The real gamble is not paying taxes on Super Bowl windfalls

February 03, 2017 : Annelise Wiens

Taxpayers are expected to bet 11 percent more on the Super Bowl this year than they did last year, according to the American Gaming Association. And whether that’s in an office pool, in Vegas or somewhere else, taxpayers who win, big or not, need to report their winnings as income to the IRS. Even winners of noncash pools could have tax consequences, making “bragging rights” the only nontaxable prize.

Size of prize doesn’t matter to the IRS

No matter the amount, gambling winnings are fully taxable. The larger the prize, the more likely the winner – and the IRS – will receive a tax form reporting the prize, like a 1099-MISC or W2-G. The IRS will be able to compare the information on the taxpayer’s return with the tax form reporting gambling winnings. For this reason, failing to report the prize as income is the surest way to get audited.

Just because a taxpayer doesn’t receive a tax form does not make the winnings tax-free. Taxpayers still have a responsibility to report their prize on their tax return as “other income.”

And noncash prizes don’t escape the IRS’ interest, either. If it is a trip or just a coffee maker or gift card, winners should include the fair market value of any noncash prizes in their taxable income.

Only winners can deduct Super Bowl losses

Gamblers may deduct their losses, but only by as much as they report in winnings. So if a taxpayer entered two pools – one at the office and one among friends – at $10 each and won $100 from their office pool, they could net the entry fee from the winning pool against the income, reporting $90 in winnings. For taxpayers who itemize, the entry fee from the losing pool and any other gambling losses would be taken as an itemized deduction, up to a maximum of $90.

Two wrongs don’t make a right: illegal betting and tax evasion

With the American Gaming Association estimating that 97 percent of this year’s Super Bowl bets will be wagered illegally, taxpayers should know that illegal gambling doesn’t make the winnings tax-free. Taxpayers who make illegal wagers and win still need to report the income on their tax return. If the taxpayer itemizes deductions, they can still deduct the loss to the extent of gain.

People tend not to think of money won from their friends or co-workers in a pool as income, but it is. And because it is income, money won this Super Bowl needs to be reported on the tax return.

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Annelise Wiens

Annelise Wiens

Editor and Producer

As the newsroom editor, Annelise Wiens is interested in more than just tax and industry news, but the stories of H&R Block's 80,000 associates, their communities and H&R Block's world headquarters in Kansas City, Missouri. Wiens joined H&R Block in 2014 from a public relations agency, where she worked with clients in the financial services industry. Before that, she worked as a communicator for a senior member of the United States House of Representatives. She graduated from Biola University in La Mirada, CA with a bachelor's degree in history.

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