Before you see a dollar of lottery winnings, the IRS will take 25%. Up to an additional 13% could be withheld in state and local taxes, depending on where you live. Still, you’ll probably owe more when taxes are due, since the top federal tax rate is 37%. So the best first step lottery winners can take is to hire a financial advisor who can help with tax and investment strategies. Read on for more about how taxes on lottery winnings work and what the smart money would do.
How Are Lottery Winnings Taxed?
The IRS considers net lottery winnings ordinary taxable income. So after subtracting the cost of your ticket, you will owe federal income taxes on what remains. How much exactly depends on your tax bracket, which is based on your winnings and other sources of income, so the IRS withholds only 25%. You’ll owe the rest when you file your taxes in April.
The Trump Tax Plan dropped the highest tax bracket rate from 39% to 37%, so recent winners (and high earners) have caught a small break. You can find your bracket on the table below.
|2018 – 2019 Tax Brackets|
|Single Filers||Married Filing Jointly||Tax Rate|
|$0 – $9,525||$0 – $19,050||10%|
|$9,526 – $38,700||$19,051 – $77,400||12%|
|$38,701 – $82,500||$77,401 – $165,000||22%|
|$82,501 – $157,500||$165,001 – $315,000||24%|
|$157,501 – $200,000||$315,001 – $400,000||32%|
|$200,001 – $500,000||$400,001 – $600,000||35%|
On the bright side, if you’re in the top bracket, you don’t actually pay 37% on all your income. Federal income tax is progressive. As a single filer and after deductions, you pay:
- 10% on the first $9,700 you earn
- 12% on the next $29,775
- 22% on the next $44,725
- 24% on the next $76,525
- 32% on the next $43,375
- 35% on the next $306,200
- 37% on any amount more than $510,300
- There are two IRS forms you must complete to report gambling winnings: the U.S. Individual Tax Return 1040 and IRS Form W-G2 Certain Gambling Winnings. All profits from gambling are subject to a 24% gambling tax. However, some sources of gambling winnings are automatically subject to withholding tax.
- Gambling winnings are subject to withholding for federal income tax at a rate of 24% as of 2020 if you win more than $5,000 from sweepstakes, wagering pools, lotteries, or other wagering transactions, or anytime the winnings are at least 300 times the amount wagered.
The IRS considers net lottery winnings ordinary taxable income. So after subtracting the cost of your ticket, you will owe federal income taxes on what remains. How much exactly depends on your tax bracket, which is based on your winnings and other sources of income, so the IRS withholds only 25%. A nonresident who received gambling winnings from Louisiana sources and who is required to file a federal income tax return must file a Louisiana return reporting the Louisiana income earned. If the amount withheld is overpaid, a refund of the difference will be issued or credited to the tax liability for the following year, based upon the.
In other words, say you make $40,000 a year and you won $100,000 in the lottery. That raises your total ordinary taxable income to $140,000, with $25,000 withheld from your winnings for federal taxes. As you can see from the table above, your winning lottery ticket bumped you up from the 22% marginal tax rate to the 24% rate (assuming you are a single filer and, for simplicity’s sake here, had no deductions).
But that doesn’t mean you pay a 24% tax on the entire $140,000. You pay that rate on only the portion of your income that surpasses $84,200. In this case, that’s on $55,800. Your total tax bill would be $970 (10% of $9,700) + $3,573 (12% of $29,775) + $9,839.50 (22% of $44,725) + $13,392 (24% of 55,800) = $27,774.50. Usually, your employer would have withheld federal taxes from your paycheck, but if for some reason your employer didn’t, you would still owe $2,774.50 in federal taxes ($27,774.50 – $25,000).
Of course, if you were already in the 37% tax bracket when you win the lottery, you would have to pay the top marginal rate on all your prize money.
But these rules apply only to federal income tax. Your city and state may want a cut, too.
How Are Lottery Winnings Taxed by State?
Come tax time, some states will also take a piece of your lottery winnings. How large a piece depends on where you live. The Big Apple takes the biggest bite, at up to 13%. That’s because New York State’s income tax can be as high as 8.82%, and New York City levies one up to 3.876%. Yonkers taxes a leaner 1.477%. If you live almost anywhere else in New York State, though, you’d be looking at only 8.82% in state taxes, tops.
