How to do instalment plans in e-invoicing

How do you put an instalment plan in an e-invoice? A challenge for the German utilities sector

| | Product Manager Business Unit Utilities, SEEBURGER
How do you include an instalment plan in an e-invoice?

In the German energy and utilities industry, customers pay instalments throughout the year based on expected use. There is an annual invoice, which records what has been paid that year and any arrears or rebate due. It is common practice to communicate the instalments for the upcoming billing period in the annual invoice. This gives the customer time to budget, prepare and automate payments. However, this feature is not supported by e-invoicing. Read on to discover solutions to enable this practice.

An electronic invoice, as specified by the European core invoice (EN-16931), refers exclusively to a specific billing period. Therefore, it only contains information for that billing period. There is no accommodation for non-standard needs, such as informing customers of next year’s instalment plan, as is common in Germany’s energy and utilities industries. Many countries in the European Union have already switched to monthly billing for utilities and therefore no longer work with an instalment plan. In Germany, however, there is still a need to issue annual invoices, and these should include an instalment plan for the following year’s energy use. In the following, we’ll look at how to do this with ZUGFeRD and XRechnung e-invoices.

How to include an instalment plan with ZUGFeRD or XRechnung

Paying in instalments can essentially be dealt with in two ways in e-invoicing:

  1. An invoice is issued per instalment
  2. A notice of the instalments for the following year is sent as an attachment to the invoice

Case 1:

Rather than drawing up an instalment plan for a customer, the invoicer can issue a separate invoice for each payment. This means that the customer does not need to set up a payment plan.

Case 2:

So that the customer can budget for and set up a payment plan in their ERP, they need to know how high the instalments will be. Ideally, this information is sent at the same time as the invoice for the previous billing period. There are several ways that you can do this with ZUGFeRD and XRechnung invoices:

    The easiest way to do this with a ZUGFeRD 2.x invoice is to use the EN16931 profile. The information on the future instalments goes into the pdf file which also carries the XML file (hybrid format).
  • XRechnung
    It’s more difficult with XML-based formats such as XRechnung. Here, you need to incorporate the details of the future instalments into the XML structure. There are two ways to submit this information. The easiest is to enter it as free text at document level. The second option is to attach the instalments as an ‛explanatory note’, which EN-16931 recognises as a reason for including an attachment.

SEEBURGER has developed two ways to support you include instalment notices in your ZUGFeRD 2.X and XRechnung invoices:

A) Enter the instalment details as free text (IncludedNote) at document level

The invoice will show the gross and net amounts, as well as when payment is due for each instalment.

Notes on this option

    • Free text fields can be read without help, but are very difficult to process automatically.
    • You will need some manual intervention in this process.

B) Embed a .csv attachment in the XML invoice.

The csv file is embedded into the structure of the XML file asa binary object as per EN 16931. The information in the csv attachment is transmitted as structured data.

Notes on this option

    • If the information in this attachment is read and extracted by a machine, it is possible to (partially) automate its processing, such as automating the setting up a payment plan.
    • You will need to use appropriate technology for people to be able to read the document.


SEEBURGER’s solutions for including an instalment plan for the next billing period in your ZUGFeRD and XRechnung e-invoices are easy to implement, yet extremely helpful for your and your customers’ organisations. It creates a process which is easier for the customer to standardise and thus automate, even though the practice of giving a customer an instalment plan based on expected usage is not yet officially supported in e-invoicing.

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Katharina Koch

Written by:

Katharina Koch, Product Manager, Business Unit Utilities, is responsible for management and product development in connection with market communication and SEEBURGER's e-invoicing solutions for the Utilities Industries. Katharina Koch has more than 15 years of business and technology experience in the utility industry, especially in the areas of market communication and SAP IS-U. Katharina Koch has been with SEEBURGER since January 2013.