The ‘European standard on electronic invoicing’

European public sector to adopt a standard semantic data model for electronic invoicing


A few years ago I posted an article about the confusion surrounding standardizing on electronic invoice formats in Europe[1]. I am pleased to note that the European Commission has not been idle.  On March 11 2014, after several years of conferences, expert groups, forums and workshops, the European Parliament approved a new directive on electronic invoicing in public procurement[2].


Within this directive are several points related to standardization. 

“The Commission requests that the European standard on electronic invoicing complies at least with the following criteria:

·      it is technologically neutral;

·      it is compatible with relevant international standards on electronic invoicing;

·      it has regard to the need for personal data protection in accordance with Directive 95/46/EC, to a 'data protection by design' approach and to the principles of proportionality, data minimisation and purpose limitation;

·      it is consistent with the relevant provisions of Directive 2006/112/EC;

·      it allows for the establishment of practical, user-friendly, flexible and cost-efficient electronic invoicing systems;

·      it takes into account the special needs of small and medium-sized enterprises as well as of sub-central contracting authorities and contracting entities;

·      it is suitable for use in commercial transactions between enterprises .”


Fundamental in this directive is the standardization of a “technologically neutral” semantic data model[3] for the core elements on an invoice document.  This can be mapped to different syntaxes as required.


“The Commission shall request that the relevant European standardisation organisation provide a list with a limited number of syntaxes which comply with the European standard on electronic invoicing, the appropriate syntax bindings and guidelines on transmission interoperability, in order to facilitate the use of such standard.”


The next step will be the identification of a forum within a European standardization body where this electronic invoice standard will be developed. 


It would appear that the CEN Workshop on Business Interoperability Interfaces (BII) is a prime candidate as the starting point for this standardization.  The post-award profiles defined in CEN 16562[4] match the requirements of the new directive and already have significant uptake in the European public sector through the e-PRIOR[5] and OpenPEPPOL[6] services and as EESPA’s Model Interoperability Agreement format[7] between e-Invoice Service Providers.


This directive marks a significant step forward for electronic business in Europe.  Let us hope that Europe maintains its momentum after a shaky start.








[3] See article” 





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