Do I have to pay taxes on my gambling winnings?
You must report all winnings, whether another entity reports them to the government or not.
You CANNOT subtract the cost of gambling from your winnings and report the net proceeds. The For example, if you win $620 from a horse race but it cost you $20 to bet, your taxable winnings are $620, not $600 (after subtracting your $20 wager).
Cash is not the only kind of winnings you need to report. If you win a brand-new laptop in a raffle, this counts as income, too. You must claim the item’s fair market value at the time you won it, which would generally be the amount you would have to pay for the item if you bought it new.
Both cash and the value of prizes are considered “other income” on your Form 1040. If you score big, you might even receive a Form W-2G reporting your winnings. The tax code requires institutions that offer gambling to issue Form W-2G when:
Table games in a casino, such as blackjack, roulette, baccarat, or craps are exempt from the W-2G rule.
This DOESN’T MEAN you don’t have to claim the income and pay taxes on it if your winnings aren’t enough to warrant the tax form. It just means the institution won’t send a Form W-2G.
You can deduct your losses…to an extent
You can’t deduct the cost of your wager from your winnings when determining how much you won, but you can deduct your gambling losses subject to certain rules.
You’re allowed to deduct losses only up to the amount of the gambling income you claim. So, if you won $2,000 but lost $5,000, your itemized deduction is limited to $2,000. You can’t use the remaining $3,000 to reduce your other taxable income.
If you’re a professional gambler
Does the tax picture change if you don’t just dabble in gambling, but actually make your living at it? Yes and no. Deductions from losses that exceed your winnings still are not allowed. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1987 in the case of Commissioner vs. Groetzinger that deductions for losses cannot exceed the income from winnings.
If you regularly pursue gambling with the intention of making a profit, then it’s effectively your day-to-day job. Rather than claiming your winnings as “other income” on your Form 1040, you can file Schedule C as a self-employed individual.
This is an important distinction, because you can deduct your other costs of doing business on Schedule C, ultimately reducing your taxable income. For example, you can deduct the costs of:
The downside of going pro is that you’ll have to pay self-employed (Social Security and Medicare) on your winnings.
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