Knowledge & skills

Towards digital invoicing: What is UBL?

You can read on our website what Peppol is and how this secure European network enables the exchange of electronic invoices. One of the building blocks in e-invoicing is UBL (Universal Business Language). In early 2015, Billit was one of the first invoicing software systems in Belgium that allowed entrepreneurs to send and automatically process UBL invoices. But what exactly is UBL? How does it work and what are the benefits? An overview.

Op Weg Naar Digitaal Factureren Wat Is UBL

What is UBL?

UBL, short for Universal Business Language, is a standard language for exchanging electronic documents such as purchase orders and invoices. A UBL file is a document in XML format. Such an XML contains all the information that a normal PDF invoice has, but in a structured and fixed format.

With a tool that supports UBL, you can import this document type, after which all invoice information - such as amount, date and VAT rates - is automatically and correctly recognized. So with UBL, you never have to retype receipts and invoices again!


What is the difference between UBL and PDF?

A UBL file is not the same as a PDF file. While a UBL invoice can be read automatically, this is not possible with invoices in PDF format. The reason? A PDF file is a human-readable file, with formatted text and logos.

Through optical character recognition (OCR), PDFs can be processed automatically, but it remains an error-prone process. After all, OCR software often has trouble recognizing a logo on invoices.

Documents with a colored background and/or watermark can also cause this software to go haywire. Good to know: because OCR software cannot do calculations, it is best to always state the due date on the invoice instead of a payment term.


How does UBL work?

A UBL file - which is actually an XML file - may include the image of the invoice. In addition, all structured text components are labeled in the form of an XML recognition tag.

This encoding allows computer programs to quickly recognize each exact part of an invoice, then correctly decode those parts. So by dividing an invoice (or other e-documents) into XML elements according to the UBL protocol, your computer can easily process this document.


What are the advantages of UBL?

Using UBL invoices provides numerous benefits to both the sender and the recipient. As the recipient, you don't actually have to do anything special to take advantage of UBL. All you need is a software package that supports UBL. This can be accounting or invoicing software.


Advantages for the recipient

  • You no longer have to perform manual operations to process invoices: invoice data is automatically transferred from XML. This saves you a lot of time and money.
  • Because you do not have to retype invoices, the risk of expensive human errors is minimized.

As a sender, you must use a software program that supports UBL. Creating a UBL file yourself is not that easy. Billit's invoicing software does this work for you: every invoice is automatically formatted in the UBL language.


Advantages for the sender

  • Because your customers can process your invoices more easily, their satisfaction increases. After all, they don't have to spend valuable time on time-consuming administration tasks. Read: they can fully focus on their core tasks.
  • Because e-invoices are treated faster, the payment process runs a lot smoother. Customers will therefore generally pay you faster.

Another important advantage for both sender and recipient is the extra security when sending and processing e-invoices. This is because UBL documents are exchanged via the secure Peppol network where authentication of the parties is included by default.

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