Income tax and gambling losses

Income tax and gambling losses

Rules concerning income tax and gambling losses vary internationally.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, wins (unless in the course of a trade) are not taxable and losses are not deductible.

United States

In the United States, gambling wins are taxable.

The Internal Revenue Code contains a specific provision regulating income-tax deductions of gambling losses. Under Section 165(d) of the Internal Revenue Code, losses from “wagering transactions” may be deducted to the extent of gains from gambling activities. [ IRC Section 165(d).] Essentially, in order to qualify for a deduction of losses from wagering, the taxpayer can only deduct "up to" the amount of gains he or she accrued from wagering. In "Commissioner v. Groetzinger", the Supreme Court Justice Blackmun alludes to Section 165(d) which was a legislative attempt to close the door on suspected abuse of gambling loss deductions. [480 U.S. 23, 32 (1987).]

Wagering Transaction

The Internal Revenue Service has ruled that a “wagering transaction” consists of three elements. ["Technical Advice Memorandum 200417004."] First, the transaction must involve a prize. Second, the element of chance must be present. Finally, the taxpayer must give some consideration.

ection 165(d) and Professional Gamblers

In "Bathalter v. Commissioner", a full-time horse-race gambler had gains of $91,000 and losses of $87,000. [T.C. Memo 1987-530.] The taxpayer deducted the expenses under Section 162. [ IRC Section 162. ] The service argued that Section 165(d) precluded the taxpayer from engaging in gambling as a "trade or business." [T.C. Memo 1987-530.] The Tax Court held that the taxpayer's gambling was a business activity and allowed the deductions. ["Id."] In essence, the court held that Section 165(d) only applies when a taxpayer is at a loss instead of a net gain and “serves to prevent the [taxpayer] from using that loss to offset other income.” ["Id."] However, if the taxpayer has a net gain, as the horse-race gambler did, then the taxpayer may deduct the expenses under Section 162, and Section 165(d) does not apply. ["Id."]

ection 165(d) and Recreational Gamblers

In addition, in "Valenti v. Commissioner", the court reiterated that Section 165(d) applies to professional gamblers as well as recreational gamblers. [T.C. Memo 1994-483.] The court stated, "... it has been held both by this Court and various courts of appeals that wagering losses cannot be deducted, except to the extent of the taxpayer's gains from wagering activities, and it has been so held even where such activities were conducted as a trade or business as opposed to a hobby." ["Id."] Therefore, for example, if a recreational gambler visits a casino one Saturday and accumulates $600 of losses and $200 of gains, that recreational gambler may deduct $200 of the wagering losses (because she can only deduct an amount up to the amount of wagering gains she accrued).

ee also

*William E. Baxter Jr. vs. the United States


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