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. So is the fair market value of any item you win. Gambling income isn't just card games and casinos; it includes winnings from racetracks, game shows, lotteries, and 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, we will prepare the forms necessary to report your gambling winnings and losses on your tax return.
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 Forms W-2G, which reports the amount of your winnings, as well as the amount of tax that was withheld, if any. You will need these forms to prepare your tax return. Remember that, even if you do not get a W-2G, you must report all gambling winnings.
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
Your gambling winnings are generally subject to a flat 25% tax. However, for the following sources listed below, gambling winnings over $5,000 are subject to income tax withholding:
- Any sweepstakes, wagering pool (including payments made to winnners of poker tournaments), or lottery.
- Any other wager (if the proceeds are at least 300 times the amount of the bet).
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, 25% of the amount is required to be withheld. In some cases, a backup withholding of 28% is required instead. If tax is withheld from your gambling winnings, you will be sent a Form W2-G 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.
The IRS requires you to keep detailed records of your gambling winnings and losses, and to keep any related documents, including receipts, tickets, payment slips, statements, Form W-2G, and Form 5754. 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 or diary.
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 efile 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. 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 so must generally be reported on Form 1040NR. Such income is generally taxed at a flat rate of 30%. Nonresident aliens generally 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 your return on eFile.com, during the tax interview you will be asked if you have gambling income or losses and if so, you will be asked 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, and checks for errors.