Of states that have an income tax, rates can span from about 2.9% to 8.82%. Nine states, however, don’t levy a state income tax. They are:
- New Hampshire
- South Dakota
If you live in one state and buy a ticket in another, typically the state where the ticket was bought (and the prize paid) will withhold its taxes at its rate. You will have to sort out how much you actually owe to your state at tax time (you will receive a credit for the amount already withheld–and the states will sort out who gets what between them).
These examples reflect possible outcomes from taking your winnings as a lump sum. In most cases, however, your options include taking your earnings as a series of monthly payments.
Should I Take a Lump Sum or Annuity Lottery Payments?
The answer depends on your preferences. Most financial advisors recommend you take a lump sum, because it allows you to receive a larger return if you invest it in growth-oriented assets such as stocks. You may also want all the money to be able to buy a big-ticket item like a car, house or island, if your winnings are large enough.
Winners of small jackpots, though, may want to receive their winnings in annual or monthly payments, especially if it means they’ll owe less in taxes. Or they may prefer the steady stream of cash to ensure they don’t make the common mistake of blowing through all or most of their winnings. If you do take the annual or monthly payments, you should still work with an advisor on how to best use that money stream. For example, you’d probably want to prioritize contributing to your retirement savings account. If you don’t have one, winning the lottery may be a golden opportunity to open an individual retirement account (IRA) or Roth IRA.
In any event, you’d want to stash some cash for emergencies, taxes and other expenses down the road. Below, we provide links to reports on the best savings accounts, certificates of deposit (CDs) and investing vehicles:
How to Minimize Your Tax Burden After You Win the Lottery
Taxes on lottery winnings are unavoidable, but there are steps you can take to minimize the hit. As mentioned earlier, if your award is small enough, taking it in installments over 30 years could lower your tax liability by keeping you in a lower bracket.
Nys Tax On Gambling Winnings
Also, you could donate to your favorite non-profit organizations. This move allows you to take advantage of certain itemized deductions, which, depending on your situation, could bring you into a lower tax bracket.
Additionally, if you are sharing your good fortune with family and friends, you’ll want to avoid paying a gift tax. You can gift up to $15,000 per year per person without owing a gift tax. If you go over the limit, you probably still won’t owe tax, since the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act raised the lifetime gift and estate tax exclusion to about $11.4 million for single filers ($22.8 million for married couples filing jointly). Any amounts over the $15,000 per year per individual will count toward the lifetime exclusion.
If you anticipate coming close to the limit, though, remember that direct payments to colleges and universities don’t count as gifts; neither do direct payments to medical institutions. Also, if you are married, each of you can contribute $15,000 to a person, so that is $30,000 per year that is gift-tax free. Also, if the recipient is married, you and your spouse can give the spouse $15,000 each, which means you can give a total $60,000 to a couple, gift-tax free.
What to Do After Winning the Lottery
Winning the lottery, especially if it’s a large sum, can be a life-altering event for some. What you do next can put you on the path to financial wellness for the rest of your life. Or it can put you on the roller coaster ride of your life that leaves you broke.
Perhaps the best thing to do with your winnings at first is nothing. Take time to figure out how this windfall affects your financial situation. Calculate your tax liability with an accountant and earmark at least what it will take to cover the tax bill. Then comes the fun part: creating a blueprint of how you’re going to manage the rest of the cash.
But don’t go it alone. Work with a qualified financial advisor who can help you preserve and grow the money. After all, no matter how large your winnings are, they aren’t infinite. So making smart investments is key to your having enough money for the rest of your life.
Tips on Finding the Right Financial Advisor
- Use SmartAsset’s pro matching tool. After you answer a few questions about your financial situation in about five minutes, the tool links you with up to three financial advisors in your area. You can then review their profiles or set up interviews before deciding to work with one.
- Ask advisors about their certifications. In addition to telling you about the advisor’s training, these designations inform you about the advisor’s standards. For example, a certified financial planner (CFP) is bound by the fiduciary duty to provide advice in the client’s best interest at all times. Read our story to learn more about the top financial certifications.
Photo credit: ©iStock.com/SIphotography, ©iStock.com/imagedepotpro, ©iStock.com/SIphotography
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Hit it big playing the lottery? You’re probably thinking about how you’ll spend all that sweet cash. But first, Uncle Sam is going to want his cut.
