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Win the office pool? IRS wants a cut

Gambling winnings are considered taxable income, though you can write off losses up to the amount you won.

By MSN Money Partner Mar 22, 2013 10:57AM

This post is by Kay Bell at


© Image Source/CorbisLady Luck must be Uncle Sam's cousin, because taxes must be paid on all gambling winnings.


Here's a look at the federal tax forms you'll need to share your good fortune with the Internal Revenue Service. And if you lost a few rounds before your numbers came up, there's a way you can turn those losses to your tax advantage.


For recreational gamblers, requirements for reporting and withholding from a winning bet depend on the type of gambling, the amount won and the ratio of the winnings to the wager.


When you pocket $600 or more (and that amount is 300 times your bet) at a horse track, win $1,200 at a slot machine or bingo game, or take $1,500-plus in keno winnings, the payer must get your Social Security number and let the IRS know you came into the extra income.


And while poker aficionados argue the card game isn't gambling, but a game of skill, the IRS still wants details on how well you played Texas Hold 'Em. The IRS now requires all poker tournament sponsors to report competitors' winnings of more than $5,000.


The bottom line is if you are lucky enough to rake in a decent jackpot on a gambling transaction, you'll have to give the IRS your tax information and, in many cases, you're not going to walk away with all the cash you won.


In addition to telling Uncle Sam you were a winner and how much, the payer in these situations generally will reduce your payout by withholding federal taxes at the 25% rate. If you try to shortchange the IRS by refusing to furnish your Social Security number, the payer could take as much as 28% of your winnings right off the top to send to the tax collector.


In either instance, you'll get a Form W-2G showing the amount you won and, if applicable, how much in taxes you paid on it upfront.


When you have to report it

Even if you didn't win enough to trigger W-2G filing, you do want to be a diligent taxpayer and report those gambling winnings, right? The casino, track or lottery agent might not have reported that $25 you won, but it's still taxable income. It's ultimately the taxpayer's responsibility to tell Uncle Sam about his good fortune.


You report your winnings -- from the W-2G or those smaller jackpots -- on line 21, Other Income, of Form 1040. In addition to gambling proceeds, this is where you'd report any prizes or awards (cash or the cash value of merchandise) you won. All this money goes toward your total income amount.


However, you don't have to pay taxes on all your earnings, regardless of how you got them. You can reduce the amount of money the IRS will tax by reporting your losses as part of your overall itemized deductions. Check out line 28, "other miscellaneous deductions," on Schedule A. That's where you report any gambling losses. You can claim up to the total amount of winnings you entered on your 1040, effectively wiping out any taxable gambling income.


But make sure this deduction, along with your other itemizations, is more than the standard amount. You always want to use the method that will provide you a bigger deduction.


Even though technically you might be able to avoid taxes on $3,000 you won by claiming $3,000 in bad bets, that's still less than the standard deduction of $5,950 allowed a single taxpayer on 2012 returns or $6,100 on 2013 filings. If you have no other deductions to itemize, it doesn't make sense to forfeit the standard deduction's other $2,950 (or $3,100 on a 2013 return) just because you can claim gambling losses.


If, however, your wagering losses are large enough to help boost your already substantial itemized deductions, then fill out the Schedule A.


Keep track of your gaming losses

When you do claim your gambling losses on your tax return, it's a good idea to keep a record of them. While you don't have to send your loss data in with your return, documentation could come in handy if the IRS ever questions the claim.


Acceptable gambling-loss recordkeeping includes a written log detailing the date of your wagers, the location, amount of the bet, type of gaming, and wins and losses. You should also hang on to losing lottery tickets or Bingo cards.


The good thing about deducting gambling losses is that, unlike some other deductions, you don't have to meet a certain level before you can claim them. But then again, they aren't completely unlimited.


You can only count as much in losses as you won. So if you spent $100 on lottery tickets and won $75, you can only deduct $75. The other $25 is just part of the price of playing the game.


