Can I Claim Lottery Scratch-Offs on My Taxes?

by Tara Thomas ; Updated March 15, 2018
You can deduct the cost of lottery tickets under certain circumstances.

It’s common knowledge that if you're lucky enough to win the lottery, Uncle Sam will invariably expect a portion. However, many people are not aware that they can also claim some lottery losses on their federal income taxes. As far as the IRS is concerned, these winnings are considered gambling regardless of whether they are from a raffle, a scratch-off, sports betting, lotto ticket, horse race or a slot machine payout from a casino – all must be reported as taxable income. There are limitations to claiming these winnings, and in order to claim deductions on your losses, you must also report any winnings (regardless of amount) on your tax return.

Can I Really Claim Losing Lottery Tickets on My Taxes?

The short answer to this question is, yes, you can claim non-winning lottery tickets on your taxes. But, like most things involving the IRS, there are rules and requirements that must be met in order to do so. You won’t be able to deduct losses on your taxes if you go with standard deductions. To claim lotto ticket losses on your taxes, first, you will have to be eligible to itemize. If your total gambling losses – plus all of your other itemized expenses – exceed the standard deduction for your filing status, only then would you itemize. While you can deduct gambling losses, these deductions cannot exceed the amount of your total winnings.

For example, if you win $1,000 playing the lotto, but you’ve purchased $2,000 worth of losing tickets, you can write off the losing tickets only up to the amount of your $1,000 winnings, and not the entire $2,000 you lost playing. The IRS does this because if you were allowed to deduct all of your losses, then the government would in essence be subsidizing gambling. With this rule in place, at most, you can avoid having to pay taxes on what you did win.

Keeping Track of Your Winnings and Losses

To report any gambling winnings, keep accurate journals or records and proof of all your winnings and losses. These records should detail the date of your winnings or losses and the type of gambling you participated in. In addition, you will need the name of the people you were with and the amount you won or lost. Also, it's advised to keep losing scratch-off tickets, casino receipts, canceled checks or credit card statements that you used to gamble. In the event the IRS takes a second, closer look at your tax returns, you will be able to easily prove any gambling deductions that you claimed.

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Which Forms Do I Need to Claim Lottery Scratch-Offs?

Because you need to itemize to claim these deductions, you have to use IRS Form 1040 to report your winnings and losses. You will list all winnings you’ve received from gambling on line 21 of Form 1040, entitled Other Income. This should include winnings of any amount regardless of whether you were given cash at a poker game or you won a car at the casino.

Report gambling losses on Schedule A found on Form 1040 under Other Miscellaneous Deductions. To claim these deductions, you must report all of your winnings as income as well as claiming your qualifying losses separately. You cannot report only your losses or you might find yourself in hot water with the IRS.

About the Author

Tara Thomas has been a writer and traveler since 1997. Her articles appear in various online publications. She also has experience authoring grant proposals for a Southern California marine science laboratory, which helped her develop a lifelong interest in environmentalism. Thomas is an event planner, has a Bachelor of Science in marine biology from California State University, Long Beach, and worked as a mortgage consultant since 1998.

Photo Credits

  • A young woman holding a pen, doing her taxes image by Christopher Meder from Fotolia.com
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