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Are Gambling Losses Tax Deductible

Gambling Winnings Are Taxable Income

The IRS certainly doesn’t promote gambling; nonetheless, your gambling losses are tax deductible, but only if you report gambling winnings in the income section of your tax return. As a result, you shouldn’t head to the casino thinking that you can eliminate your tax bill with a few hands of blackjack–if you lose more than you win, your excess gambling losses aren’t deductible.

You must report all of your annual gambling winnings as “other income” on Form 1040. And since the 1040A and 1040EZ don’t allow for the reporting of taxable gambling winnings–you have no choice but to prepare your tax return on the 1040 form. Gambling winnings are subject to the same ordinary income tax rates as your employment income. The hardest part of reporting gambling winnings and deducting gambling losses is keeping track of your wagers during the year. However, the gambling winnings you report on the other income line of your tax return should never include the initial wager that you get back. For example, if you head to Vegas and place a $25 wager at the blackjack table and double your money–your taxable gambling winnings are only $25. If you’re lucky and win a large jackpot though, the casino may have to report it to the IRS on a W-2G form. If you do receive a W-2G form, be sure to report it on your tax return.

Tax Deductible Gambling Losses

The gambling losses you deduct can never be more than the gambling winnings you report on the 1040 form. If you report the $25 blackjack winnings on your income tax return, but lost two $25-wagers right before you win–only $25 of your $50 in gambling losses are tax deductible. However, your deduction includes all gambling losses you incur during the year–not just for the Vegas trip. It can be from any other gambling trip you take or even from losing lottery tickets. One caveat to the gambling loss deduction is that you can only claim it if you elect to itemize your deductions on Schedule A instead of taking the standard deduction. But if you do claim the standard deduction, you still have to report your gambling winnings and pay income tax on it.

Keeping Track of Annual Gambling

If you plan on claiming a deduction for your gambling losses, it’s important that you retain some proof, such as an annual win/loss statement from a casino. Alternatively, you can keep a diary that reports all wagers placed, the resulting wins and losses and the names of individuals who accompany you on each gambling trip. And if you ever purchase lottery tickets, it’s a good idea to hold on to your losing tickets since it’s the best form of documentary proof to offer the IRS if your gambling loss deduction is ever questioned.

Reference: IRS Publication 529-Miscellaneous Deductions