Updated August 16, 2021

You may have heard of electronic invoicing (e-invoicing), but what is an UBL invoice? UBL stands for Universal Business Language. It is an international standard in XML format developed specifically for electronic documents, such as invoices, but also, for example, purchase orders and packing slips.

UBL is managed by the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS). This nonprofit is one of the most respected standardization bodies in the world. The UBL standard is free to use and on June 15, 2021, the latest version, UBL 2.3, was published.

The standard is especially widely used in Scandinavian countries such as Denmark, Sweden and Norway. But it is also a common standard in the Netherlands.

UBL-OHNL and the Central Government

UBL is widely used in the business-to-government (B2G) sector. The European commission has even officially stated that the standard is eligible for reference in public service tenders.

Since April 2019, the Dutch government has made e-invoicing mandatory for all suppliers. The central government has adopted an international UBL-based standard format, UBL-OHNL. This standard is intended for the procurement of all products and services, with the exception of hiring personnel. In addition to invoices, other message types have been digitized: Commitment (internal government message), Application Response (internal government message), Order (purchase orders) and OrderResponse (e-return messages).

What Does a UBL e-Invoice Consist Of?

An e-invoice is generally built in an XML structure. This is a programming language that ensures that structured data can be represented in plain text. This is both machine-readable and human-readable. You can recognize an XML file by the fact that it ends in ".xml".

UBL is the language used in the XML file to exchange the data of, for example, an invoice from one accounting package with another accounting package. Because the information can be exchanged and processed by different types of systems, this brings many advantages.

One advantage is that human actions are no longer required to scan, check, email or print the invoice, which makes for a much faster invoice processing process. This then saves a lot of money and time, as well as mitigates human error.

How Can I Create a UBL Invoice?

It is not very easy to create a UBL file yourself; you need an EDI or e-invoicing solution for this. However, if you use one of TIE Kinetix's solutions, such as the FLOW Partner Automation platform, the UBL documents are automatically generated and sent to the correct recipient.

How Do I Send a UBL e-Invoice?

At TIE Kinetix, you can send e-invoices with three different options:

  • By manual entry: With a FLOW e-invoicing account, you can get a low-threshold start with electronic invoicing.
  • From a PDF file to any format: Within the FLOW platform, we can easily convert your PDF invoice to an e-invoice.
  • Direct link with your ERP and/or accounting package: We offer standardized links via APIs or have standardized ERP or other software links to connect systems quickly.

PEPPOL Business Interoperability Specifications (BIS) are based on a UBL format and you can send e-invoices through the PEPPOL network, but you will need access to a PEPPOL Access Point.

Sending Invoices Internationally Through the PEPPOL Network

Sending an invoice abroad without access to a PEPPOL Access Point can be complex, not to mention the multiple standard formats used worldwide. In addition to UBL, you have: Invoice-X, Finvoice, EHF and at least 20 more different types of e-invoicing formats. It could well be that you send your invoices in UBL, but the recipient wants to receive it in a different format.

Fortunately, TIE Kinetix has the solution to this challenge. For over 33 years, we have supported local EDI and e-invoicing standards in various countries and industries worldwide, including UBL support. With our fully automated and integrated B2B integration system, UBL invoices can be automatically converted into the recipient's desired e-invoice format. In addition, we are a PEPPOL Access Point, which means you can easily send and receive invoices internationally through our platform.