Is PDF e-invoicing really e-invoicing?

We often hear the statement (usually from our competitors!) that PDF e-invoicing is not really electronic invoicing. In most cases, this statement is simply not true.

The widely accepted definition of an electronic invoice is that it

“should contain data from the supplier in a format that can be entered (integrated) into the buyer’s Account Payable (AP) system without requiring any data input from the buyer’s AP administrator”.

When a PDF is ‘application generated’ i.e. produced directly from the billing application raising the invoice (which most are!), in almost all cases it will be a text PDF, with the invoice data items embedded directly within the PDF. The PDF file simply acts as a carrier and a way for people to visualise the content of the PDF. Our patented technology takes advantage of this data layer and maps the invoice data direct from the PDF to an e-invoice structure. In other words, the service is akin to mapping one flavour of XML to another

Can a supplier send any type of PDF?

The only constraint of the service is that the PDF must be ‘application generated’, i.e. produced directly from an application. Machine generated PDFs almost always carry the raw invoice data within the PDF itself. Our service reads the data direct from the PDF and maps it to an e-invoice structure.

If the PDF is generated by scanning a paper invoice, an image or ‘photo’ of the invoice will be passed in the PDF. Unfortunately the only way to process an image PDF is to use OCR (Optical Character Recognition) technology – which by its very nature cannot guarantee data quality without an human operator to review. For image files, we offer our Cloud Capture service which takes advantage of the market leading OCR engine to capture the relevant invoice data.

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