I'm honestly surprised nobody has ever asked this. I'm a native-level speaker of Mandarin Chinese and English and yet I don't know.
In case you don't know what 发票 is, here's a short explanation:
In mainland China, when you sell anything as a business, you are legally obligated to provide your customer with two certificates on request: 收据 (receipt) and 发票 (?). 收据 is self-explanatory and is the same as in any other country; 发票 is like 收据, but it also states some extra information. For example:
- The name and taxation ID of the seller.
- The name and taxation ID of the buyer (when buying on behalf of a company/organisation).
- The amount of tax included in each item's price.
Notably, unlike 收据, 发票 also has a unique serial number like bank notes, which allows taxation agencies to more accurately track sales. This makes 发票 much more legally binding than 收据. For this reason, most people usually only request 发票 when making large purchases, and/or buying on behalf of their employer and are looking to get reimbursed, which is known as 报销 (lit. reporting expenditure).
There are multiple types of 发票 as well, but we'll ignore that here.
The trouble is that this concept simply doesn't really exist (or rather, very rarely exists; thanks for @JustinHancock for pointing this out in the comments) outside of China. It reminds me of that time when an American translator was struggling to translate Прописка (Propiska, basically 户口) to an American president (I think it was Nixon but I could be wrong). He ended up calling it "domestic passport" in case you're curious.
Anyways, I've searched far and wide for an official (or at minimum, good-looking) translation for 发票 and I am yet to see one. Here are some common ones:
- Invoice/bill: Inaccurate; that's 账单.
- Receipt: Inaccurate; that's 收据.
- Fapiao: 🤦 No.
So I suppose the best option is to coin a term that best describes its purpose, which turns out to be extremely difficult to do concisely. Here are some that I came up with (none of which I'm satisfied with):
- Tax ticket: "Ticket" sounds wrong. In most use cases it's associated with "permission to do", e.g. train ticket 火车票, concert ticket 演唱会门票, which is not the case with 发票.
- Tax certificate: It sounds better, but it can be easily confused with 完税证明, which is a document certifying that you have paid your taxes.
- Tax receipt: Sounds like 完税证明 even more.
- Taxable receipt: This makes it sound mutually exclusive with a "normal receipt", which is not the case. You can (and people often do) request both 收据 and 发票.
The best I've got is expenditure certificate, which accurately describes its use from the POV of the purchaser. But funnily, this term literally translates to 报销凭证, which is a word already in use that refers to a category of documents similar to but distinct from 发票. It's all very confusing, I know.
So, help. I recognise that this is a difficult question and there might not be a good answer. So all I'm asking for is some brainstorming from the community. Thank you.