If you’re travelling in Taiwan, you may notice that shop staff seem particularly keen for you to take your receipt; you may even notice members of public stooping to scoop up discarded receipts from the floor.
The reason is the rows of digits printed near the top, just above the date:
Every time you make a purchase in Taiwan, you’re actually getting a free ticket for the Taiwan receipt lottery (officially, the Uniform Invoice Lottery, 統一發票, tongyi fapiao); those digits on the receipt are your numbers. The draw is held bi-monthly, and prizes range from 200 NTD (around 6 US dollars) for matching 3 digits, up to a fairly whopping 10,000,000 NTD (over 300,000 US dollars) for an exact match on the grand prize number.
This was all started in the 1950s as a way of ensuring businesses had to run everything through the tills properly and thus report their taxes properly (something they were apparently not doing previously!)
It’s still going to this day, so it must be considered that paying out the prize money is less of a hit than chasing unpaid sales taxes, though it seems unlikely a company could fiddle the books so easily these days.
Anyway, as a visitor you have two options – ignore the whole thing and throw your receipts away, or keep them all and have a go at playing!
If you choose not to bother, try to put your receipts in the charity boxes (where available) so any winnings go to a good cause; otherwise, rather than binning them just leave them out for someone to easily take.
If you do decide to give it a go, the draw for the Taiwan receipt lottery is held on the 25th of the month after the end of each 2-month period e.g. receipts from January & February enter the draw on 25th March. You can check the results here (official page, English option at bottom-right) and here (English-language expat site); due to the schedule, unless you’re staying for a fairly lengthy visit you’ll likely have already left Taiwan by the time of the draw. Small prizes can be redeemed at a post office in Taiwan, while for larger ones you have to go to the bank; you’re obviously not going to fly back to Taiwan to redeem a 200 NTD prize… a 10,000,000 NTD prize, on the other hand, and you’re flying first class!
So, how much does one usually win? Well, in my last spell in Taiwan I was there for 10 months and played 6 times (4 full periods and 2 halves); I averaged one 200 NTD prize per 2-month period. That’ll buy you a good bowl of ramen, or a few rounds of night market treats; not to be sniffed at, but then is it worth the hassle of hanging on to all those receipts and the time you spend going through them all to check if you won?
To be honest, not really! But it’s a quirky little facet of life in Taiwan you could try, and you never know – you might just hit the jackpot…
Have you tried the Taiwan receipt lottery? Win anything?! Leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you.
For more posts on Taipei, click here
For my guide to hiking in Taipei, click here
For my Taiwan overland travel guide, click here