Part 1 of this series explained what fapiaos are and why they are used. Today, we examine the different types of receipts and fapiaos in China.
With the exception of small businesses in small cities, most businesses have cash registers and can issue a point-of-sale receipt (收据 or 小票) that would look familiar to someone outside of China. This is not a fapiao. Similarly, when a credit or debit card is used in China (either an international credit card or a local UnionPay-linked credit card), the consumer usually receives a receipt. This is also not a fapiao.
As we said in Part 1, a fapiao usually must be requested for business-to-consumer transactions.
Fapiaos come in different varieties. Knowing what type of vendors generally provide what type of fapiaos can minimize the risk of fraud or corruption.
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A machine-printed fapiao (机打发票) is printed on a small machine using special paper issued by the local Tax Bureau.
Most establishments will ask if you want a “individual” or “company” fapiao. Both are legitimate. An individual (个人) fapiao will list “individual” (个人) or the recipient’s name in English or Chinese (e.g., “Eric Carlson” or “柯礼晟”), whereas a company (单位) fapiao will list the company’s Chinese name.
The fapiao will contain the date, a brief description of the expense in Chinese (e.g., “meal fee,” “room fee,” “service fee,” “consulting fee”), the date, the name of the establishment issuing the fapiao, and a set of codes used for verification (more on that in Parts III and IV).
Many establishments require a consumer either to trade the point-of-sale receipt for the fapiao, or to stamp the point-of-sale receipt with a notation that the “fapiao has already been issued” (发票已开). This requirement prevents customers from asking for a second fapiao for the same expense.
Most fapiaos for significant business-to-business transactions (i.e., where payment would be made via bank transfer rather than cash) are machine printed these days. Fapiaos in business-to-business transactions often are not presented precisely at the time of payment. It may be submitted prior to payment, or mailed after payment, so the date on the fapiao may not necessarily match the date of payment.
A machine-printed fapiao should have a red fapiao “chop” (or “seal” 发票专用章) of the establishment stamped on the fapiao. The red “chop” includes the name of the establishment issuing the fapiao and its tax identification number (纳税人识别号).
Taxis are a special case. In China, taxis in almost all major cities have a machine that prints a fapiao that shows the date, time, distance, and total cost of the travel. These fapiaos are printed in the taxi when the taxi stops the meter, and do not include the name of the recipient.
(Travel alert: some taxi drivers will say that their meter is “broken,” either to negotiate a higher fare than what the consumer would otherwise pay, or to avoid a record of the transaction to minimize tax liability.)
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Fixed-value fapiaos (定额发票) are commonly used in fast-food restaurants, toll booths, gas stations, some smaller restaurants, cabs in smaller cities, subways, busses, and other high-volume repeat-transaction establishments. They are smaller, square or rectangular pieces of paper that list certain denominations on each one (e.g., RMB 1, RMB 5, RMB 10, RMB 50), not unlike Monopoly money.
Fixed-value fapiaos are printed by the local Tax Bureau, but like machine-printed fapiaos, the name of establishment and its tax identification number should be visible in the red “chop” stamped on the face of the fapiao.
Some establishments are careful to provide fixed-fee fapiaos in the exact amount of the purchase — for a purchase of RMB 48, they would give you two 20s, a 5, and three 1s. Other establishments simply “round up” — for an expense of RMB 48, they would give you one fapiao of 50.
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Handwritten fapiaos (手工发票). As the name implies, these are handwritten by the proprietor of a business, often a small restaurant or small store. These are mostly found in smaller cities and are gradually becoming less common. A handwritten fapiao should also include the red fapiao chop of the establishment.
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Tomorrow we’ll explore the most common fraud schemes related to fapiaos.
Eric Carlson, a contributing editor of the FCPA Blog, is a partner at Covington & Burling LLP. He specializes in anti-corruption compliance and internal investigations, with a particular focus on China and other regions of Asia. He speaks Mandarin and Cantonese and can be contacted here.