As March Madness Looms, So Do Sports Betting Taxes
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As online sports betting rolls out in more states, people are encountering legalized gambling in new ways. But whether you're wagering on March Madness from your couch or flying to Las Vegas for a weekend at the tables, you'll have to pay taxes on your winnings.
The IRS has clear-cut rules on gambling income that predate the recent explosion of the sports betting industry. In short, the proceeds from a successful wager are taxable income, just like your paycheck or investment gains.
While you can write off some gambling losses if you itemize, that deduction can't exceed the amount of your winnings.
"The U.S. tax code is very broad in how it defines what is taxable. Everything that you earn is taxable, unless it is otherwise said not to be," says April Walker, lead manager for tax practice and ethics with the American Institute of CPAs.
Here are some tax considerations to keep in mind if you're lucky enough to be in the black.
What is Form W-2G?
Gambling establishments, including digital operations such as online sportsbooks, usually provide you and the IRS with a record of your taxable winnings.
The statement is known as the W-2G, and it includes an overview of your gambling winnings, along with any withholding you elected when you gave the establishment your tax information.
Gambling businesses are required to report payouts they made that meet certain thresholds, according to the IRS. You'll likely receive one or more W-2G forms if you:
Won $1,200 or more playing bingo or slots.
Netted $1,500 or more from keno.
Exceeded $5,000 in winnings from a poker tournament.
Obtained $600 or more in another gambling endeavor, such as sports betting, and the payout was at least 300 times the amount you put on the line.
Are all gambling winnings taxable?
It's worth noting that these requirements don't cover every potential situation in which you might win a bet. For instance, your winnings might be below these thresholds, but be mindful that you're supposed to pay taxes on anything you win. So if you get a W2-G, you can be sure the IRS knows about whatever the casino or sportsbook has listed there.
Similarly, the coworker who organized your office March Madness bracket pool is unlikely to send you and the IRS records of your participation.
If you win, though, it's still technically income, says Walker, who is based in North Carolina. But, she adds, "It's between you and the priest ... how you handle it from there."
How do you deduct gambling losses?
You can deduct gambling losses, but there are some significant challenges. For starters, you can't deduct more than the amount you took home in gaming revenue. If you're in the red for the year, don't expect to recoup those losses with tax deductions.
In addition, you won't be able to write off gambling losses unless you itemize your deductions. However, many people do not itemize, instead choosing to take the standard deduction, which knocks a set amount off your taxable income without you having to do anything.
For 2022 tax returns, which are due this year, the standard deduction is $25,900 for married couples filing jointly. If your gambling losses, combined with all your other deductions, don't reach at least this number, you might not want to write off those bad bets.
Another consideration: if you're a professional gambler who makes a good chunk of your living from placing bets, you may have more freedom to deduct your losses. This, however, requires a whole other tax approach that may not make sense for casual gamblers.
Do you need any other documents?
Another factor to consider when writing off gambling losses is that while a casino or sportsbook might send you a record of your gains, they're unlikely to break down what you lost. You'll need to keep your own records for these purposes, the IRS says.
"To deduct your losses, you must keep an accurate diary or similar record of your gambling winnings and losses and be able to provide receipts, tickets, statements, or other records that show the amount of both your winnings and losses," the agency says on its website.
Walker says it's a good idea to be vigilant with recordkeeping anyway. If you have documentation, you can ensure your information jibes with whatever records you might receive from a casino.
How do state taxes treat gambling?
If you have gambling winnings, it's worthwhile to understand the tax considerations in the state where you live and where you gambled.
While Walker says you're most likely to have to settle up with your home state, tax rates and reporting requirements vary widely across the U.S.
Even FanDuel, one of the country's leading online sports betting platforms, doesn't hazard a guess about how states will handle gambling proceeds.
"It depends on the state," FanDuel says on its website, adding that it might have to submit tax information "to one or more state taxing authorities, even if you legally live in another state."
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