Massachusetts Gambling Income Question

#1

Question for anyone knowledgeable about Massachusetts tax law:

Supposedly for Massachusetts tax purposes, "actual winnings" from anywhere count as gambling income, and losses do not offset these, except for expenses incurred in buying a winning Mass. state lottery ticket.

What are "actual winnings" in a cash-style poker session?

Hypothetical example:

Massachusetts resident (who likes to play poker and does not like to cheat on taxes) goes to a casino out of state, buys \$100 in chips.

Plays poker, and all hands are folded except three:

Hand A: posted \$1 required blind (rotating ante), bet \$9 additional, won \$30 pot -- net = plus \$20 for the hand (or net = plus \$21 not counting the required blind).

Hand B: bet \$80 and lost -- net = minus \$80 for the hand.

Hand C: bet \$40 and won \$120 pot -- net = plus \$80 for the hand

Five other hands had a required blind (rotating ante) of \$1 each -- net minus \$5.

(Tipped dealer using cash rather than chips, to keep things simple.)

Cash-out \$115 in chips.

Gain for the poker session is \$15.

Net for the poker session if the required blinds do not count as part of the betting is \$21.

Total of pots won is \$150.

Total net only counting winning hands is \$100, if required blind is counted as part of the bet.

Total net only counting winning hands is \$101, if required blind is not counted as part of the bet.

Under Mass. tax law -- is this \$15 in gambling winnings; \$21 in gambling winnings; \$150 in gambling winnings; \$100 in gambling winnings; \$101 in gambling winnings; or ambiguous depending on how "actual winnings" is interpreted?

It would seem conceivable that if a state considers cash-style poker to be a vice that it is dead-set on discouraging, it might want to tax every pot won or every hand won rather than the net on the session. And as long as it is only state tax and the purpose of playing is for fun, the "extra rake" on each hand won would not be a killer. The killer would be trying to keep track of every damn hand's winnings; as opposed to just keeping track of total buyin for the day and total cash-out for the day.

SHORT VERSION:

Two Massachusetts residents sit at an out-of-state poker table and pass the same \$50 back-and-forth 20 times. Does Massachusetts consider this to be \$1,000 in gambling income for each of them?

Fine, this is a stupid question. But if anybody knows the answer, I would be interested. Thanks.

#2

I don’t understand how they only tax winnings, but not losses. Typically, losses are allowed, but only to the extent they offset winnings.

Anyways, why would you report this to the IRS?

#3

I have read a couple of things that seem to indicate that “actual winnings” for a poker session is the net gain for the session, if any.

But that still leaves another interesting (or uninteresting?) question:

For a taxpayer for whom poker is a hobby, are tips for the dealer using chips removed from the pot or from one’s chip-stack still supposed to be part of the net gain for tax purposes?

If the answer to that one is “yes”, then it would seem that record-keeping and accurate reporting (both Federal and State) would be a lot easier for any player (who might be so inclined) if he were to tip the dealer with cash from his pocket, rather than with chips. Otherwise just writing down how much in chips he bought and later writing down how much in chips he cashed out does not provide an accurate net gain or net loss for tax purposes.

The common practice is to tip the dealer using chips. (I am aware that the common practice is also to not report small cash gains.)

#4

[quote]Dr. Pangloss wrote:

I don’t understand how they only tax winnings, but not losses. Typically, losses are allowed, but only to the extent they offset winnings.
[/quote]
My understanding is Federal and Massachusetts State both count “actual winnings” as income; Federal allows losses to be itemized on Schedule A; Massachusetts does not allow losses to be offset against wins at all unless the player does it as a business.

(Further research seems to indicate “actual winnings” or losses in a poker session is the net gain or loss for the session; not hand-by-hand.)

#5

That makes no sense at all - I’m not saying you’re wrong, though.

I sit down at a black jack table and play 10 hands. The first 5 are \$100 a hand and (ignoring vig) I win each one. Since I’m hot, I play \$200 a hand the next 5 and lose each one*. According to Massachusetts, I owe tax on \$500? Even though I’m down \$500 on the session?

