In this discussion, e-invoicing refers to invoices transmitted and processed in a fully electronic format, such as XML or Universal Business Language (UBL) invoices. Unlike PDF invoices, which are essentially digital representations of paper documents, e-invoices are created and exchanged in a structured, machine-readable format, facilitating seamless integration with accounting systems and automated processing.

This blog will explore the dissimilarities between PDF invoices and e-invoices, highlighting their unique features and benefits.


As digital transformation continues to shape the future, e-invoicing is steadily making its way to the forefront, though it hasn't yet peaked in the United States. The shift to e-invoicing involves a significant transition that includes complying with new regulations, embracing evolving business practices, and leveraging cutting-edge technologies to support this transformative journey. 

While Europe has been at the forefront of this change for years, the time is right for both European companies looking to embrace e-invoicing and American companies looking to gain insight into the coming revolution. In this blog post, we will provide a comprehensive overview of the fundamental differences between PDF and e-invoicing, highlighting their unique benefits and their critical role in the digital age.

PDF Invoices

PDF (Portable Document Format) invoices have been widely used in business transactions for several years. They are typically generated by an accounting system and sent via email or other electronic means. Here are some key characteristics of PDF invoices:

  1. Digital Representation: PDF invoices are digital files that accurately replicate the layout and content of a traditional paper invoice. They can be easily viewed, printed, and stored electronically.
  2. Flexibility and Familiarity: PDF invoices offer a familiar format to both businesses and customers, as they resemble traditional paper invoices. They can be easily customized with branding elements and company logos.
  3. Manual Handling: While PDF invoices can be generated automatically from accounting systems, they still require manual handling and data entry, either by the invoicing party or the recipient. This manual intervention can introduce errors and delays in the processing of invoices.


E-invoices, on the other hand, represent a more advanced and automated approach to invoicing. They leverage structured data formats and electronic exchange systems to streamline the entire invoicing process. Here are the key features of e-invoices:

  1. Structured Data Format: E-invoices are structured files with a fixed format determined by industry standards. They contain specific data fields that enable automated processing and exchange between different systems. Common formats include XML or EDIFACT.
  2. Seamless Integration: E-invoices can be seamlessly integrated into the recipient's financial or accounting systems, eliminating the need for manual data entry. This integration enables faster and more accurate processing of invoices, reducing errors and delays.
  3. Integration: Initiatives like the International PEPPOL (Pan European Public Procurement On-Line) network have standardized e-invoicing formats across businesses and agencies. This standardization ensures compatibility and interoperability between different systems, promoting efficient invoicing practices.
  4. Cost and Efficiency: E-invoices offer cost-saving benefits by reducing the need for paper, postage, and manual labor. They enable faster payment cycles, improve cash flow, and minimize the risk of errors associated with manual data entry.

How Will the VAT in the Digital Age (ViDA) Impact PDF Invoices?

The VAT in the Digital Age (ViDA) will have an impact on PDF invoices. The proposed changes aim to modernize VAT reporting requirements and promote the use of digital invoicing systems. Here are the key impacts of ViDA on PDF invoices:

  1. Mandatory E-Invoicing: The Digital Reporting Requirements (DRRs) under ViDA include the implementation of mandatory e-invoicing. Taxable persons will be required to submit their transaction data digitally to the tax authority, including using e-invoicing to transmit invoice information.
  2. Clearance and Non-Clearance E-Invoicing: ViDA distinguishes between clearance and non-clearance e-invoicing systems. In a non-clearance e-invoicing system, suppliers can directly send e-invoices to customers without requiring confirmation from the tax authority. This means that PDF invoices, which are typically sent directly by suppliers to customers, can still be used within the framework of ViDA as long as they comply with the standardized digital format required for e-invoicing.
  3. Default Electronic Invoicing: ViDA proposes that electronic invoicing, without a clearing system and using structured electronic files, becomes the default system for invoice issuance This means that PDF invoices may be limited to exceptional cases authorized by the relevant Member State, and taxable persons will have the right to issue electronic invoices according to European standards.
  4. Real-time Data Exchange: ViDA aims to establish a more real-time based data exchange system for cross-border transactions and transactions subject to reverse charge This means that the deadline for issuing an invoice for such transactions will be significantly reduced from the current maximum of 45 days to 2 days. This shift towards faster data exchange may encourage the use of electronic invoicing systems, including structured electronic files, instead of traditional PDF invoices.

Overall, the impact of ViDA on PDF invoices is that while they can still be used in certain circumstances, the focus is on promoting the adoption of e-invoicing and standardized digital formats for more efficient and real-time VAT reporting. 


While both PDF invoices and e-invoices serve the purpose of billing and payment collection, their underlying structures and functionalities differentiate them significantly. PDF invoices provide a digital representation of traditional paper invoices and require manual handling, while e-invoices leverage structured data formats and automated processes for seamless integration and efficiency.

As organizations strive for digital transformation and automation, it is critical to recognize that adopting e-invoicing solutions is the ultimate long-term solution. Unlike PDF invoices, which are becoming increasingly obsolete in the world of e-invoicing, true e-invoicing offers a multitude of benefits in terms of accuracy, speed, and cost savings. Adopting true e-invoicing technology ensures that companies stay ahead in the ever-evolving landscape and move beyond the limitations of PDF invoices, which do not represent the true essence of e-invoicing.