- In your Nov 6, 2009 column you warned that to help finance the health care bill any gambling winnings from W2G forms over $1,000,000 would be subject to a 5.4% tax, and this would be applied before the deduction of gambling losses. This could have a big impact on very high-end slot players, who rack up stacks of W2G forms.
- (Remember that the only time the casino will inform the IRS of your winnings is when you win a slot jackpot of $1,200 or more.) You may deduct your gambling losses for the year but you cannot.
In the states, gambling winnings is not tax free, it will be taxed if it's reported to the IRS. You can avoid penalties by filing an ammended tax return. Usually only 2% of all tax returns gets audited so you could also lie low for about ten to fifteen years and hope that it slips through the system.
Taxes are probably the last thing on your mind during an exciting gambling session. However, they inevitably come up following a big win or profitable year.
You may have two main questions at this point:
- Do I need to pay taxes on my wins?
- If so, how much do I have to pay?
The following guide discusses whether your gambling wins are taxable and other important topics regarding this subject.
The Short Answer Is Yes
I’ll cut right to the chase: yes, you do need to pay federal taxes on gambling winnings in the United States. This is especially true when you net a big win and receive a W-2G form.
According to the IRS, a gambling establishment should issue a W-2G when you win an amount that’s subject to federal income tax withholding (24% of win).
Slot machines present a famous example of when you’ll receive a W-2G form after winning so much. Casinos must issue a form when you win a prize worth $1,200 or more through slots or video poker.
As for the second point, a sportsbook or racetrack must withhold federal taxes when you win a bet worth 300x your initial stake. If you wager $5 and win $3,000, for example, then the bookmaker will issue a W-2G form and withhold $720 (24%).
Here’s a broader look at the W-2G and tax withholding threshold for different types of gambling:
- $600+ through sportsbooks and racetracks (provided it’s 300x your stake).
- $1,200+ through a slot machine, video poker machine, or bingo game.
- $1,500+ through keno.
- $5,000+ through a poker tournament.
All Winnings Are Subject to Taxation
Technically, you’re supposed to report any gambling winnings—big or small. Even if you win $20 in an office betting pool, the IRS wants to know about it.
If you want to stay above board, then you should report all wins on Form 1040 (under “other income”). As I’ll cover later, you can deduct losses from winnings as well.
Furthermore, any amount that’s withheld by a casino, poker room, sportsbook, or racetrack is deducted from what you owe. Gambling establishments keep 24% of a win when they do withhold money.
W-2G Forms Don’t Apply to Table Games
You’ll receive a W-2G when earning big wins through most types of gambling. However, casino table games are an exception to the norm.
Unlike a jackpot game (e.g. video poker) or a poker tournament, casinos have no idea how much money you start with in a table game. Therefore, they can’t really determine when you do and don’t experience big wins.
Examples of table games that are exempt from W-2G forms include:
- Caribbean stud
- Three-card poker
The IRS still expects you to pay taxes on profits earned through table games. Again, though, the casino can’t issue a W-2G because they can’t tell how much money you’ve actually won.
Some States Tax Gambling Winnings
Most states tax your income, including gambling winnings. Depending upon where you live, you’ll probably need to pay taxes to both the IRS and your state.For Example:
Michigan features a 4.25% flat income tax. The Wolverine State expects you to pay this same 4.25% rate on gambling wins.
West Virginia, on the other hand, doesn’t tax your winnings. Casinos/sportsbooks in the Mountaineer State only withhold federal taxes (when necessary).
Assuming you travel to another state to gamble, you may have two states wanting taxes. Luckily, though, you won’t be subject to double taxation.
Instead, your home state will give you credit for whatever taxes are paid to the state where the winnings occurred.
Can You Deduct Losses?
You can deduct gambling losses from winnings. However, these deductions are itemized rather than standard deductions.
Here’s an example to explain:
- You win $5,000 through sports betting.
- You lose $4,500.
- You must report the full $5,000—not $500 (5,000 – 4,500)—under other income.
- Meanwhile, the $4,500 is reported through various itemized deductions.
In short, itemized deductions are expenses that reduce your taxable income. The standardized variety includes flat-dollar, common deductions.
Longhorn casino chuckwagon restaurant laramie. You may be able to save more money through itemized deductions. However, standard deductions are easier to deal with and also have the potential to save you more money.
Regardless, you must use itemized deductions when dealing with losses. This means spending more time on your tax returns or working with an accountant.