The Internal Revenue Service considers lottery money as gambling winnings, which are taxed as ordinary income. The total amount of tax you pay on your lottery winnings will depend on multiple factors, including the state where you live and whether you take the winnings as a lump-sum payment (one check for the full amount after taxes have been withheld) or an annuity (smaller annual payments that are paid out and taxed over time).
Although you probably won’t be able to completely escape the tax man, you may be able to offset taxes on lottery winnings by claiming deductions you qualify for. Here are some things to know about paying federal income taxes on lottery winnings. Keep in mind tax rules may vary for state and local income taxes, so for the purposes of this article, we’re talking about federal income taxes only.
Do I have to pay taxes on lottery winnings?
The IRS considers most types of income taxable, unless the tax code specifically says it’s not. Because lottery winnings are considered gambling winnings, which are definitely considered taxable income, the IRS will want its cut.
For lottery winnings, that means one of two things.
- You’ll either pay taxes on all the winnings in the year you receive the money — for winnings paid out as a lump-sum payment.
- Or you’ll pay taxes only on the amount you receive each year — for winnings paid as an annuity.
Take note: If you receive interest on annuity installments that haven’t been paid to you yet, that interest must be included in your gross income for the tax year you received it.
How will the IRS know about my lottery winnings?
If your winnings are $600 or more, the lottery agency is supposed to give you a Form W-2G that you’ll have to file with your federal income tax return if the agency withheld federal income tax from your winnings.
The lottery agency is also required to send a copy of this form to the IRS if your winnings are $600 or more, so it’s important to accurately report your winnings on your federal tax return.
And even if you don’t receive a W-2G for your lottery winnings (or other type of gambling payouts), you’re still expected to report those winnings as income on your federal tax return.
How could winning the lottery affect my taxes overall?
Getting a huge financial windfall can be life-changing, but it doesn’t change everything — you’ll still have to pay taxes and bills. Federal and state taxes can decrease the amount of money you ultimately receive, so it’s crucial to understand taxes on lottery winnings when you strike it big.
Whether you’re all-in on your prize money and accept it as a lump sum or you’re receiving payments over time, winning the lottery generally increases your income. Taxes are calculated based on your taxable income for the year, so if the extra income from lottery winnings moves you into a higher tax bracket, you’ll typically end up paying more income tax.
If you fail to report taxable income (including lottery winnings) on your tax return, you could owe additional tax, interest and even penalties.
What is the tax rate for lottery winnings?
Depending on where you live, you may need to pay taxes on lottery winnings to your state and local governments in addition to the federal government.
Right off the bat, lottery agencies are required to withhold 24% from winnings of $5,000 or more, which goes to the federal government. But, depending on whether your winnings affect your tax bracket, there could potentially be a gap between the mandatory withholding amount and what you’ll ultimately owe the IRS.
Even if your lottery winnings don’t boost your tax bracket, if the federal government withheld too much tax on your lottery winnings, you might get a refund at tax time.
State and local tax
Each state has its own rules on taxing lottery winnings, so check both your state’s tax website and your city’s tax website for information. For example, if you live and win in New York City, the state government will withhold 8.82% and the city will withhold another 3.876% — on top of your base federal withholding of 24%.
Seven states — Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming — don’t have income tax, so big winners in those states won’t pay state taxes on prize money. Some other states don’t have a state lottery at all.
And three more states — California, New Hampshire and Tennessee — exclude their state lottery winnings from taxable income. But before you play the lottery in a different state, check the rules so that you know whether any taxes will apply to your winnings.
Should I take a lump sum or annuity payments?
Whether you get to choose between a lump sum or annual installments for your lottery payout can depend on different factors, like state lottery rules and how much you won. Either way, here’s how the two payout types will affect your federal income taxes.
Receiving your winnings as a single lump sum could potentially bump you right into the highest bracket for the tax year in which you win the lottery. That would mean if you win a very large amount, your income over a set threshold ($518,401 for single taxpayers and $622,051 for married couples filing jointly, for 2020) would be taxed by the IRS at 37%.
“If you decide to have a lump sum payment, that would probably put you in the higher tax bracket for that one year,” says Megan McManus, CPA and owner at Megan McManus, CPA.
