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Discussion: 7 facts and myths about PDF invoices

It is! It’s not! Yes it is! No way! You’re a nutcase! You stop this nonsense NOW! That is quite likely what you get when trying to discuss whether a PDF invoice is or is not an e-invoice. In essence it is the discussion on the current path of e-invoicing adoption, versus the goal that adoption should ultimately reach: 100% advanced data exchange between business partners.

(The real abbreviation here is Pdf, but we use PDF for readability purposes)

There are digital and electronic invoices. In fact there is a difference between electronic and digital. But that distinction is different from what you’d think in the first place. Whereas 'Electronic ' is a legal term, 'Digital' is a manifestation of an electronic invoice. Just as with signatures. An example:

'''' The legal term is ' electronic signature '. A manifestation of an electronic signature is a digital signature. A digital signature can be a picture, which usually is not legally valid. A qualified digital certificate provides an advanced electronic signature: a signature which may be granted a great deal of legal guarantees. Validity is one of these guarantees.''''

That distinction was and has never been made with regard to e-invoices. In short: a digital invoice is an e-invoice and vice versa.

An invoice that is not carried by a paper medium (read: a paper sheet), is an electronic invoice. A PDF invoice is not carried by a paper medium and therefore it is an electronic invoice.  See as an example the recent European e-invoice directive.

Statistically PDF and e-mail are used and mentioned most often throughout years as the primary means for e-invoicing throughout most of the business populations over the world.

Just imagine saying to those that the way they are e-invoicing isn’t really e-invoicing. Or rather that they are in fact e-invoicing, not in the real sense. Because that’s different. Or so. Because that's what is actually the truth! Right?

A PDF is created by a PDF printer. A printer can only generate output if the input also is structured. A PDF is a visual reference of structured information. Despite it’s beautiful appearance, a PDF is build on top of structured data.

Myth and fact
PDF invoices are less advanced than data formats as UBL 2.0 ... That is a myth. Because a PDF document is a representation of structured data, it can also be used for importing structured data.

There are many  examples that offer the ability of importing/processing PDF invoices directly into financial software. (Yes, it requires a few more mouse clicks than straight through processing. Has anyone calculated those costs for SME’s yet?)

The fact is that there are very little good while low-cost products implemented (especially for SME’s) to import PDF invoices (invoices and in other readable formats), directly into accounting software.

It sometimes seems like the PDF invoice aren’t getting the credits they deserve.  Yes, e-invoicing can get much more advanced than with PDF.

But as more and more companies and organizations transition to e-invoicing, massive numbers start with sending PDF.

So, aren’t PDF e-invoices a great starting point for (1) massive adoption of e-invoicing and (2) a transition to more efficient forms of e-invoicing?


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This post is from a series of posts in the group:

Electronic invoicing

A discussion and guidance on the path to full scale adoption of electronic invoicing by corporates, goverments, SME's and consumers, creating savings up to € 60 billion in 2020. With a focus on: trends, business models, processes, technology, and legal issues.

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