I’ve never filled out a W2-G at a casino although I know guys who have. Again, unless you’ve filled one out, how is the IRS or State going to know you’ve won?

• pretty sure this has happened to me more than once.

#6

[quote]undoredo wrote:

[quote]Dr. Pangloss wrote:

I don’t understand how they only tax winnings, but not losses. Typically, losses are allowed, but only to the extent they offset winnings.
[/quote]
My understanding is Federal and Massachusetts State both count “actual winnings” as income; Federal allows losses to be itemized on Schedule A; Massachusetts does not allow losses to be offset against wins at all unless the player does it as a business.

(Further research seems to indicate “actual winnings” or losses in a poker session is the net gain or loss for the session; not hand-by-hand.)
[/quote]

What is a “session”?

I don’t see any good way to do this other than hand-by-hand in a cash game and offset losses (assuming any way to do it is “good”). In a cash game, you can get up and walk at any time and that money is “earned” or “realized” once you rake the pot. The other members of the game also realize the loss at the same time. Calling it a “session” and not offsetting losses might be the way they do it, but its stupid if they do.

#7

There is probably a dollar value limit for reporting gambling income even in Mass. I’d look that up.

#8

State and Federal Thresholds for Withholding of Lottery and Wagering Winnings:
The state threshold for withholding of tax on lottery and wagering winnings is \$600. The federal threshold for withholding on these winnings remains at \$5,000.

Form W-2G: Certain Gambling Winnings:
Payors must provide Forms W-2G for all winnings of \$600 or greater. Some winners will receive Forms W2-G at the time of the payment of such winnings. If not, payors must furnish the form to the payees before January 31 of the following year.

Gambling and Lottery Losses

Losses would occur when:

the aggregate amount paid to gamble exceeds total gambling winnings; or
the aggregate cost of lottery tickets exceeds total winnings from such tickets.
Federally, losses up to winnings may be claimed as an itemized deduction on U.S. Form 1040, Schedule A.

For Massachusetts purposes, losses up to winnings are not deductible even if they may be claimed as an itemized deduction on U.S. Form 1040, Schedule A. (Exception -see Gambling Activities that Constitute a Trade or Business.

Massachusetts Adjustment for Cost of Winning Tickets:
Massachusetts does allow the cost of any winning ticket or chance to be deducted from the winnings received from such ticket or chance.

Example #1 to Illustrate Mass vs. Federal Reporting of Gambling Winnings and Deductions:
If a taxpayer purchases one ticket for the 3rd race at the Wonderland Dog Track in the amount of \$5 and wins \$500, the taxable amount to be reported on the Massachusetts tax return is \$495 (winnings of \$500 less the cost of the winning ticket of \$5.00.) Even if the taxpayer purchases other tickets during the year totaling \$75, the amount reported to Massachusetts is still \$495. For federal purposes, the winnings of \$500 are reported on the 1040, Line 21, and the cost of all tickets, \$80 may be claimed as losses on Schedule A under Other Miscellaneous Deductions.

Tickets: Cost: Winnings:
Winning ticket \$5 \$500
Other tickets: \$75 \$0
Totals: \$80 \$500
Federal 1040:

Line 21 = \$500
Schedule A, Miscellaneous Deductions = \$80
Mass Form 1:

Schedule X, Line 3 = \$495 (\$500 - \$5, cost of winning ticket)
Cannot deduct the other costs of \$75 since there were no winnings from these tickets
Form W-2G:

Line 1. Gross winnings = \$500, Form W-2G not required as amount is under \$600
Line 2. Federal income tax withheld? No since threshold is \$5,000 of winnings
Line 14. State income tax withheld? No since threshold is \$600 of winnings

#9

[quote]Dr. Pangloss wrote:
That makes no sense at all - I’m not saying you’re wrong, though.

