Knowledge & skills

Towards digital invoicing: What is Peppol?

In today’s digital world, public authorities and businesses are increasingly using electronic invoicing, or e-invoicing. This involves sending invoices in digital rather than paper form. Peppol, which at its launch stood for Pan-European Public Procurement Online, is one of the standards for e-invoicing in Europe. These days, Peppol is a strong international brand, used by businesses as well as public authorities – and not only in Europe, but also far beyond. What do you need to know about this network?

Offiicial Peppol Acces Point

Peppol is a secure European network that allows businesses and organisations (including public authorities) to mutually exchange electronic invoices using different formats and following a particular protocol.

You might think of this network as a kind of “telephone network for invoices”. All you need to send your recipient a message is their unique Peppol ID. That ID is similar to a phone number. Even if your recipient switches service providers or access points, they can still be reached via the same, unique Peppol ID, just like a phone number. Businesses can safely send invoices to each other via unique identification numbers (“Peppol IDs”).


Launched in 2008

The internationally established Peppol network was launched in 2008 as a test project by the European Commission, which, jointly with 18 public authorities, provides funding. The objective? The objective of Peppol is to significantly simplify the purchase-to-pay process (read: the entire process from order request, procurement/purchasing to (automatic) invoice payment) between public authorities and suppliers through automated invoice processing.


Based on open standards and specifications

The Peppol network, based on open standards and specifications, uses a standardised format for electronic documents, which is Universal Business Language (UBL). UBL was developed to facilitate the exchange of electronic documents and to ensure that documents are exchanged in a standardised and understandable format.


Secure network of “communities”

Peppol consists of “communities”. Organisations can join Peppol through a community. These communities are always country-specific and facilitated by public authorities. For example, the Belgian Peppol community is BOSA. In the Netherlands, it is the Netherlands Peppol Authority (NPa).

Peppol has various security features that cannot be achieved with standard emails. For instance, the Peppol protocol has mechanisms to guarantee a sender’s authenticity. Furthermore, an invoice in Peppol cannot be amended. Another important aspect is confidentiality, as all data sent between two Peppol Access Points is encrypted. Also, the local Peppol community is always the one that defines the Peppol IDs for that community. In Belgium, this is usually the VAT number, while in the Netherlands it is the Chamber of Commerce (KvK) number.


The importance of Access Points

Access Points provide access to the secure network for the sending and receiving of invoices. An Access Point can be compared to a telecom provider connecting your business to the telephone network. A Peppol Access Point connects you to the Peppol network. This is achieved through what are termed Peppol IDs, which you can use as a business, giving you access to the international invoicing network.


Roll-out in various European countries

An increasing number of countries are mandating the use of the Peppol network for sending e-invoices. In Belgium, it has been mandatory to use Peppol for invoicing Flemish public authorities since 2017. In the Netherlands, suppliers have been required to send e-invoices to public authorities since April 2019 if this is stipulated in the contract or stated in the tender. In Italy, sending e-invoices is already obligatory for B2B invoicing. This latter trend – business-to-business e-invoicing – has become unstoppable in recent years.


The relevance of Peppol

Peppol enables businesses and public authorities in Europe to exchange electronic documents in a standardised way. This means that businesses in the Peppol network benefit from a secure and efficient way of exchanging documents, without having to worry about the compatibility of different systems or the security of their documents.

Peppol also offers businesses and public authorities the possibility to save costs and improve their efficiency. For example, businesses that use e-invoicing and the Peppol network can save time that would otherwise be spent on entering invoices manually. Furthermore, eliminating this manual input significantly reduces the risk of (human) errors. Public authorities also benefit from the efficiency of e-invoicing because it allows them to process and pay invoices faster. This reduces their administrative burden.


By the way, did you know that Billit has the largest Peppol Access Point not only in Belgium, but across the globe?  Read more about sending and receiving invoices via Peppol with Billit.

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