Keep in mind that you won’t receive a tax refund for gambling losses. Instead, you can only deduct an amount equal to your winnings each year. If you win $3,500, for example, then you can’t deduct more than $3.5k and expect a return.
Keep Records on Wins & Losses
The IRS may take your word at face value when it comes to gambling. Of course, they also have the ability to audit you when they deem it necessary.
That said, you don’t want to guestimate on your wins and losses. Instead, you want proof through the form of records.
Journals offer a great way to record your gambling activities. You can log the following for each entry:
- Date of gambling session
- Location of the establishment
- Game played
- Starting bankroll
- Ending bankroll
Such entries don’t guarantee you’re being honest. However, they at least show the IRS that you’re making a legitimate attempt at recordkeeping.
You can take your recordkeeping efforts even further by holding onto any other relevant documents. Betting slips, winning tickets, canceled checks, bank statements, W-2G forms, and anything else of relevance are all worth saving.
What Happens If You Don’t Report Gambling Winnings?
The IRS fully expects you to report gambling winnings and especially annual profits. They don’t take kindly to you failing to report these wins.
Of course, you’re unlikely to draw an audit for winning a $25 sports bet. You stand a higher chance of being audited, though, if you win enough for a W-2G form.
In this case, the casino/sportsbook/racetrack also sends a copy of the from to the IRS. The latter features reliable software that can match up your reported income with documentation of nonreported income.
Assuming you fail to report gambling winnings, then the IRS may do little more than send a letter and issue a small fine. You should definitely pay up, or at least work out a payment plan, in this case.
You’ll face more serious consequences, though, if you fail to report a huge win and lie about the matter when/if caught. Refusal to pay and/or heavy efforts to cover up the deceit will lead to bigger fines and possibly jail time.
Gamblers Stand Increased Chances of an Audit
Nobody likes attracting an audit from the IRS. Unfortunately, the chances of being audited increase for gamblers.
This is especially true when you net a big win and receive a W-2G. Of course, you can reduce the odds of being audited by claiming anything on the form.
The IRS may also become suspicious if you claim big losses on your tax return. You’ll put the taxman on increased alert when winning a huge prize (e.g. $50,000) and claiming a matching amount of losses.
Also, you can’t write off hotel stays, meals, and entertainment as a casual gambler. You must be a professional to claim such itemized deductions.
How Do Professional Gamblers Report Winnings?
Pro gamblers claim winnings on Schedule C as a self-employed person rather than as other income on Form 1040.
Even as a professional, you can’t deduct more losses than winnings in a year. You’re stuck in a tough situation with treating gambling as a day job, yet not being able to file losses that exceed winnings.
As mentioned before, though, you’re able to deduct business expenses like hotel stays and meals. These expenses just need to be a legitimate part of your business.
In answer to the original question, yes, you’re supposed to claim real money gambling winnings on federal tax forms. Even if you end up losing money on the year, the IRS wants to see your wins and losses.
Of course, tax collectors don’t care a great deal when you win $200 on the year. They spend most of their time looking for bigger winners.
The times when you want to be especially diligent in this matter include:
- When you book a large win and receive a W-2G form.
- If you win a significant amount of profits throughout the year.
- When you win 600x your bet with a sports or horse wager.
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This article was fact-checked by our editors and reviewed by Christina Taylor, MBA, senior manager of tax operations for Credit Karma Tax®.
Betting on sports is part of the fun for many sports fans — even if their wagering hasn’t always been technically legal.
Until a May 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision opened the door for every state to legalize sports betting, just four states allowed wagering on sports — Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon. Legality, however, hasn’t stopped Americans from betting on sports. In fact, the American Gaming Association estimates that Americans spend more than $150 billion a year on illegal sports betting.
Since the Supreme Court’s ruling, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Mississippi and Rhode Island have legalized sports betting. And at least 14 other states are considering laws to permit wagering on sports.
But when you gamble on sports, it won’t matter to the IRS if your winnings came from a legal bet or from one that’s off the books. Your winnings are taxable income either way.
If you plan to do some wagering in a state that’s legalized sports betting, it’s important to understand how tax on your winnings will work. Let’s take a look at how the IRS treats gambling winnings of any kind.
Sports-betting winnings are taxable income
The big question for sports gamblers: Are your winnings taxable income? As we said above, the answer is yes.
“Gambling winnings are fully taxable and you must report the income on your tax return,” the IRS says. “Gambling income includes but isn’t limited to winnings from lotteries, raffles, horse races and casinos. It includes cash winnings and the fair market value of prizes, such as cars and trips.”
