Just as I was getting used to all the perks offered by life in Taiwan, I was hit with another nugget of awesomeness.
I was at 7-11 and had just paid for some black fungus drink (which is as gross as it sounds but I was going through my “randomly-pick-something-new-and-try-it” phase). As I walked out, looking at my purchace and wondering if this was a good idea, the cashier ran out after me. He started blathering in at me in Mandarin and shoving the receipt in my face. I motioned that I didn’t want it, but he was insistent, so I took it and added it to the junk in my Costanza wallet. Paying it no more mind, I went about my day.
Later on, while hanging out with one of my Taiwanese friends, I opened my wallet and saw the receipt. Recalling the bizarre incident, I explained it to him seeking enlightenment on this strange facet of Taiwanese behaviour. He then proceeded to school me in the ways of the Taiwan national lottery.
Along time ago, the Taiwanese merchants used to falsify their tax returns. Most, if not all the transactions are done with cash here, so it’s easy to “forget” to ring in or record a sale. So, the government was losing out on a lot of tax NT.
This did not sit well with the political fat cats. I mean…what kind of government are you if you aren’t taking money from working folk…right? So something had to be done!!
The result was the Taiwan national lottery. Whenever you buy something at a store, they print out a receipt that looks something like this:
The circled numbers at the top are your lottery numbers. You get a receipt with every purchase, so if you eat out a lot, buy snacks, teas and coffees (like most foreigners I know), you will end up with a lot of these things.
Then every 2 months, the winning numbers are published, and everyone overloads the government website to check their tickets. You can win anywhere from NT 200 (6 bucks) to NT 10 000 000 (333 333 bucks). Winnings upto NT 1000 (333 bucks) are tax free, but after that, it’s 20% to 哥哥 (big brother).
Can’t retire on it, but it’s still a nice chunk of pocket candy for playing a free lottery.
The theory behind this is that if consumers have a chance to win money, they will demand receipts. This will force business owners to have everything on the books, and thus enable the government to get their pound of flesh. It’s a great solution; the government doesn’t seem too greedy because the population at large has a chance to win money. It works.
A drawback of this system is the sheer number of receipts that accumulate. My apartment was a swirling eddy of black and white paper before I came up with some way of organizing it. Because of this reason, a lot of people don’t even bother with saving their receipts.
I like free money, so I greedily hang on to mine and take any that others want to give me. If you aren’t a greedy bastard like me, you can put your receipts in boxes at the stores. The winnings from these are (supposed to be) used for charity.
Playing this free lottery has become more than just about the money over the past few months. It a happy little ritual I have every time the new lottery numbers come out, and it’s kind of exciting….hoping the next ticket will win. I’ve won NT 600 (around 6 bucks) so far, but keeping my fingers crossed for a bigger jackpot. And if that ever happens, I’ll be happier than a masturabating panda with a full stomach who just found out that his species is not endangered anymore.
You can check out the winning numbers here. Happy gambling!