Receipt Lottery Day in Taiwan
It’s my favorite day in Taiwan – the 25th day of an odd-numbered month.
On this day (which come around six times a year), the Ministry of Finance in Taiwan releases the Uniform Invoice Winning Numbers for the previous two months. That’s just a fancy way of saying it’s receipt lottery day.
In Taiwan, there is an 8-digit number printed at the top of every receipt that you get from a store or business. If the number on one of your receipts matches the Uniform Invoice Winning Numbers, you can win from NT$200 to a grand prize of NT$2,000,000.
That grand prize is roughly US$62,500. It won’t make you a millionaire, but for an office slave such as myself, it is a significant amount of money. At this point, it would be a life-changing amount of money… So, tonight, I’ll be checking my receipts (while watching the grand finale of Lost).
I can’t remember how or when I first heard about this receipt lottery, but I’ve gotten in the habit of saving all my receipts and checking them. It’s rare that I don’t win something. The most I’ve won was NT$4,000. The least was NT$200 or, of course, nothing.
I believe this lottery scheme was created to encourage businesses to issue official receipts. When a receipt is issued, the government gets its tax cut on the sale. Before the lottery, businesses often didn’t issue receipts. Then they could keep the sale off the books and save on taxes. When the lottery was created, customers started asking for receipts, and it created a lot of revenue for the government – far more, of course, than the amount they pay out in prizes.
The receipt lottery has had some interesting side-effects. It’s rare for me to see someone begging in Taipei. However, for a while there was an older man who spent his mornings outside the 7-11 near where I work. He wasn’t asking for money but for receipts. Many people can’t be bothered to save their receipts and check them, so they gave them to this man. He would collect hundreds of receipts in a day. Each one was, in essence, a lottery ticket, and I’m sure he would win a few thousand NT (New Taiwan) dollars every two months.
The receipt lottery has also changed collection boxes. You often see collection boxes for various charities beside the cash registers at convenience stores and other places. Previously, people put in their change – coins and bills. Now, people put in their receipts. I often see these boxes overflowing with receipts. I can’t imagine how long it takes for these organizations to sort and then check the thousands of receipts they would get. They must have an army of volunteers to do the work. I only sort and check my own, and I can attest that it is a bit of a chore.
The receipt lottery has also taught me a valuable lesson about lotteries in general. In Canada (where I’m from) lotteries are extremely popular. People jokingly call them the Canadian Retirement Plan, because everyone believes deep down that they will win millions of dollars and be able to retire on that money. Logically, everyone knows that the odds are against them winning. However, when you’re holding that ticket, you can’t help but feel you have a chance. Someone has to win, right? So why not me?
Well, checking your receipts in Taiwan gives you a very practical illustration of what those odds really mean. There were months when I had as many as 300 receipts. That is like having 300 lottery tickets. When you have that many tickets, you think you have to win. Then you start going through them one by one, and you quickly realize how many combinations of eight digits there are. I have gone through 300 receipts and not even matched two numbers out of eight. When I matched five numbers one time (and won NT$4,000) it felt like lightning striking. It was clear that to match EIGHT numbers (in order, don’t forget) was pretty much impossible – like eight bolts of lightning hitting the same spot all during one thunderstorm. It just isn’t going to happen.
I’m curious to know if anyone in Taiwan has ever won the Grand Prize of two million NT dollars. It has probably happened, but I have never come across a news story about it. It seems like it is the sort of thing that would get wide coverage in the news.
The Uniform Invoice Winning Numbers released today were for receipts from March and April 2010. According to the official calendar in Taiwan, the year is 99. Therefore, to see if you have won anything, you need to check receipts that have the date “99 3-4” written across the top (March and April of the year 99).
The Grand Prize numbers released today are:
1 9 4 3 5 1 9 0
5 4 7 3 7 6 3 2
8 7 8 4 9 8 6 7
If your receipt number matches all eight digits of any of these Grand Prize numbers, you win NT$2,000,000 (minus tax).
The other winning numbers are:
4 6 8 3 3 1 7 5
6 2 6 6 8 0 7 7
6 5 1 7 0 2 6 3
Match all eight digits and you win NT$200,000.
Match the last seven digits and you win NT$40,000.
Match the last six digits and you win NT$10,000.
Match the last five digits and you win NT$4,000.
Match the last four digits and you win NT$1,000.
Match the last three digits and you win NT$200.
You can see the official listing of these numbers at this site:
To get your prize, you have to fill out the form on the back of the receipt and bring it to the post office. I believe you can bring them to most banks as well. I’ve only ever done it at the post office, and it worked fine. They scrutinize the receipts like they are forged bonds worth trillions, but once they are satisfied they are genuine, they give you your cash. The one trick is filling out the back of the receipt. It is all in Chinese.
Update: I checked all my receipts and found what I thought were 3 winnners (shown above). On each one, I matched only the three last digits winning NT$200 each for a grand total of NT$600. That’s when I took this picture. I realized later, however, that one of them matched one of the Grand Prize numbers. For the Grand Prize numbers you have to match all 8 digits. Matching 3 or 4 or 5 or 6 or 7 doesn’t win you anything. So my total winnings were NT$400, somewhat lower than my average.
Now I have to wait two months for my next chance to win. Sigh.