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Bet on it, gambling winnings are taxable

Have you placed a friendly wager on Super Bowl XLIV? You are so not alone.

The NFL's championship game marks the biggest betting day of the year. While lots of folks will lose money, some will win nice chunks of change.

 And it's a safe bet that many of those winners will stiff the IRS.

Yes, gambling winnings are taxable income. The IRS specifically says so.

And it doesn't say that winnings from illegal bets are exempt. Uncle Sam isn't a cop. He doesn't worry about how you get your money. He is only concerned about getting his cut. Remember Al Capone.

Some folks will intentionally ignore gambling tax rules. But for many others, there is legitimate confusion when it comes to taxes and gambling winnings.

So let me try to clear some of that up before you collect after the Saints-Colts contest Sunday night.

Winnings count as income
Let me repeat: All gambling winnings are fully taxable.

This includes, but, says the IRS, is not limited to, amounts you collect from lotteries, raffles, horse races, poker tournaments and casinos.

Note that phrase "not limited to." That means your office pool payout counts, too.

So do trips, appliance and cars you might win (or get from Oprah). You report the fair market value of the prize.

All amounts count
There's a misconception that only winnings above a certain amount are taxable. That's not true.

This incorrect assumption probably comes from the fact that official tax documents aren't issued in every situation.

When required by the IRS, casinos and race tracks get tax ID info from lucky bettors and issue each a Form W-2G. That's the case for winnings of:

  • $1,200 or more in gambling winnings from bingo or slot machines;
  • $1,500 or more in proceeds (the amount of winnings minus the amount of the wager) from keno;
  • more than $5,000 in winnings (reduced by the wager or buy-in) from a poker tournament; or
  • $600 or more in other gambling winnings where the payout is at least 300 times the amount of the wager.

In some cases, the betting establishment must even take some federal income tax withholding from your payout. That's generally a 25 percent rate, but it could at the backup withholding rate of 28 percent if you refuse to provide the payer with your federal identification number.

And even if a W-2G is not issued, all gambling winnings must be reported as taxable income.

Reporting and writing off gambling amounts
Tell the IRS about your lucky income on line 21 of Form 1040, line 21.

If you itemize, you get a chance to reduce your gambling earnings. On line line 28, Other Miscellaneous Deductions, of Schedule A, report any gambling losses. You can claim up to the total amount you won (and reported on your 1040), effectively wiping out any taxable gambling income.

Don't worry if you win big on the Super Bowl but all your losses come from bad dog track bets. Any losing wagers can be used to offset any winning bets.

Remember, though, that you can't use your bad bets to produce a loss. They count only up to the amount of your winnings.

Keep good wagering records
In order to take full advantage of your losses, the IRS requires the same thing as it does with any deduction: good records.

You don't need to include your substantiating documents when you file, but you will need them if an IRS examiner later has any questions.

The agency suggests you keep an accurate diary or similar record. You also could be asked to provide receipts, tickets, statements or other records that show the amount of both your winnings and losses.

If you follow these rules, you should be OK with the IRS when it comes to your winnings. Good luck!

Lots of reporting winners: While it's a sure bet that the IRS doesn't get all the taxes it could on wagering winnings, it still collects a fair amount each year.

On 2007 federal returns, the latest year for which data are complete, the IRS says more than 1.6 million taxpayers reported almost $27 billion in gambling income. This includes winnings from casinos and horse tracks, lottery and raffle jackpots, as well as the fair market value of cars, houses and other noncash prizes.

That same tax year, 987,000 of those conscientious taxpayers who reported gambling income also claimed as deductions almost $19 billion in bad bets.

The wide world of wagering: The Internet has opened up a whole new and wider world of gambling.

U.S. laws, however, at both the federal and state levels, attempt to restrict our cyber betting. And most credit card companies have taken steps to to make placing online bets more difficult.

There is some support for allowing -- and taxing -- online gambling operations, but that's still a tough sell in Washington.

Americans who prefer real-life sports betting (aside from horse and dog racing), there are a few options.

Under a 1992 federal law, four states that had sports gambling at that time are allowed to keep their form of betting. They are Nevada, Oregon, Delaware and Montana.

Oregon dropped its sports gambling in 2007 and sports betting is minimal in Montana.

Last year, Delaware reinstated betting on sports, but, pending legal challenges working their way through court, the First State is stuck with taking bets only on multiple games at once.

So we're left with trips to Nevada if we want to place a bet on the Super Bowl or any sport. But once we get there, we can put our money down on myriad game-related events.

Known as prop bets, short for proposition bets, these are hundreds of unique ways to gamble. Essentially, if it happens (or could happen) in a game, a Nevada sports book will take a bet on it. And the possibilities aren't limited to the playing field.

Kim-Kardashian-Reggie-Bush_Leather-and-Laces-CelebrationSome of this year's goofier prop bets include:
  • How many current NFL players will be arrested during Super Bowl week?
  • How many times will CBS show Kim Kardashian ( at right), girlfriend of Saints' running back Reggie Bush, on TV during the game?
  • How many times will CBS show Bourbon Street on TV during the game?
  • What color will the Gatorade be that is dumped on the winning team's head coach?

Me, I'm betting on plain old yellow Gatorade; that's the odds on favorite. But if you want to make a bit more money, take red. That long-shot color choice is running at 12-to-1.

More on gambling and taxes from the ol' blog and elsewhere:

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Sports Betting

Nice Article, as an internet on line internet gambling house online I often am compensated into a on line internet gambling house consideration and then bet it a bit before I cash out, so I was seeking to know how that performs out on my taxes! This is beneficial thank you.


Great Article, as an online casino affiliate I often am paid into a casino account and then gamble it a bit before I cash out, so I was wanting to know how that works out on my taxes! This is helpful thank you.


Great information! Good Record Keeping is definitely key. We have a similar post on our blog.

How To Win The Lottery

man the lottery system sucks

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Gambling is a taxable income in my country. They paid after-tax prize only.

How To Win The Lottery

I didnt know gambling was a taxable income government always want a piece

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I've had to claim my winnings on lottery many times and as much as it hurts, I'd rather pay then lose all the time. Then again, I'm not opposed to paying taxes. I mean what's the alternative?

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Love the comment from the guy that has been placing bets for years and didn't know about this. Oops. Let's hope the IRS aren't reading this blog LOL. Luckily, I'm in the UK where there is no such tax. Yay.

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I had a buddy that won I lot of money betting on sports and the IRS came down on him hard. Report ALL money


That is very interesting I did not know that cash from betting had to be reported. But I guess it makes sense I just wasn't smart enough to think of it. Thank you for the information and keep up the good work.

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I like this! Lots of reporting winners: While it's a sure bet that the IRS doesn't get all the taxes it could on wagering winnings, it still collects a fair amount each year.

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Wow that really sucks... Here in the UK all gambling is tax free. Saying that though, we do get hit hard in every other taxable area!

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To the average person, nothing is taxable unless it is reported to the IRS.


My family had some big wins last year and we did not keep a list of wins & losses, but I came across an iPhone app called WinLoss that helps keep track of your info to help offset the winnings.

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Thats some weird stuff, it has to be extremely easy to make, and lose money on bets like that.

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