Paying Taxes on Slot Machine Jackpots
I have received many, many blog suggestions from you all and a recurring one revolves around taxes. I was hesitant to respond as I am by no means an accountant, but I figured I'd offer a bit of guidance. The below is represented by my own experiences only within the US and playing slots.
The government wants all of your money. We already knew that. But there are ways of making sure they don't get their hands on it.
Basically ONLY when you win a Jackpot Handpay ($1200 or more), the casino is required to get the IRS involved and provide you with a W-2. Depending on the State or the Casino, they treat this differently. Some hold back 'estimated' taxes immediately, and others don't. In California and Nevada, they don't take them out. They will hand you a form stating your jackpot win and you are now required by law to file those wins as income at tax time. You will now be taxed at your tax bracket. Technically when you don't win a Jackpot, BUT leave a casino in the positive - you're suppose to claim that win too....technically...
Now for casinos who give you the OPTION to withhold taxes or not, what should you do? Well that all depends on how often you gamble, and how big the win is. If you're a regular gambler and you know for a fact that you'll be down overall at the end of the year - then don't have them take out the taxes on a small hand pay. You may as well collect the interest on that money instead of the government. My first year in the US, I told them to keep the taxes so that I'd have a nice surprise coming back at tax time...however the government took a year and a half to pay me back! No thank you! Now, if you win a large sum of $20,000 or higher (depending on what you normally bet/lose this will be a lot higher or lower for some readers), you may wish have the taxes withheld ONLY IF you can't trust yourself to spend that money. The worst thing you could possibly do is to keep all the money, spend it all, and then owe a lot at tax time that you can't afford. You have be honest with yourself and do what makes sense for you. Personally I'd have to win about $25,000 or more to consider holding back taxes or not, but I gamble multiple times a month.
To save yourself from owing anything at tax time, you must prove that you lost more money than you won. One way you can do that is by ALWAYS using your players card in the slot machine. This will track all the money that goes into the machines, and all the money that comes out. At the end of each year you can request a WIN/LOSS Statement from every casino you've played at, which (99 times out 100) will show that you lost more money. Granted, this is not a legal document, however it seems to work for most people. What you're supposed to do according to the IRS: "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." Talk about a buzz kill! But that's what they want. (Refer to Publication 529, Miscellaneous Deductions, for more information.)
For someone like me who visits dozens of casinos in a year, it's a part-time job in itself organizing all of this stuff - but with 50 hand pays a year, you better believe I do NOT want to be paying taxes on all of those 'wins'.
I urge you to take my notes with a grain of salt and to do your own research and to use a professional accountant...I am a professional slots player, aka I lose more than I win all the time. For a more in depth checkup on yourself, the IRS has provided an interview to help you determine how to claim your gambling wins/losses that you can follow.
Now to make the mood a little lighter, how about a few videos where I had to get the IRS involved because of a BIG WIN!
Now get out there and win some big jackpots!! (Just make sure you lose more so you don't owe any taxes, haha)
Brian Christopher is a popular YouTube Star specializing in Slot Machine Gambling Videos