*400 Taiwanese dollars, which according to my most recent Google search is $13.04 USD. So like, not as impressive, but still, that’ll get me a long way in Taipei. I can eat a whole night market with that kind of cash. So, how did I fall into these grand riches?
In the early days of Taiwan as we know it today, the government was trying to figure out how to deal with tax evasion, especially sales tax evasion. To combat this, they required all business to provide receipts for transactions. But like, I know I hate receipts. When I slide into Wawa for a coffee and hoagie back home, I just pretend I don’t see that clutter-y slip of paper the cashier is trying to force upon me. The government here knows this, so they had to incentivize receipts.
—Enter….. the receipt lottery!—
Each receipt has a lottery number printed on the top. Every two months, the government announces the winning numbers and their prizes, ranging from 200NTD to 10,000,000NTD. If you don’t get a receipt, you don’t get your lottery ticket. This made citizens hold shopkeepers accountable for receipts, and therefore taxes. The tax money goes to good use too. It funds Taiwan’s national health care system, which I can say from experience is efficient, inexpensive, and high quality.
—So how do I win?—
First of all, you gotta buy something. You can buy it from anywhere really, except for like the really small food carts in markets and stuff …or the fruit stand around the corner from my apartment. I would’ve turned them in by now if their dragon fruits weren’t so good. Most places give you your receipt. From September to October, I collected 107 receipts. It was kind of fun to look back at all these purchases, though. I realized exactly how often I go to convenience stores (too often), that I have a trend of buying takeout on Thursdays, and that I should probably cut back on coffee.
Anyway, there are two types of receipts. If it’s a more traditional shop, or a small business, you’ll get the traditional receipt. They look fancier, they’re long and skinny, and have an itemized list of your purchases, along with a seal, date, and number across the top. However, in most modern stores you’ll get a shorter, squarer receipt. These have the month, year, and winning numbers, but also two QR codes at the bottom
These QR codes are a real game changer. I didn’t go to school for math, much less economics. I don’t wanna check a long list of numbers 107 times to see if I won anything. Thanks to the QR code, and an app, 發票集點王 (Fāpiào jí diǎn wáng, receipt marketplace king) I worked through the pile of paper in about 15 mins, and won 200NTD twice. The traditional receipts, however, I spent all my time squinting, and didn’t win anything. Yes, I’m still bitter.
—I won! Now what?—
This is when it gets complicated, kinda. First, hold on to these receipts for dear life because they all look identical and you don’t wanna mix up a winner with a loser. Second, use the QR code to print out an official version of the receipt, including the items and date, at 7-11. Then take this paper, and your ID to the post office to claim your prize. Bigger prizes need to be claimed at the Tax Ministry Office.
I wonder what would happen if I won the grand prize. I’m not a gambler, but that’d be insane. “How I won $342,000USD studying abroad!” is a much better blog title, but I’m happy with my 400NTD.