The correct archiving of
In Germany, electronic invoices have been on an equal footing with traditional paper invoices for some time now. Read t what an electronic invoice is and how it can be implemented and created in our guide to electronic invoicing.
The correct archiving of e-invoices
This blog post is about the correct archiving of e-invoices in Germany. The Federal Ministry of Finance has defined corresponding principles that must be observed when archiving electronic invoices. In the following, we will take a closer look at these principles and regulations.
The general rule is that invoices issued digitally in Germany should generally also be stored in Germany. However, it is also possible to store e-invoices abroad. Here, a distinction must be made between other EU countries and other countries outside the EU. In the EU, electronic invoices may be archived if permanent online access is provided. Archiving in the rest of the world may only be used if this has been approved in advance by the tax authorities.
In Germany, digital invoices must be archived for 10 years from the end of the calendar year in which the invoice was issued. In principle, however, the periods vary within Europe between 3-10 years. The aim is to achieve a uniform retention period for the entire EU, but this has not yet been implemented.
Electronic invoices must be stored in the original format, regardless of whether the storage takes place in the productive system, in the archive system, or by outsourcing to another DP system. In most cases, the invoice is sent by e-mail in the form of a structured PDF file. The document should be archived immediately after receipt to prevent loss or manipulation.
If changes need to be made to the document after the fact, the original content of the invoice and documentation of the changes must still be evident. If the invoice needs to be converted to an in-house format, both files must be linked and retained to ensure authenticity and integrity.
If e-invoices are transformed into another format upon receipt, both variants must be archived despite this, the original document and the converted document. Even with a hybrid format, both parts of the invoice must be backed up. When converting a paper invoice into a digital format, it is permitted in Germany to dispose of the original, i.e. the paper invoice, if the process that takes place to digitize the invoice is recorded accordingly.
The following aspects must be ensured in order to guarantee audit security:
As already mentioned above, electronic invoices must be archived in unchanged format and directly after receipt in the company. They can either be stored in the company’s own data center or in a cloud by a service provider. It is also important that changes to hardware and software do not affect the invoice and that it remains unchanged.
Traceability of changes
If changes are made to an e-bill, these must be made traceable by documenting the procedure. Both versions must be archived under the same index. However, the converted document must be marked accordingly.
Invoices in digital format must be provided with a traceable and unique index so that individual invoices can be managed and found under this index. These allocation and identification features must be adopted when the e-invoices are posted so that they can be checked later.
Electronic invoices must be readable; for example, to be able to read formats such as XML, companies must have appropriate display programs.
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