Hungarian Receipts Transform Into Lottery Tickets

With a one in a million chance of winning a few thousand dollars force you to keep all your receipts? The Hungarian government is hoping that it is. If it goes as planned, the government’s new “receipt lottery” system, which basically makes every receipt for everyday transactions into a de facto lottery ticket, will give its citizens reason enough to get their receipts organized.

To encourage consumer to ask for and collect proper invoices for their purchases, the Hungarian government is rolling out a “receipt lottery” in the early months of 2009. Participating consumers will collect receipts from everyday purchases and submit them for the lottery, where they will have chances to win Ft 1 million (about $5400).  Submissions can be made online or by text message. Every month, ten winners will win the drawing.

With this program, the Hungarian government is trying to increase consumer demand for proper records of transactions. In turn, companies would be less likely to keep transactions off the books. Improper documentation by retailers has led to widespread evasion of value-added taxes, which costs the government a considerable amount of money every year in lost revenue.

Hungarian Receipts: The New Lottery Ticket?
Hungarian Receipts: The New Lottery Ticket?

Members of the political opposition are not happy with the new program, which is called számlatombola. They claim that the lottery program is “infantile” and would prefer more concrete economic policies and government enforcement to encourage proper record keeping. It is also possible that the enforcement of a value-added tax will just lead to higher prices for consumers, adding to inflation. There have been similar programs, however, in Japan, Croatia and Taiwan that have been successful.