How to Play the Taiwan Receipt Lottery and Redeem Winnings
Many everyday items purchased in Taiwan come with a free ticket for the Uniform Invoice Lottery, more commonly known as the Taiwan Receipt Lottery. That's because all receipts, no matter how small the purchase, are printed with an 8-digit lottery number across the top, making each receipt you collect one more chance to win some big money. The same applies to purchases made with an EasyCard, except an e-receipt is issued instead and electronically linked to the card.
Although it may seem very generous, the lottery was actually devised to combat tax evasion. The vast majority of businesses in Taiwan are small- to medium-sized and deal in cash only, which complicates the policing of tax reporting. Many businesses previously paid no tax or reported dubious amounts of revenue. In 1951, the Guomindang government enacted a solution in the form of a state lottery, requiring businesses with $200,000 NTD (roughly $6,500 USD) or more in monthly revenue to provide sales receipts. The assumption was that customers would demand a receipt if they had a chance of winning a small fortune from it. For the most part, that assumption paid off and the strategy has been a success.
Only visiting Taiwan? No problem! Foreigners can also claim cash for winning numbers. You can hang onto your receipts and check the lottery results after you leave Taiwan if you're visiting for a short time. The top two prizes will be very much worth flying back to redeem, even if it's a first class flight.
Receipt Lottery procedure and prizes
On the 25th of every odd-numbered month, 6 sets of numbers are drawn in a televised event. They are also reported on the Ministry of Finance website, so you can check the results at any time. The lottery is always for receipts issued in the previous two months. In other words, if a drawing is on July 25th, eligible receipts will be those from the months of May and June. Receipts also specify the months they are good for just above the lottery number. In my photo above, the eligible months are 09-10, or September and October, listed in RoC calendar format (107 stands for years since the Xinhai Revolution in 1911).
Prize money is based on how many digits match. The special prize of $10 million NTD ($325,000 USD) requires matching all 8 digits, while the smallest prize of $200 NTD ($6.50 USD) requires matching only the last 3 digits, reading from left to right. Therefore, skimming through receipts for any winners only initially requires looking at the last 3 digits.
- Special Prize - $10 million NTD for matching all 8 digits from the special prize winning number.
- Grand Prize - $2 million NTD for matching all 8 digits from the grand prize winning number.
- First Prize - $200,000 NTD for matching all 8 digits from any of the First Prize winning numbers.
- Second Prize - $40,000 NTD for matching the last 7 digits from any of the First Prize winning numbers.
- Third Prize - $10,000 NTD for matching the last 6 digits from any of the First Prize winning numbers.
- Fourth Prize - $4,000 NTD for matching the last 5 digits from any of the First Prize winning numbers.
- Fifth Prize - $1,000 NTD for matching the last 4 digits from any of the First Prize winning numbers.
- Sixth Prize - $200 NTD for matching the last 3 digits from any of the First Prize winning numbers.
- Additional Sixth Prize - $200 NTD for matching the last 3 digits from the Additional Sixth Prize winning number(s).
How to redeem a winning lottery receipt
Lucky winners can redeem their prize by filling out the form on the back of the receipt and presenting it along with their ID at any post office. Prize money of $200 NTD can also be redeemed at major convenience store chains for the same value in merchandise, or the value can be added to a payment card. The $200 amounts aren't too rare; I've won on more than one occasion.
To redeem prize money for an e-receipt that is linked to an EasyCard, first use one of the popular convenience store self-service machines such as 7-Eleven Ibon or Fami Port to check if you have any winning e-receipts. If you do have a winner, the machine will provide the option of printing it out so that you can redeem it at a post office.
Prizewinners must claim their money within 3 months from the 6th day of the month following each lottery prize drawing, or the money will be forfeit. Winnings of $4,000 NTD or more will be hit with a tax of 20%, because Uncle Sam Jia-hao needs his cut too.
For those who can't be bothered to save receipts for a couple months, charity boxes can sometimes be found at the entrance to stores. They are usually tall and transparent, with a slot in the top to deposit receipts. There are also rare situations in which a sales receipt is accepted in lieu of an admission fee to a handful of attractions.