Although sports betting isn’t one of the examples, it’s still covered by “gambling winnings.”
Whether sports betting is legal in the state where you place your bet doesn’t matter to the IRS. If you win, you have taxable income, which should be reported when you file your tax return.
These rules apply only to casual sports bettors. If you’re a pro — “in the trade or business of gambling,” as the IRS puts it — different rules apply.
How much tax you’ll owe depends on your personal tax situation and tax bracket.
You might also owe state income tax on any money you win from betting on sports, depending on which state you live in. For example, Nevada doesn’t have a state income tax. But Maryland does, and it considers winnings from gambling taxable income. If you win money betting on sports, check with your state to see if it taxes gambling winnings.What types of income are taxable?
Form W-2G: Evidence of your sports-betting win
So you win a couple thousand bucks betting on your favorite sports team. How will the IRS know if you don’t tell it? Well, whomever you won the money from — a casino, racetrack, etc. — is supposed to report your winnings to the IRS on Form W-2G. The form tells the IRS some important information, including …
- Contact information for the payer who awarded you the winnings, including phone number, address and federal tax identification number
- Your name, address and taxpayer identification number
- How much you won
- When you won it
- What kind of wager you made
- And how much, if any, federal and state income tax the payer withheld from your winnings
Generally, the payer has to report your winnings if …
- You won $1,200 or more from a bingo game or slot machine
- You raked in $1,500 or more at keno
- Your poker victory tops $5,000
- You won $600 or more and your winnings are at least 300 times the amount of your bet (bingo, slots, keno and poker are exceptions to this rule)
- The payor withheld federal income tax on the winnings
Penalties for not reporting sports-betting income
Of course, the IRS wants you to report all your taxable income, and if you don’t you could face penalties and interest on any tax you owed but didn’t pay.
Generally, the penalty for not paying income tax that you owe is 0.5% of the unpaid tax. That rate is assessed monthly until you pay the tax you owe. Unpaid tax and penalties typically accrue interest, too — 5% compounded daily from the due date of your tax return to the date when you actually pay in full the balance of any tax, penalties and interest you owe.
However, if you’re caught intentionally omitting income — like gambling winnings — from your tax return in order to avoid paying tax on that income, it could mean additional penalties. According to the tax code, trying to “evade or defeat” tax you owe on income you’re required to report could be a felony with fines of up to $100,000 for individuals or five years in prison. Plus, people convicted of tax evasion can be held responsible for the costs of prosecution.What should you do if you can't pay your taxes?
Lose a sports bet? It might be deductible!
Just as sports-betting winnings are considered taxable income, losses may be tax-deductible if …
- You itemize your deductions
- You keep detailed records of your winnings and losses
“To deduct your losses, you must keep an accurate diary or similar record of your gambling winnings and losses and be able to provide receipts, tickets, statements or other records that show the amount of both your winnings and losses,” the IRS says.
Any losses you deduct cannot exceed winnings that you report when you file your return. For example, if you reported winnings of $5,000, you could deduct losses only up to that amount. Additional losses would not be deductible. And if you lost $5,000 but didn’t win anything, you wouldn’t be able to deduct those losses at all.
If you’re eligible to deduct your sports-betting losses — or any other gambling losses — you’ll do so on Schedule A, Line 28, “Other Miscellaneous Deductions.”
More than a quarter of Americans like to bet on football, 21% are interested in betting on baseball or basketball, and 20% would put some money down on a hockey game, according to Nielsen Sports. If you’re a fan of sports wagering, it’s important to understand that tax on sports betting is nothing new.
The IRS has always considered gambling winnings taxable income, and it expects you to report all your taxable income — even the money you win betting on sports.
Gambling Winnings Irs
If you’ll be reporting gambling winnings on your federal income tax return, or hoping to write off some gambling losses, be sure to keep detailed records of your wagers and losses.
Do Indian Casinos Report Winnings To Irs
Christina Taylor is senior manager of tax operations for Credit Karma Tax®. She has more than a dozen years of experience in tax, accounting and business operations. Christina founded her own accounting consultancy and managed it for more than six years. She co-developed an online DIY tax-preparation product, serving as chief operating officer for seven years. She is the current treasurer of the National Association of Computerized Tax Processors and holds a bachelor’s in business administration/accounting from Baker College and an MBA from Meredith College. You can find her on LinkedIn.