On Monday, I wrote an article based on Chinese media reports about Jingdong’s new fapiao trials. But since then, we’ve heard from a couple of in-the-know sources (who asked to remain anonymous) that some of what I wrote wasn’t accurate. I apologize for that. So here’s the real scoop:
What’s a fapiao?
A fapiao is a kind of official receipt. Generally speaking, if you want to get reimbursed for any kind of purchase in China, you’re going to need a fapiao, and you often need one to return a purchase or access other possible after-sales services. But fapiao are special because they’re actually issued by the government, and retailers have to buy them (they cannot print their own fapiao and issue them that way). In reality, then, a fapiao is a form of taxation; a way of making sure that retailers are paying some tax on their sales because part of a company’s taxes are calculated based on the amount of money it has issued in fapiao over the relevant tax period.
What’s happening with e-commerce fapiao right now?
What’s happening is that Jingdong is running a trial for electronic fapiao. In a departure from the norm, these official receipts are not printed but rather emailed to customers. Although customers who purchase products that are part of the new trial program will no longer be issued paper fapiao, the new e-fapiao will work the same way, and customers will be able to verify any electronic fapiao‘s legitimacy using online verification tools.
The program is still in very early trials, so it’s affecting a limited number of customers and there are likely to be some bugs in the system and/or bumps on the road in the earlygoing. But it’s an increasingly paperless world, and I imagine it won’t be too long before e-fapiao are a mandatory part of most online purchases.