Yes, Gambling Winnings Are Taxable, But Does That Mean Losses Are Deductible?

Make sure you don’t run into any tax problems after the big game.
Updated July 11, 2024
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As the dust settles after an exciting Super Bowl Sunday, many fans found themselves on the edge of their seats for another reason: their Super Bowl bets. Whether you walked away a winner or ended up on the losing side, the tax implications are one aspect of sports betting that often goes overlooked.

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Tax on winnings: what you need to know

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It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of winning a bet, but the reality is that nearly half of those winnings could be owed as taxes. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) considers all gambling winnings as taxable income, regardless of whether you're a professional gambler or just a casual bettor.

The general rule of thumb is if you win big, you’re going to have to pay Uncle Sam first. This means that if you've got a winning bet, you'll likely owe taxes on your winnings, including both federal and state taxes in most cases.

If your winnings reach a certain threshold, typically $600 or more, the gambling vendor will likely send you a W-2G tax form, reporting your earnings to the IRS. However, even if you don't receive this form, you're still responsible for reporting all your gambling income accurately.

It’s not usually common knowledge, but if you're placing bets of any kind — casino earnings included — you need to file form W-2G when claiming winnings above $600.

Consequences of not reporting

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Failing to report gambling income can lead to serious consequences. The IRS has various methods of uncovering discrepancies, such as comparing your reported income to the W-2G forms they receive or scrutinizing your bank deposit activity.

If you're caught underreporting your gambling winnings, you could face a 20% penalty on the underreported amount or even risk jail time for larger sums. It's crucial to comply with tax reporting requirements to avoid these potential repercussions.

Deducting gambling losses

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While you may be able to deduct gambling losses, there are limitations to this deduction. Gambling losses can only be deducted as an itemized deduction, meaning you'll need to forego the standard deduction and instead itemize your expenses.

Additionally, your gambling losses cannot exceed the winnings you report as income. This prevents taxpayers from offsetting other income with gambling losses. However, including the initial wager of a bet as part of your losses can help mitigate your taxable income.

Bottom line

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In the aftermath of the Super Bowl excitement, it's essential to consider the tax implications of your betting activities. Whether you bet on the Chiefs or faced defeat, understanding your tax obligations can prevent unpleasant surprises when it comes time to file your taxes.

Remember, accurately reporting your gambling income and losses is not only a legal requirement but also a crucial step in maintaining compliance with tax laws. By staying informed and proactive about your tax responsibilities, you can navigate the complexities of sports betting with confidence and peace of mind as you make money moves.

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Author Details

Georgina Tzanetos Georgina Tzanetos is a former financial advisor who has been active in financial media for the past six years. She holds a master's in political economy from NYU, where she studied distressed labor markets.