Sunday, January 30, 2011

How Do I Report Gambling, Hobby and Other Miscellaneous Taxable Income?

During economic downturns, many people often look for ways to supplement their regular employment compensation. Or, you may be engaging in an activity - such as gambling or selling items on an online auction - that is actually earning you income: taxable income. Many individuals may not understand the tax consequences of, and reporting requirements for, earning these types of miscellaneous income. This article discusses how you report certain types of miscellaneous income.

Reporting your miscellaneous taxable income

For most people, gambling winnings and hobby income are uncommon types of taxable income. Gambling winnings and hobby income, as well as prizes and awards, represent "miscellaneous income" and are reported on Line 21 of your Form 1040 as "other income."

Hobby income

Hobbies are generally considered under the tax law as activities that are not pursued "for profit." However, the tax law provides that if your hobby shows a profit in at least three of the last five tax years, including the current year, you are assumed to be trying to make money. However, you can rebut the assumption -- that you are not out to run a profitable business even if you regularly have losses -- with evidence to the contrary. Just because you love what you are doing in a sideline business does not mean it's a hobby for tax law purposes. In fact, one secret to business success is often enjoying your work. Profits you receive from an activity that is a hobby and not a for-profit business are reported as "other income" on Line 21 of your Form 1040.

Hobby losses and expenses

You cannot deduct your hobby expenses in excess of income you derived from the hobby, and you can only deduct qualifying expenses if you itemize your deductions. Expenses that you incurred in generating hobby income are generally deductible as miscellaneous itemized deductions, subject to the two-percent floor, on Schedule A. If you incurred losses in connection with your hobby activities, you may generally be able to deduct these "hobby losses" but only to the extent of income produced by the activity.

However, some expenses that are deductible whether or not they are incurred in connection with a hobby (such as taxes, interest and casualty losses) are deductible even if they exceed hobby income. These expenses, however, will reduce the amount of your hobby income against which your hobby expenses can be offset. Your hobby expenses then offset the reduced income in the following order:

1. Operating expenses, generally;

2. Depreciation and other basis adjustment items.

As mentioned above, your itemized deduction for hobby expenses is subject to the two-percent floor on miscellaneous itemized deductions.

Gambling winnings

Gambling winnings, whether legal or illegal, are included in your gross income. If you have winnings from a lottery, raffle, or other types of gambling activities, you must report the full amount of your winnings on Line 21 of your Form 1040 as "other income." The taxable gains are the amount by which your winnings exceed the amount you wagered. If any taxes were withheld from your winnings, you should receive a Form W-2G showing the total paid to you in Box 1, and the amount of income taxes withheld in Box 2. You need to include the amount in Box 2 in the amount of taxes paid on Line 59 of your 1040.

Gambling losses

You can deduct your gambling losses as an itemized deduction for the year on Schedule A (Form 1040), line 28. However, you cannot deduct gambling losses that exceed your winnings. Thus, you can deduct losses from gambling up to the amount of your gambling winnings. You cannot reduce your gambling winnings by your gambling losses and report the difference. You must report the full amount of your winnings as income and claim your losses (up to the amount of winnings) as an itemized deduction. Therefore, your records should show your winnings separately from your losses.

You can reduce your gambling winnings by your wagering losses regardless of whether the underlying transactions are legal or illegal. Moreover, gambling losses may be offset against all gains arising out of wagering transactions, and not merely against gambling winnings. However, gambling losses can only be used to offset gambling gains during the same year.

Moreover, you cannot use your gambling losses to reduce taxable income from non-gambling sources, and they cannot be used as a carryover or carryback to reduce gambling income from other years. For example, the value of complimentary goods you might receive from a casino as an inducement to gamble are gains from which gambling losses can be deducted.

Casinos, lotteries and other payers of gambling winnings of $600 or more ($1,200 for bingo or slot machines and $1,500 for keno) report the winnings on Form W-2G, Certain Gambling Winnings.

If you have any questions about tax and reporting requirements in connection with hobby activities and other sources of income, please call our office.

Circular 230 notification - Any U.S. federal tax advice that is contained in this document was not intended or written to be used by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer by the Internal Revenue Service, and it cannot be used by any taxpayer for such purpose.