"I just lost a bundle in Vegas, but it's OK - I'm writing off the loss!"
Don't count on it. When it comes to writing off gambling losses on your income tax return, the IRS is very strict. Every year the IRS receives tax returns from people who claim their gambling income is minimal while their gambling losses are huge.
The IRS has a simple rule for gambling losses: Taxpayers can only claim deduction on losses equal to or less than their winnings.
Report any gambling winnings as income on your tax return. Be sure you itemize to deduct gambling losses up to the amount of your winnings. If you are a casual gambler, these tax tips can help:
- Gambling income. Income from gambling includes winnings from the lottery, horse racing and casinos. It also includes cash and non-cash prizes. You must report the fair market value of non-cash prizes like cars and trips.
- Payer tax form. If you win, the payer may give you a Form W-2G, Certain Gambling Winnings. The payer also sends a copy of the W-2G to the IRS. The payer must issue the form based on the type of gambling, the amount you win and other factors. You’ll also get a form W-2G if the payer must withhold income tax from what you win.
- How to report winnings. You normally report your winnings for the year on your tax return as “Other Income.” You must report all your gambling winnings as income. This is true even if you don’t get a Form W-2G.
- How to deduct losses. You can deduct your gambling losses on Schedule A, Itemized Deductions. The total you can deduct, however, is limited to the amount of the gambling income you report on your return.
- Keep gambling receipts. Keep records of your wins and losses. This means keeping items such as a gambling log or diary, receipts, statements or tickets.
A word of caution: gambling income and losses are among the favorite red flags that the IRS looks for when ordering an audit. Be prepared to have your paperwork ready!