Commercial Invoice (INV)


A commercial document which consists of an itemised account of goods or services delivered, together with a demand for payment.


Sellers of goods and services.


Buyer of goods and services.

Legal Framework

The legal framework is determined by the national laws applicable in each country.


SWIFT conducted a study of cross-border payments with credit confirmations in the months of September and October 2020. The amount of cross-border payments on the SWIFT network for these two months was approximately 42 million. This of course includes B2B, business-to-consumer (B2C) and consumer-to-consumer (C2C) payments and excludes any payments that occur outside the SWIFT network. But it gives a starting point to understand the large volume of commercial invoices that are processed annually around the world.

Key Standards

There are a large amount of standards, some of which are conflicting. UN/CEFACT Cross Industry Invoice; ISO/IEC 19845:2015; GS1 EDI; European standard for eInvoicing (semantic model); PEPPOL (a set of technical specifications); ISO 20022 (metadata model); OFD format based on XML (data exchange format), a China-specific fixed format.

Major Differences between Standards

There is a variance in standards for entity identification, date time stamps, country codes and currency etc., together with differing KDE definitions.


There are a large number of eInvoicing platforms, with some of the major players including E-Fatura (Turkey); Factura Electronica (Peru); SimplerInvoicing (the Netherlands); CHORUS-factures (France) and Tradeshift (globally).

There are a number of platforms using the Universal Business Language (UBL) format specifically. Beginning with the 2005 adoption of UBL for all public sector invoicing in Denmark (known as OIOUBL), UBL has become the foundation for a number of successful European public procurement frameworks, including EHF (Norway), Svefaktura (Sweden), ePrior (European Commission DIGIT), the National Health Service (UK), SimplerInvoicing (the Netherlands) and PEPPOL, the pan-European public procurement platform.

The PEPPOL community (OpenPEPPOL) serves government agencies and their suppliers from Austria, Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Poland, and Sweden through a network of over 100 Access Points all exchanging UBL conformant documents. Currently, there are OpenPeppol members in 41 countries in total. (32 countries in Europe plus Australia, Canada, China, India, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore and USA). OpenPeppol has Certified Access Points in 29 European countries plus Australia, Canada, China, New Zealand, Singapore and USA, with Peppol Authorities placed in 17 countries. The European eInvoice Service Providers Association (EESPA) also recommends UBL for their Model Interoperability Agreement.

Key Data Elements & Definitions

  • Document: Invoice Number; Documents Remitted, Contract Number, Buyer Contract, Sales Order Number, Customer Order Number
  • Party: Entity Type (Seller, Buyer, End Customer, Applicant of the Letter of Credit); Entity (Text- name, address, telephone, fax number, VAT reference); Bill to (entity type), Seller’s signatory
  • Location: Country of Origin
  • Goods: H.S. Number; Product
  • Measure: Quantity; Unit of Measurement, Moisture
  • Date: Date Type (invoice date, B/L date, payment due date);
  • Transport: Loading Port; Discharge Port; Vessel Name
  • Terms: Incoterm; Payment Term; Payment Method
  • Banking: Bank details
  • Amount: Unit Price; Tax Amount; Exchange Rate, Credit Amount, Total Amount

Such a variety of standards and platforms has meant that there is a lack of language codes for entity names and addresses, and a difficulty in translating invoice content into requirements for payment orders.


Adoption of digital commercial invoices is at different states around the world. The EU mandates the implementation of eInvoicing in public procurement. Given that mandates issued by governmental bodies clearly have a huge impact on the level of adoption, some governments might also think about following suit.

Other Information


Document-Specific Challenges

Framing the problem: These documents largely depend on analogue processes. They must be printed and possibly stamped according to some jurisdictions, carried as legally valid original paper documents, and often endorsed by a state consulate.
There is also a large amount of conflicting standards, a ‘lack of language codes for entity names and addresses’, and difficulty translating invoice content into requirements for payment orders. There is currently an international initiative led by the Financial Stability Board (FSB) to enhance cross-border payments. In particular, this initiative addresses the lack of by a global unique identifier for payment originators and beneficiaries (legal entities) in cross-border payments[1].

Finally there are issues with the takeup of invoicing. The EU mandates the implementation of eInvoicing for public procurement, based on a receiving capability of invoices presented in the European Standard in each member state. But the suppliers are not mandated to send invoices in a structured and electronic format- so contracting authorities can manage electronic invoicing, but often don’t due to a low takeup.

  • Mandated analogue processes
  • Differing standards & KDE definitions
  • Poor take-up of e-invoicing

Document Specific Solutions

  • SDOs should ensure standards are open; internationally recognised; and cost/benefit effective
  • Governments should build on existing regulations, such as the EU’s mandated e-Invoicing for procurement, to encourage suppliers to digitalise


1 Financial Stability Board’s Recommendation: Options to Improve Adoption of The LEI, in Particular for Use in Crossborder Payments (Jul 2022)