I sit down at a black jack table and play 10 hands. The first 5 are \$100 a hand and (ignoring vig) I win each one. Since I’m hot, I play \$200 a hand the next 5 and lose each one*. According to Massachusetts, I owe tax on \$500? Even though I’m down \$500 on the session?
[/quote]
No, that’s how I thought it might be, as per my initial post.

In my next two posts, I said that based on info I found it appears that for tax purposes, the gain or loss goes by the net for the entire session, not hand by hand.

However, I believe that for Mass. tax purposes, if you’re down \$500 on one session and up \$500 on a separate session: your winning session is taxable income of \$500 while your losing session is not deductible (for Mass. purposes). Federal, the \$500 winning session is \$500 income and the \$500 losing session is deductible on Schedule A. Legally you are not supposed to offset the two sessions into one overall net. But you can offset the hands within one session into an overall net for that one session.

#10

[quote]jjackkrash wrote:

[quote]undoredo wrote:

[quote]Dr. Pangloss wrote:

I don’t understand how they only tax winnings, but not losses. Typically, losses are allowed, but only to the extent they offset winnings.
[/quote]
My understanding is Federal and Massachusetts State both count “actual winnings” as income; Federal allows losses to be itemized on Schedule A; Massachusetts does not allow losses to be offset against wins at all unless the player does it as a business.

(Further research seems to indicate “actual winnings” or losses in a poker session is the net gain or loss for the session; not hand-by-hand.)
[/quote]

What is a “session”?

I don’t see any good way to do this other than hand-by-hand in a cash game and offset losses (assuming any way to do it is “good”). In a cash game, you can get up and walk at any time and that money is “earned” or “realized” once you rake the pot. The other members of the game also realize the loss at the same time. Calling it a “session” and not offsetting losses might be the way they do it, but its stupid if they do.
[/quote]
Get in your car; drive from home to the casino; buy some chips; play poker for a few hours; cash out the chips; drive home. That is definitely one session (although there could be other situations that are more ambiguous).

In my first post I was wondering if the gains and losses hand-by-hand within one session are legally considered as separate items for tax purposes.

But additional info seems to indicate that the overall net for one session is a single gain or a single loss, for tax purposes.

#11

[quote]undoredo wrote:

[quote]jjackkrash wrote:

[quote]undoredo wrote:

[quote]Dr. Pangloss wrote:

I don’t understand how they only tax winnings, but not losses. Typically, losses are allowed, but only to the extent they offset winnings.
[/quote]
My understanding is Federal and Massachusetts State both count “actual winnings” as income; Federal allows losses to be itemized on Schedule A; Massachusetts does not allow losses to be offset against wins at all unless the player does it as a business.

(Further research seems to indicate “actual winnings” or losses in a poker session is the net gain or loss for the session; not hand-by-hand.)
[/quote]

What is a “session”?

I don’t see any good way to do this other than hand-by-hand in a cash game and offset losses (assuming any way to do it is “good”). In a cash game, you can get up and walk at any time and that money is “earned” or “realized” once you rake the pot. The other members of the game also realize the loss at the same time. Calling it a “session” and not offsetting losses might be the way they do it, but its stupid if they do.
[/quote]
Get in your car; drive from home to the casino; buy some chips; play poker for a few hours; cash out the chips; drive home. That is definitely one session (although there could be other situations that are more ambiguous).

In my first post I was wondering if the gains and losses hand-by-hand within one session are legally considered as separate items for tax purposes.

But additional info seems to indicate that the overall net for one session is a single gain or a single loss, for tax purposes.
[/quote]

Like changing casinos on one trip, changing card rooms, changing the game you are playing, going to the bathroom and sitting out a hand, staying in the hotel for three weeks but gambling in the same casino and sleeping at night, or doing the same and gambling in multiple casinos, etc.

A “session” isn’t easily definable and doing it that way is stupid. Just my opinion.

