Reporting Gains and Losses From Recreational Gambling

Reporting Gains and Losses From Recreational Gambling

Here’s a common scenario: Gavin spends a weekend in Las Vegas. His overall position from gambling is negative, but he made a couple of lucky bets. He receives Form W-2G showing $3,000 in winnings. If he does not report the $3000 on his Form 1040, the IRS computers will be likely to catch the discrepancy between their records and Gavin’s tax return, and Gavin will receive a notice that he owes additional taxes.

If Gavin already has itemized deductions that total to more than his standard deduction, he can deduct up to $3000 of gambling losses on Schedule A (itemized deductions) to offset the winnings.

Here’s how it works:

Scenario 1 – Overall Positive Outcome From Gambling

Gavin’s W2-G says $3,000, but this does not include losses of $2,500 from slot machines. Gavin also spent $645 on transportation and lodging.

Gavin can take the following deductions on Schedule A:

Gambling losses   $2,500
Travel Expenses    $   500

Taxable Gain         $   -0-

Scenario 2 – Overall Negative Outcome From Gambling

Gavin’s W2-G says $3,000, but this does not include losses of $2,500 from slot machines and $1,000 from other bets.

Gavin can take the following deduction on Schedule A:

Gambling losses   $3,000

Taxable Gain         $   -0-

In other words, you can offset gambling winnings with gambling losses and expenses, but only up to the amount shown on Form W-2G. A recreational gambler cannot use gambling losses or expenses to reduce his pre-gambling taxable income.

But what if Gavin’s itemized deductions total less than the standard deduction? In this case, Gavin will have to report his $3000 of winnings from Schedule W-2G. Period. He will not be able to offset any of the gambling winnings with gambling losses or other expenses, even though he had an overall loss from his gambling activities.

About Barbara Lamar
I live in central Texas where I work in my garden and head a small firm that provides tax, accounting, legal, and consulting services for small businesses.

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