Gambling Winnings and Deducting Losses
In gambling, there are winners and losers. But even the winners can be losers if they don't pay their taxes! Any money you win gambling or wagering is considered taxable income by the IRS as is the fair market value of any item you win. Gambling income isn't just card games and casinos; it also includes winnings from racetracks, game shows, lotteries, and possibly even bingo. Certain special rules apply to gambling income and there are strict recordkeeping requirements. However, you may be able to deduct gambling losses.
The easiest and most accurate way to find out how to report your gambling winnings and losses is to start a free tax return on eFile.com. Based on your answers to several questions, the e-File app will select and prepare the forms necessary to report your gambling winnings and losses on your tax return. However, if you want to learn more about how your gambling income affects your taxes, read on. Your Tax Year 2020 Return is due April 15, 2021. Prepare to prepare with this comprehensive checklist of tax-related steps to take or this list of forms or documents to collect.
Taxable Gambling Income
Gambling income is almost always taxable income. This includes cash and the fair market value of any item you win. By law, gambling winners must report all of their winnings on their federal income tax returns. Depending on the amount of your winnings, you may receive one or more Form W-2G, which reports the amount of your winnings and the amount of tax that was withheld, if any. For nonresident aliens, the amounts will be reported on your Form 1040-NR, Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return. Why worry about all of these forms? Simply prepare and e-File with eFile.com and we will gather and generate the proper forms for you based on a few simple questions. From there, the proper gambling forms will be filed along with your 2020 Tax Return. Remember that, even if you do not get a Form W-2G, you must report all gambling winnings on your return.
Gambling winnings include, but are not limited to, money or prizes earned from:
- Casino games
- Slot machines*
- Poker tournaments
- Betting pools
- Horse or dog races
- Off-track betting
*Exception: winnings from keno, bingo, and slot machines may not be subject to tax withholding if certain circumstances are met. That is, the payer of said winnings may need to be provided with a social security number to avoid withholding.
If gambling winnings are received that are not subject to tax withholding, you may have to pay estimated tax. Not sure how much to pay? Use the eFile.com WITHHOLDucator to estimate how much to withhold and avoid any penalties.
Your gambling winnings are generally subject to a flat 24% tax. However, for the following sources listed below, gambling winnings over $5,000 will be subject to income tax withholding:
- Any sweepstakes, lottery, or wagering pool (this can include payments made to the winner(s) of poker tournaments).
- Any other wager (if the proceeds are equal to or greater than 300 times the bet amount).
If you win a non-cash prize, such as a car or a trip, you will be responsible for paying taxes on the fair market value of each prize. Depending upon the amount of your winnings and the type of gambling, the establishment or payer may be required to withhold income taxes. In general, 24% of the amount is required to be withheld. In some cases, a backup withholding of 24% is required instead. If tax is withheld from your gambling winnings, you will be sent a W2-G form from the payer.
You may deduct gambling losses if you itemize your deductions. You can deduct your losses only up to the amount of your total gambling winnings. You must generally report your winnings and losses separately, rather than reporting a net amount.
Gambling losses are deducted on Schedule A as a miscellaneous deduction and are not subject to a 2% limit. This means that you can deduct all losses up to the amount of your winnings, not just the amount over 2% of your adjusted gross income. When you prepare and e-File your return on eFile.com, the eFile app will automatically generate Schedule A and add it to your return based on the deduction information you enter.
The IRS requires you to keep detailed records of your gambling winnings and losses as well as any related documents, including receipts, tickets, payment slips, statements, and Form W-2G. You must be able to prove both your winnings and losses if you wish to deduct your losses. The IRS suggests that you keep a gambling log.
The IRS requires you to keep the following information about each gambling win and loss:
- Type of gambling activity
- Name and address of the establishment or event
- Names of other people there at the time of the activity
- Amounts of winnings and losses
If you e-File your tax return, you do not have to send any W-2Gs or other documents to the IRS (but you must keep them for your records in case of audit).
The rules described on this page are for the majority of people with gambling income—those who are not professional gamblers. If gambling is your actual profession, then your gambling income is generally considered regular earned income and is taxed at your normal effective income tax rate. As a self-employed individual, you will need to report your income and expenses on Schedule C, which the eFile app will automatically generate and add to your 2020 Tax Return based on the information you enter. You can deduct gambling losses as job expenses using Schedule C, not Schedule A.
Gambling Income Tax Requirements for Nonresidents
U.S. Nonresidents can usually report income that is "effectively connected" with a U.S. business on Form 1040NR-EZ. Gambling winnings, however, are considered to be "not effectively connected" and must generally be reported on Form 1040NR. Such income is generally taxed at a flat rate of 30%. Nonresident aliens often cannot deduct gambling losses. However, there is a tax treaty between the United States and Canada that generally allows Canadian citizens to deduct their gambling losses, up to the amount of their gambling winnings.
Reporting Gambling Winnings and Losses
If you have gambling winnings or losses, they must be reported on your tax return. When you prepare and e-File your return on eFile.com, you will report your gambling income or losses during the tax interview which will lead to a request for more information. We will prepare all the forms needed to report this on your return so you don't have to worry about which form you need. eFile.com walks you through the tax preparation process, helps you fill out the right forms, checks for errors, and provides your Personal Support Page if you have further questions.
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