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What is SEPA and how is it beneficial for your business?

SEPA is an abbreviation for Single Euro Payments Area. SEPA is a payment initiative commenced jointly by the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the European Banks (via the EPC: European Payment Council) with the aim of facilitating the process of bank transfers in Euro - and thus easy transactions between SEPA countries. The SEPA countries consist of all the EU countries as well as all EEA countries, Switzerland and Monaco.

The intention is to promote international business activity among European countries which trade and use the euro as their payment currency. The purpose is thus to simplify processes for exporters, importers and others in trade and industy as well as customers who buy products and services from the companies concerned. SEPA uses euro as a currency and is regulated by the European Payment Council.

SEPA – fast, secure and inexpensive

The big deal, however, is that SEPA payments have a low cost - and that has been a major boost for international trade in Europe. As a company, you can transfer and receive euros to and from all countries within the SEPA zone if the recipient bank participates in the SEPA cooperation and thus is SEPA-compliant. The system allows you to make transfers easy, secure and fast from day to day.


ISO 20022 and PEPPOL infrastructure.

Here’s what ISO says about ISO 20022:

In order to ensure a uniform transfer of banking transactions, a common XML standard (ISO 20022) has been introduced, which is to be used in the SEPA area.

The same infrastructure, as the one introduced for invoices and credit notes (PEPPOL), will be used to move SEPA-transfers. This was an initiative started in Norway and it will also be implemented there. How the other countries will organize the transfer of SEPA-messages is uncertain, but we expect them to follow the Norwegian model, as PEPPOL and SEPA are both EU initiatives, for a simpler and more effective trade between the public and the private sector. All parties may implement and use the payment standard.


There are some rules that apply, which generate a requirement to use the ISO 20022 XML-file format for transfers. DNB (DNB is Norway's largest banking group) says: 

"Only SEPA payments files must be sent in ISO 20022 XML, which means that an express payment or payment in EUR to a country outside of the SEPA area does not trigger a new file format.

Nor does the requirement apply if the enterprise is a micro enterprise according to the EU definition, ie less than 10 employees and a turnover below the equivalent of 2 million euros. " (translation from original source: DNB)

If your financial system is not compatible to make these payments, there are a number of companies that can help formatting and distributing them through an approved access point - not necessarily the same as for distributing  or receiving invoices or orders.

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For information about the status of the ISO 20022 project with "casestories" follow this link: ISO 20022 project


How does it affect Ibistic customers?

In order to maintain the functionality in the Ibistic Invoice System, you need to register IBAN in the ERP systems as the correct payment means. In Ibistic Invoice System, the IBAN number is used together with the suppliers' VAT number to automatically find the right supplier when the invoices arrive into the system.This applies regardless of whether they arrive as interpreted data from paper or PDF invoices or electronic invoices, for example in the PEPPOL BIS format.

SEPA Checklist for Ibistic costumers:

  • Make sure, that you have an IBAN number (International Bank Account Number) and that your Ibistic solution supports this. If this is not the case, please contact Ibistic support in order for us to help you prepare the system for the set up.
  • Register IBAN as payment solution in your ERP system, in order for the data to be transferred to Ibistic in the Master data file.
  • Verify that the correct payment format is interpreted from paper and PDF invoices / credit notes through Ibistic's scan service.
  • Make sure your ERP system is compatible with ISO 20022.