If you’re lucky enough to win the upcoming $600 million Powerball, you’ll also be putting a big smile on Uncle Sam’s face.
And when it comes time to give the tax man his share, your total bill will have a lot to do with which state you live in.
For example, if you buy a ticket and live in Florida, you'll pay less than if you live in New York; Florida does not collect state tax on lottery winnings. A New York City Powerball winner can expect to pay about $197.1 million – or more than half of a $376.9 million lump sum payment – in federal, state and city taxes.
The tax bite happens in stages. The very day you cash in your winning ticket you'll be hit with a withholding that is deducted immediately from your payout. Then, next April, you’ll pay whatever additional tax you owe based on the bracket you’re in after you add up all your other earnings.
For smaller pots, you might be able to reduce your tax burden by opting to take your winnings in smaller annual installments to fly below the top state and federal tax brackets.
But that won’t work with this week’s mega-sized pot.
“These payouts are millions of dollars,” Scott Drenkard, an economist with the Tax Foundation. “So it’s not like taking the payout over a long amount of time would sneak you under a highest tax bracket.”
The drawing in the 43-state game is at 10:59 p.m. ET Saturday. If you win, you'll get two choices for collecting the estimated $600 million pot. If you choose to take the prize in 30 annual installments, it will add up to $20 million a year. At this year’s top 39.6 percent bracket, the federal tax bill would come to $7.9 million. (It's a bit of a gamble on whether Congress raises or lowers future tax rates.)
If you go for the lump sum, that will come to “only” $376.9 million. (That’s what’s known as the “net present value” of the $600 million in 30 year payments. The adjustment takes into account the impact of inflation over 30 years along with the interest or investment returns that lump sum can generate over that period.)
A Powerball spokesman said most winners take the lump sum these days because the annual payments are based on very low interest rates. Most people apparently think they can do better investing it on their own.
At the top rate, the federal tax bill on the lump sum option comes to $149.3 million. But you’re not done with the tax man yet.
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If you live in one of ten states that don't tax lottery winnings, you’re probably off the hook for state income taxes. They include: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wyoming. (Unless you bought the lottery ticket in a state with income tax, in which case you’ll have to pay up.)
Otherwise, your state tax bill on a lump sum payout will range from $12.8 million in Indiana to $41.5 million in Hawaii (which doesn’t have a lottery, but you’ll have to pay the tax if you live there and bought a ticket in another state.)
You’ll pay more than $33 million if you live in one of the other high-tax states like Iowa, Vermont, New Jersey and New York.
And if you live in New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg will want a check for $14.6 million.
Don’t put your tax checkbook away just yet. If you plan to share your winnings with your family, you’ll owe a 35 percent federal gift tax if you give more than $14,000 to any one individual in a year. (In 22 states and the District of Columbia, you’ll need to write yet another check for state gift tax.)
Add it all up and it’s no surprise that state politicians love lotteries. As state and local taxes fell after the Great Recession hit in 2007, lotteries have become a booming source of revenues to make up the shortfall.
Total lottery sales in the 2012 fiscal year came to $68.7 billion – up 9 percent from 2011, according to the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries.
“Taxes on gambling, on lotteries, on cigarettes are raised when people don’t want to deal with raising other taxes but there are services that policy makers want to extend,” said Drenkard. “It’s more convenient to raise takes on activities that seem sinful, but that doesn’t make it good policy.”
As lotteries have raised more money over the years – both on the winnings of the lucky few and the ticket receipts from the vast majority of losers – the overall tax burden in some states has shifted heavily to those who can least afford it.
Ten states, for example, now raise more tax per capita from lotteries than from taxes on corporate income, including Rhode Island, West Virginia, South Dakota, Ohio, Texas, Georgia, Oregon, Washington, Delaware and South Carolina.