. The (Dutch) government even made e-invoicing (so not PDFs) mandatory as from the 1st of January.

E-invoicing method

Paper invoices and PDF invoices via e-mail are most of the time directly exchanged between two parties. Of course this is the case with e-invoices. In this so-called two-corner model, two parties make arrangements on the e-invoice format they use and about the technical connection.

However, there are a lot of different formats in the electronic invoicing world and that variety has a function. A format (invoice standard), often reflects the specific needs of a sector or collaboration. Every sector has its own order and invoice process, that one format can even be undesirable.

Billing service provider

In the three-corner model, a Billing Service Provider takes the burden away for both the sender and the recipient in the invoice process. The sender that uses its own sector standards, the billing service provider makes sure that the invoice gets to the receiver in their correct format. Preferably electronic, but e-mail or post are also optional.

Another advantage for the sender is that there is only one technical link that should be realised with the billing service provider. The billing service provider is taking care of different links on the receiver-side. By translating different formats, the billing service provider is making sure that the receiver receives all his invoices electronically the same way and that the authenticity and the integrity of the invoice is determined the right way. Billing service providers have got a large network and make agreements with (large) accounting systems.

Simple with great advantages

By using an billing service provider, companies can easily exchange electronic invoices directly with many providers from different sectors and suppliers. This requires one link (one-time setup) between the accounting system and the platform of the service provider. Small companies can also use a web-portal for sending and receiving e-invoices.

Take a look at Unifiedpost Group's e-invoicing solutions and discover the benefits the digital process can create for your business.

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