For example, if you’re single and your current taxable income is $40,000, a $1 million lottery payout, taken in a lump sum, would increase your total income to $1,040,000 for the tax year. At the federal level, the portion of your income over $518,401 would be taxed at 37%. But all the lower tax rates would also apply to portions of your income less than that threshold. Here’s what you’d pay (rounded to the nearest dollar).
- 10% on income up to $9,700 = $970
- 12% on the next $29,775 = $3,573
- 22% on the next $44,725 = $9,839
- 24% on the next $76,525 = $18,366
- 32% on the next $43,375 = $13,880
- 35% on the next $306,200 = $107,170
- 37% on the last $529,700 = $195,989
If you add all that up, your total federal income tax obligation for the year would be $349,787.
Annual payments impact
Depending on your income, receiving annual payments will also likely affect your tax bracket — but the immediate financial impact could be less.
Federal Tax Rate Lottery Winnings
“The annuity payments would probably allow you to be in a lower tax bracket each year,” McManus says.
Let’s look at the above scenario with the same amount of lottery winnings broken out into 30 annual payments of about $33,333.
With the annuity approach, your taxable income would increase to just $73,333 in the year you won the lottery (assuming other factors like a wage increase didn’t boost your taxable income). The highest federal tax rate that would apply to your income would be just 22%. Here’s what you’d pay (rounded to the nearest dollar).
- 10% on up to $9,700 = $970
- 12% on the next $29,775 = $3,573
- 22% on the remaining $33,858 = $7,449
Your total federal income tax obligation for the year in which you win would be just $11,992.
Learn more about the marginal tax rate and what it means for your winnings.
How can I offset federal taxes on lottery winnings?
If you’ve won the lottery, the IRS expects you to report it as income on your tax return. And Uncle Sam is going to want his share whether you receive your winnings as a lump sum or annual payments. But there are ways to try to offset the increased tax obligation your lottery winnings will cause.
Deductions are dollar amounts the IRS allows you to subtract from your adjusted gross income, or AGI, if you meet the requirements. This lowers your taxable income, which in turn can reduce your tax obligation. Here are two possible deductions (if you itemize).
- Charitable donations — You may be able to deduct the value of your charitable contributions from your income as long as the organization is a qualified tax-exempt organization — but certain conditions and limits apply. For example, you can only deduct cash donations that are equal to no more than 60% of your AGI.
- Gambling losses — You can deduct your gambling losses (like the cost of lottery tickets that you didn’t win on) as long as they don’t exceed the winnings you report as income. For example, if you report $1,000 in winnings but you have $2,000 in losses, you can only deduct $1,000.
Play the lottery in a pool
If you join a pool with others to buy lottery tickets, then any potential lottery prizes will be smaller because you’re sharing it — but your tax hit will be smaller, too.
“You’ll only be taxed on your portion of the income,” McManus says, “so if you receive a third of the winnings, you would only pay tax on that third.”
To make sure you’re taxed correctly, document how much of the winnings go to each person in your group. Ask the lottery agency to cut checks for each person in the pool instead of having one person collect and distribute the winnings. This may help ensure you only pay taxes on the amount you actually receive.
Winning the lottery could change your life by giving you a certain level of financial freedom. But before claiming your prize, consider speaking with a financial or tax adviser who can help you understand the potential tax impact of your winnings and plan the best way to manage your windfall.
Consider how you plan to use the money.
Does Pa Tax Gambling Winnings
“If you want to buy a house or put your kids through college, you might need the funds now, as opposed to taking annual payments,” McManus says.
But if your objective is to ensure a steady stream of income, annual payments may be more appealing to you.
Whether you receive your lottery winnings as a lump sum or annual payments though, you’ll still have to pay the federal government — and possibly your state and local government — their share of your winnings. So it’s important to have a plan for how to best save, invest and grow the winnings you’ll keep.
Relevant sources: Topic No. 419 Gambling Income and Losses | IRS: Publication 538 | New York Lottery General Rules | IRS: Pay As You Go, So You Won’t Owe
Christina Taylor is senior manager of tax operations for Credit Karma Tax®. She has more than a dozen years of experience in tax, accounting and business operations. Christina founded her own accounting consultancy and managed it for more than six years. She codeveloped an online DIY tax-preparation product, serving as chief operating officer for seven years. She is the current treasurer of the National Association of Computerized Tax Processors and holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration/accounting from Baker College and an MBA from Meredith College. You can find her on LinkedIn.