#12

[quote]jjackkrash wrote:

[quote]undoredo wrote:

[quote]jjackkrash wrote:

[quote]undoredo wrote:

[quote]Dr. Pangloss wrote:

I don’t understand how they only tax winnings, but not losses. Typically, losses are allowed, but only to the extent they offset winnings.
[/quote]
My understanding is Federal and Massachusetts State both count “actual winnings” as income; Federal allows losses to be itemized on Schedule A; Massachusetts does not allow losses to be offset against wins at all unless the player does it as a business.

(Further research seems to indicate “actual winnings” or losses in a poker session is the net gain or loss for the session; not hand-by-hand.)
[/quote]

What is a “session”?

I don’t see any good way to do this other than hand-by-hand in a cash game and offset losses (assuming any way to do it is “good”). In a cash game, you can get up and walk at any time and that money is “earned” or “realized” once you rake the pot. The other members of the game also realize the loss at the same time. Calling it a “session” and not offsetting losses might be the way they do it, but its stupid if they do.
[/quote]
Get in your car; drive from home to the casino; buy some chips; play poker for a few hours; cash out the chips; drive home. That is definitely one session (although there could be other situations that are more ambiguous).

In my first post I was wondering if the gains and losses hand-by-hand within one session are legally considered as separate items for tax purposes.

But additional info seems to indicate that the overall net for one session is a single gain or a single loss, for tax purposes.
[/quote]

Like changing casinos on one trip, changing card rooms, changing the game you are playing, going to the bathroom and sitting out a hand, staying in the hotel for three weeks but gambling in the same casino and sleeping at night, or doing the same and gambling in multiple casinos, etc.

A “session” isn’t easily definable and doing it that way is stupid. Just my opinion.
[/quote]
Win and loss amounts hand by hand at a poker table would be impractical for most players to record. Admittedly, there are a few people who have steel-trap memories or write very fast or type very fast; while also being able to precisely count and track chips going from and coming to their stacks. But those are not the majority of recreational poker players. (Here I am making the possibly stupid assumption that the law or its interpretation should be feasible for people to obey, even if it is foreseeable that most people will choose not to.)

For the gambler/player, a “larger granularity” for defining actual wins and actual losses is usually more favorable: the win total and loss total will both be smaller; resident of a state that does not allow gambling losses to be deducted against gambling wins has lower gambling winnings for tax purposes; and someone for whom exceeding some type of gross income cap would be an issue also has lower gambling winnings factored in.

From what little I have read on the subject, my impression is that anything that could reasonably be considered a single session (even multiple days in a row with most waking hours devoted to gambling) might be allowed as a single session. But if there is a “smaller granularity” win (single slot machine play; single blackjack hand) with a payoff big enough to trigger a reporting requirement at the casino, then there would need to be acceptable documentation for the other activity in the “session” to avoid having that single-hit amount by itself count as income.

The above is partly based on a tax court case where the IRS conceded that multiple days spent in a casino by the taxpayer in a single visit actually should be considered a single session with a single gain or single loss for the entire session. But the IRS claimed a tax deficiency based on inadequate record-keeping to demonstrate sufficient losses within the same session during which a big win occurred, to reduce the net for that session to the amount claimed by the taxpayer.

i.e. Taxpayer had a big win of X at a slot machine, and claimed X-Y in income. The IRS agreed that a multiple-day visit to the casino spent playing slots where X is won and Y is lost should count as income of X-Y; and the IRS agreed that the taxpayer lost Y dollars at some point during the year. But the IRS claimed and the tax court agreed that the taxpayer could not net X-Y together as (much less) income because the taxpayer did not have sufficient evidence that the Y was lost during the same visit when the X was won. The X had to be claimed as a win and the Y had to be claimed separately as a loss, because there was insufficient evidence as to when they occurred relative to each other to net them together.

The tax court actually did not rule on whether or not X-Y could have been netted together if there had been sufficient evidence that Y occurred in the same visit as X. But the IRS would have allowed it.

#13

lol.

Homie, just pay H&R Block \$50 to prep your return and they carry the burden of making sure this shit is correct.

Or you can pay me 10x that and I’ll do your taxes, lol.