e-billing and e-invoicing are often used interchangeably, and rightly so in some contexts. They both refer to a demand for payment delivered electronically, but there are plenty of views on what the difference actually is.
Whilst it’s worth being aware of the various interpretations, I’ll try to explain the generally accepted differences between the two words.
Dictionary definitions of bill and invoice
The best place to start is the dictionary definitions of an invoice and a bill. It’s clear that these differ by an implied payment timeframe, and greater detail in the invoice. Specifically, an invoice is a statement of products or services provided, potentially including other details, and a request for payment within a timeframe (often 30 days or more from invoice date). A bill is a more immediate, simpler demand for payment.
From the Cambridge Dictionary (2015)
- Invoice (English definition) – a list of things provided or work done together with their cost, for payment at a later time
- Invoice (Business definition) – a document that lists things provided or work done, gives their cost, and asks for payment
- Bill (English definition) – a request for payment of money owed, or the piece of paper on which it is written
- Bill (Business definition) – a document showing how much money you owe for goods or services you have received
B2B and B2C e-invoicing or e-billing
In the context of business, B2B transactions are typically made with a credit timeframe (e.g. payment within 30 days), as well as including a range of reference details. Therefore B2B transactions typically result in an invoice. The common inclusion of job reference code/number, PO reference, VAT and other details all fit the typical notion of an invoice being a more detailed and complete document. Indeed, the invoice is sometimes referred to as the ‘Queen of Documents’.
From a B2C perspective it is more common for a customer to be billed for immediate payment, also there are likely to be fewer details to include on a customer’s bill – fitting the description of a simpler document, or bill. This is why googling e-billing brings up results for B2C electronic billing from phone and energy companies, whereas googling e-invoicing brings up results with a more B2B flavour.
Context and perspectives
In common parlance, individuals tend to refer to having received the bill for something, when payment is requested, outside of the work environment. Billing is seen as a broader, more general, context into which invoices fit as more detailed documents. For instance, when talking colloquially about costs we talk about receiving the bill, but in a B2B context this is most likely to be an invoice. This is why Wikipedia defines electronic invoicing (e-invoicing) as a form of electronic billing.
There is also the question of perspective – internally businesses often talk about monthly billings, or billing for services or products, but then talk about receiving invoices from suppliers. This is most likely due to cost/income being the most pertinent item for the bill issuer (Accounts Receivable), but the specifics of payment timeframe, PO to match and other factors are of high importance to the recipient (Accounts Payable). Consequently, e-billing is a term almost exclusively used to refer to the Accounts Receivable / supplier-of-goods side of the equation. e-invoicing can refer to either Accounts Receivable or Accounts Payable.
In conclusion – e-invoicing and e-billing defined
So, to summarise the difference between e-billing and e-invoicing… businesses talk about more detailed or complex payment requests (typical of a B2B scenario) as invoices, and simple payment requests (typical of a B2C scenario) as bills. As such, e-invoicing and e-billing are both an Accounts Receivable function – they deliver e-invoices or e-bills depending on their audience type.
- e-invoicing is the sending or receiving of electronic invoices, primarily in a B2B context.
- e-billing is the sending of electronic bills, typically only found in a B2C context. It is also used as an umbrella term, into which e-invoices sits as a specific type of e-bill.
It’s an important distinction for us to make, as at Netsend we deliver a market-leading solution for Accounts Receivable departments to create, send and manage e-invoices or e-bills. We send millions of each for our customers, every month. It doesn’t matter whether it’s an e-invoice or an e-bill, they can both be netsent to save time and money.