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Taxes on Gambling Winnings

gambling income and losses

When we think of gambling, our first thoughts may be of casino games or the lottery. However, the IRS requires all gambling income to be reported, including winnings from raffles, fantasy football, and even sports betting. The IRS has specific regulations for reporting gambling activities, which can significantly impact your tax obligations. Here’s an overview of taxes on gambling winnings.

All Gambling Income Must Be Reported 

All income earned through gambling must be reported to the IRS. Gambling income includes any winnings from lotteries, raffles, horse races, casinos, and other forms of betting. This also covers cash winnings and the fair market value of non-cash prizes such as cars, trips, or other items. Failing to report all income can result in IRS penalties.

How to Report Gambling Income 

When you win a significant amount, the payer (such as a casino or lottery agency) must issue a Form W-2G to report the winnings to you and the IRS. The thresholds for this reporting vary by the type of gambling: 

  • $600 or more in winnings (if the payout is at least 300 times the wager amount) 
  • $1,200 or more from bingo or slot machines 
  • $1,500 or more from keno 
  • $5,000 or more from poker tournaments 

Even if you do not receive a Form W-2G, you are required to report all gambling winnings, both cash and non-cash, as “Other Income” on your Form 1040. 

You Can Deduct Gambling Losses If You Itemize  

Reporting cash winnings is straightforward. However, taxpayers should know that they are not allowed to subtract the cost of gambling from their winnings. In other words, if you place a $10 bet and then win $500, your taxable winnings would be $500, not $490. While you cannot deduct the cost of your wager from your winnings, you can deduct your losses if you itemize your deductions on Schedule A. 

You can deduct losses up to the amount of the gambling income claimed. For example, if you won $1,000 but lost $3,000, you can only deduct $1,000. You must also include the $1,000 won in your income. To claim these deductions, you must keep accurate records of your gambling activities, including: 

  • Receipts, tickets, statements from the gambling establishment 
  • Form W-2G, if applicable 
  • Canceled checks or credit records 
  • A detailed diary of your gambling activity, noting the dates, types of gambling, amounts won and lost, and the names and addresses of the establishments. 

You Can Deduct More If You’re a Professional Gambler  

If you gamble to make a living, you are also not allowed to deduct losses that exceed your winnings. However, you would be considered a self-employed individual and would be able to deduct “business expenses” using Schedule C. This can include magazine subscriptions that relate to gambling, internet costs if you place bets online, and travel expenses. 

Professional gamblers can also carry forward net operating losses to future tax years, which can help offset income in those years. However, like any other business, you will be responsible for paying self-employment tax and estimated taxes each quarter. Remember that state tax laws vary, and some states do not allow the deduction of gambling losses. Additionally, certain types of gambling may be illegal in some jurisdictions, which can complicate the tax reporting process. 

You Should Keep Adequate Records  

If you are ever audited, the IRS will expect to see detailed records of your gambling winnings and losses. Whether you gamble professionally or casually, you should record the date, name of the gambling establishment, type of wager made, amount won or lost, and the names of anyone with you during the gambling. You should also keep copies of receipts, W2-G forms, wager tickets, and anything else that can supplement your gambling log.  

Tax Relief for Gamblers  

Whether you gamble casually or professionally, you must always report all gambling winnings. It may be tempting to report large losses and downplay your winnings, but reporting losses typically raises red flags with the IRS. This means higher chances of being audited by the IRS, which is a whole other issue. In short, it’s always best to report your gambling income and losses accurately. Optima Tax Relief is the nation’s leading tax resolution firm with over $3 billion in resolved tax liabilities.   

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