Over the last 10 years, Slovakia’s revenue from value-added taxes, a type of sales tax, has declined. But hiring auditors and pursuing individual merchants and service providers in court is expensive and slow. So last fall, the government decided to put a lottery in the mix.The idea is to enlist average citizens to collect receipts from their purchases and register them with the government, creating a paper trail for transactions and forcing restaurant and shop owners to pay the sales taxes they owe. As Slovakians register their receipts for the lottery, a computer will also tell them if a merchant has issued a receipt with a fake tax identification number, so they can report suspected fraud.
For any purchase worth more than 1 euro, or about $1.38, Slovakians can enter their receipts in a monthly lottery to win €10,000, a car or a chance to be a contestant on the Slovakian version of “The Price Is Right.”
As we well know, third party reporting is an excellent way to induce honesty in taxpayers. Winning a lottery is a long shot but its very existence promotes a certain culture to develop around the reporting of taxable sales. And the winners make for good tv.Tax officials say the lottery is already having a big impact, and other European countries that are also struggling with the collection of value-added taxes have considered it — including Portugal, which started its own tax lottery on Thursday. In Slovakia, about 450,000 people have taken part, registering about 60 million receipts, officials said.