Gambling

Gambling and Tax Gotchas

Gambling is a recreational activity for many taxpayers, and as one might expect, the government takes a cut if you win and won’t allow you to claim a loss in excess of your winnings. In fact, there are far more tax issues related to gambling than you might expect, and they may impact your taxes in more ways than you might believe. Here is a rundown on the many issues, the so-called “gotchas,” that can affect you. 

Reporting Winnings – Taxpayers must report the full amount of their gambling winnings for the year as income on their 1040 returns. Gambling income includes, but is not limited to, winnings from lotteries, raffles, lotto tickets and scratchers, horse and dog races, and casinos, as well as the fair market value of prizes such as cars, houses, trips, or other non-cash prizes. The full amount of the winnings must be reported, not the net after subtracting losses. The exception to the last statement is that the cost of the winning ticket or winning spin on a slot machine is deductible from the gross winnings. For example, if you put $1 into a slot machine and won $500, you would include $499 as the amount of your gross winnings, even if you’d previously spent $50 feeding the machine.

Frequently, taxpayers with winnings only expect to report those winnings included on Form W-2G. However, while that form is only issued for “Certain Gambling Winnings,” the tax code requires all winnings to be reported. All winnings from gambling activities must be included when computing the deductible gambling losses, which is generally always an issue in a gambling loss audit.

Reporting Losses – A taxpayer may deduct gambling losses suffered in the tax year as a miscellaneous itemized deduction (not subject to the 2% of AGI limitation), but only to the extent of that year’s gambling gains.

Social Security Income – For taxpayers receiving Social Security benefits, whether those benefits are taxable depends upon the taxpayer’s income (AGI) for the year. The taxation threshold for Social Security benefits is $32,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly, $0 for married taxpayers filing separately, and $25,000 for all other filing statuses. If the sum of AGI (before including any SS income), interest income from municipal bonds, and one-half the amount of SS benefits received for the year exceeds the threshold amount, then 50–85% of the SS benefit is taxable.

Health Insurance Subsidies – Lower income individuals who purchase their health insurance from a government marketplace are given a subsidy in the form of a tax credit to help pay the cost of their health insurance. Most people eligible for the tax credit use it to reduce their monthly health insurance premiums. That tax credit is based upon the AGIs of all members of the family. The higher the family income, the lower the subsidy becomes. 

Medicare B & D Premiums – If you are covered by Medicare, the amount you are required to pay (generally withheld from your Social Security benefits) for Medicare B premiums is normally $144.60 per month and is based on your AGI two years prior. However, if that AGI was above $87,000 ($174,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly), the monthly premiums can increase to as much $491.60. If you also have prescription drug coverage through Medicare Part D, and if your AGI exceeds the $87,000/$174,000 threshold, your monthly surcharge for Part D coverage will range from $12.20 to $76.40 (2020 rates).

Online Gambling Accounts – If you have an online gambling account, there is a good chance that the account is with a foreign company. All U.S. persons with a financial interest or signature authority over foreign accounts with an aggregate balance of over $10,000 

anytime during the prior calendar year must report those accounts to the Treasury by the April due date for filing individual tax returns or face draconian penalties. 

Other Limitations – The aforementioned are the most significant “gotchas.” Numerous other tax rules limit tax benefits based on AGI, as discussed in gotcha #1. These include medical deductions, certain casualty losses, child and dependent care credits, the Child Tax Credit, and the Earned Income Tax Credit, just to name a few.

If you have questions related to gambling and taxes, please call this office.

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