More from and MSN Money:


Mar 22, 2013 3:13PM
More rules from Uncle Sam.  Whoever in their right mind said America is free.  Its free, for the American government to screw average John Doe American.  Time for a ****ing revolution folks and I mean now!!
Instead of the IRS worrying about the $25.00 f-in dollars i would make on gambling and OVERALL losing your **** for the evening, perhaps they should be more interested in researching how Joe Biden can have a hotel bill over $459,389 dollars for a london Jaunt, and another $585,000 Paris stay. ALL THIS AT TAXPAYER EXPENSE.  This Government can kiss my royal American **** to EVEN SUGGEST I WORRY ABOUT REPORTING $25.00 F-IN DOLLARS. You S.O.B.s are arrogant bastards. Do you dope bastard LIBERALS still think the Democrats are out to "  HELP THE AMERICAN MIDDLE CLASS TAXPAYER "??? Arrogant/ insatiably greedy  HYPOCRITES/BASTARDS/THIEVES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Then you Democratic suck holes want a vote from me?? Get your knee pads out first.  
Mar 22, 2013 3:43PM
It's BS is what it is. The money is already taxed by the person making the bet, they had to pay for their money just like everyone else. Typical of the Gov to see double dipping as alright.
Mar 22, 2013 3:40PM
The worst rule has got to be the patriot act. We need to restart this country at an earlier starting point than that.
Mar 22, 2013 5:32PM
Tax the hell out of the working American so Biden can pay his hotel bill of a half a million.  Politicans living off the backs of the working class.
Mar 22, 2013 5:41PM
I wish they could see my middle finger.
Mar 22, 2013 4:21PM
This is not a new law, this has been around for as long as I can remember. Easiest way to get around it if you do win some money is to go to the local 7-11 or whatever convenience store is around you and grab all those losing lotto tickets people throw out because you can net your losses against your winnings. 
Mar 22, 2013 6:22PM
Figures. Every time money changes hands, there's the gov't trying to steal some of it.
Mar 22, 2013 3:34PM

This isn't news its been this way forever.  Please bring up something that actually is recent rather than something that just happens to go with March madness and doesn't have any bearing on small office pools.

Mar 22, 2013 7:13PM
Yeah...claim that $25 winning as income...while Biden blows a half a million (of YOUR money) on a room in London.
Mar 22, 2013 5:32PM
Then the money spent should be a tax deduction!
Mar 22, 2013 7:12PM
If it's 600 dollars in cash from an office pool, where's the paper trail to be audited by the IRS, if you don't claim it? And, who works at a place where people report the office pool to the IRS when setting it up? And, who works at a place where you win that much money on one office pool? Most I ever won was 75 bucks....

Mar 22, 2013 7:56PM

Why are gamblers" not referred to as 'investors" and the taxed "accordingly"? Hence, if I choose to "invest" in to the Powerball Jack Pot  --invest $2.00 for a chance at a  capital  gain fund -like the Wall; street boys do-- If I win, will the IRS allowed me  to claim a "capital gain" for taxation purposes and pay at the rate of 10% tax, like our former Presidential Candidate was allowed to claim on his taxes -- the "venture" is the same-- taking a big chance of a investment opportunity -- like wall street investing is done every day -- and I will be using my own cash  money ( no outside investors will take any risk), just smart investing on a "long shot", $2.00 for a shot at $320M pay off!...


I'll give it a try, see what the IRS will have to say about "smart investing" maybe even "transfer the "winnings" in a off shore account, like the Professional venture capitalists do...

Mar 22, 2013 7:29PM
The government always has it's hand out!  But if we put ours out, they bit it off.  And get others to call you names and treat you as low life's!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Mar 23, 2013 4:58PM
Im glad in Heaven there's no U.S. gooberment, no IRS, and no America.  God rules up there.....not the politicians.  And it doesnt matter how much money these crooks called....politicians have they cant buy their way into heaven.  
Mar 23, 2013 4:55PM
The IRS needs to be undone.  This country's worst enemy is its gooberment get rid of it and maybe this country can get back to business.
Mar 22, 2013 6:27PM
This is not a new rule, it has always been this way. The only thing that changes is the standard deduction rate so yes it  is a good idea to keep track of your losses as well as your winnings because chances are you can wipe out most of the taxes from gambling especially if you are a frequent gambler and win more than you lose, if not you are just a bad gambler who is losing money with nothing to show for it not even a tax write off!
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