China has a problem with tax evasion. Stores often keep at least two sets of books (and sometimes three). There’s the actual books, and there’s the government books. When people go to a store and purchase something, the purchase may not end up on the government books, especially at restaurants where it is difficult if not impossible to keep accurate records of stock levels and verify that everything is accounted for. Further, almost all transactions are done with cash, so there is no record on the bank’s side, either.
All these ghost transactions aren’t taxed, and the government doesn’t like that. The only way to combat this is to make sure there are receipts and that the transactions end up on the government books. But the problem is so ingrained that people don’t care about the receipts.
So the government has a scheme called fapiao, which is a method whereby receipts are provided that have a scratch lottery built in. Scratch off your receipt and you can win money back. The one in the picture with 50 on it won 10 back. What happened was I went to a restaurant, spent 150 yuan, got the two fapiao as a receipt, scratched it and won 10 yuan back. I can redeem this receipt at the restaurant from which I purchased it.
Of course, this is China, and there are all kinds of schemes that have cropped up around this. First, you can request NOT to get a receipt in some places, and they will give you a small discount on your bill (because then they don’t have to report the transaction and avoid the VAT). The prizes on fapiao are so small and rare that you’re better off getting a regular discount without the fapiao than you are winning a prize with it. But not all places do this.
The other major scheme is people selling fapiao in major areas like outside the big subway stations. They walk around muttering it under their breath. Because these receipts are used on expense reports, people sell fapiao to business people at significantly lower rates, and then the business people claim them on their expense reports and get money from their business.
There are so many schemes and ways people scratch out a living and avoid taxes and game the system here. It’s expected and embraced and you have to always be careful that you’re on the victim end of someone’s con. Fortunately the Chinese are nonviolent and you don’t have to worry about losing more than a few bucks.