Asked by an attendant if she wants a personal invoice on a
€15 purchase in a Lisbon pet shop, Lucia Miranda excitedly
addresses her tiny pooch: "Do we want to win an Audi, au-au?
Yes we do. Sure we want the invoice."
It may seem absurd, but the 56-year-old notary is talking
sense. A state draw offering fancy cars on invoices issued
with individual taxpayer numbers has firmly grabbed the
attention of the Portuguese - those hopeful to win and
On April 17, the government will give away the first two Audi
A4 sedans in what will then be a weekly draw for a year.
"The Lucky Invoice" draw, which will be televised, is aimed
at stimulating the fight against tax evasion and the large
shadow economy in cash-strapped Portugal where the tax burden
is at record levels after years of austerity.
The government says the number of such invoices jumped 45
percent in January - the first month the bills qualified for
the lottery - from a year earlier to 46 million.
State Tax Secretary Paulo Nuncio told Reuters that the steep
rise "shows the growing level of consumer adherence to the
fight against the parallel economy." He estimated that new
measures against tax evasion could add between 600 million
and 800 million euros in tax revenues in the medium term.
A study by AT Kearney consultants at the end of last year
showed that the shadow economy accounted for about one-fifth
of Portugal's gross national product, or over 31 billion
euros. At 19 percent of GDP, that was almost 7 points above
western Europe's average. The study acknowledged that
Portugal was a forerunner in taking measures to address tax
evasion and fraud.
Other measures in Portugal include greater use of electronic
invoicing, investment in technology and more tax agents, as
well as small tax discounts on personal invoices, in force
from last year. Electronic invoices rose 25 percent in
January from a year earlier to around 365 million.
Shop and cafe attendants contacted by Reuters say they have
not seen any sharp increase in personal invoicing, although
hopeful clients who want to take part in the draw are not
"They don't come in droves. Those who ask for the invoices
usually speak about the draw half in jest, like: 'I wouldn't
have enough money to service that car' or 'I'd have to sell
it to pay my debts'," said Bebiana Azevedo, 44, who works in
a clothes store in Lisbon.
Critics, including the consumer protection association, say
the measure transforms citizens into revenue service agents
and may also be used to monitor individual spending by
Portuguese, while the 2 million euros worth of cars would
have been better spent on social projects and not on
mid-range luxury cars.
"It's a way to control people and it can give a winner more
headaches than joy, especially to elderly. I prefer the
normal lottery," said Armenio Coelho, a 60-year-old car
The draw has given rise to dark humour. One popular
caricature depicts a queue of people in rags waiting their
turn at a soup kitchen while a loudspeaker above announces:
"Will the owners of Audi A4s and A6s please move their
Weekly draws will dish out Audi A4 cars, worth some 35,300
euros, and several special draws will offer the pricier
luxury A6 that costs around 48,000 euros. The government
picked the local distributor of Audis, SIVA, in a tender over
the closest competitor BMW.
Customers requesting a bill with their taxpayer number on it
in any business establishment automatically qualify for a
draw ticket per each 10 euros worth of purchases.
They can verify on the Internet if sellers submitted their
invoices to the tax authorities, and in case of any failure
on the seller's behalf can submit the bills themselves.
It is that sort of citizen control of tax payments by
businesses that the government wants to stimulate, according
to the finance ministry, which also denied suggestions of any
monitoring of private spending.