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- What Happens if I Don’t Report My Gambling Winnings?
Melanie Porter August 6, 2020 5 min read
What Happens if I Don’t Report My Gambling Winnings?
Different countries have different fiscal laws, but they all agree on one basic principle. You must report all your income, whether this is your salary or gambling winnings unless exempted by law. Yet, many people try to figure out if there is a way to work around this to maximize their profits. Whilst in fear of the ramifications of doing so, you’ll commonly see players on forums specifically asking “what happens if I don’t report my gambling winnings?“.
Well, the answer depends on the jurisdiction, but any income, gambling winnings, or otherwise, that a financial regulator determined that you have failed to report will be taxed and levied with interest. In other words, you want to pay your gambling winnings tax on time, although some people will not let the law stop them.
Consequences of Not Claiming Casino Winnings on Your Taxes
The answer to this question depends on several things. For the most part, you will have to take into consideration the amount you have failed to report, your overall earnings, as well as your overall tax history.
Simply put, there is no immediate legal outcome if you fail to report your gambling winnings. Your tax office probably won’t bother if you have won and failed to report anything below $1,200. This, however, doesn’t mean that if you consistently win and fail to report your winnings the tax office wouldn’t notice. As with all other government institutions, tax authorities are overworked and too busy to bother with a momentary blip on their radar.
If you continue to win and do not report your winnings in your annual 1040 form, assuming you are from the United States, then you can expect a visit from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). At the very least, you will receive a cordial letter from the IRS notifying you that there has been a small discrepancy on your 1040 form, asking you to edify it within an allocated period.
In theory, you could ignore the IRS letters for a while but they will have more insistent and at one point you may be summoned in court or receive a penalty for failing to comply with tax law. Overall, there is no way that you can avoid paying tax on your income and if you do try to stray from the straight and narrow, you may get in trouble with the tax office, and this time for real.
How Much Can You Win in a Casino Without Paying Taxes?
Financial taxation is a self-correcting ecosystem. If you have just won big and decide to buy a car without declaring the money, your car dealer will have to do that for you. In other words, the government will always find about your income and definitely know if you have paid tax on it.
Some people find this reassuring as this way you can never go wrong on your tax return with the government looking over your shoulder. Others find it a little more disturbing naturally. To come back to the original question, “how much can you win in a casino without paying taxes”, there is no such amount in theory. You don’t have to fill out a W-2G form in the casino for specific sums. A W-2G form isn’t necessary in cases where:
- You have won no more than $1200 on slots
- You have won up to $5,000 from poker
However, if your winnings exceed these amounts, the casino may fill out a W-2G form for you, which you then have to submit to the IRS, although, in theory, the casino is supposed to submit the form, and they do. To be on the safe side, though, most accountants we have asked recommend that you always submit your won taxes on the 1040 form for full transparency.
How Much Tax Do You Pay on Gambling Winnings?
Interestingly, the gambling tax may vary a little depending on the situation. The federal gambling winnings tax is fixed at 24%. However, if for some reason, you have failed to provide an ID, you may have to pay 28%. Now, this rate may vary slightly based on some recent changes in legislation.
However, the good news is that as long as you play at licensed and reputable casinos, especially in Atlantic City and on the Las Vegas Strip, you can expect everything to be nice and proper with all tax-related activities.
It’s good to know that some winnings over $5,000 are subject to income tax withholding instead. The amounts that will be levied with an income tax must originate from:
- Sweepstakes (such as prize pools from poker tournaments)
- Wagering pools (factoring any payments won from lotteries)
- Any other type of wager (if the amount won exceeds the bet amount 300 times)
Another interesting scenario is when you win a non-cash prize. Now, while a casino is happy to honor a non-cash award, you must know that you are responsible for paying tax on this, whether it’s a car or some other prize based on the objective market price of the item.
Can I Use My Gambling Losses to Deduct Tax?
Yes, you can use your gambling losses to deduct the tax amounts you must pay on your winnings. However, these deductions may not exceed the amount you have won in the first place. One thing to keep in mind is that it’s best to report your winnings and losses generated through gambling separately.
The good news is that all gambling losses are reported on Schedule A and aren’t subject to the usual 2% limit. It’s important to make sure you have the right habit of keeping track of your gambling winnings and losses. The IRS would expect you to keep the original or a copy of your payment slips, receipts, tickets, and W-2G forms.