Professional gamblers are now able to deduct gambling expenses incurred as part of their job
Prior to a January 2011 ruling by the U.S. Tax Court, gambling expenses related to a gambling trip were equated with gambling losses – in that they were deductible only to the extent of their winnings.
Although professional gamblers may still only deduct gambling losses to the extent of gambling winnings, the taxpayer may further deduct the “ordinary and necessary” gambling expenses, such as travel expenses, incurred with the taxpayer’s business of gambling. This may cause a professional gambler to have business loss, which may be applied against other income.
With this decision, gambling is considered a business trade that is not any different than any other profession and can now deduct business-related gambling expenses.
Prior to this decision, Sec. 162(a) allowed a deduction for all ordinary and necessary expenses paid or incurred in carrying on a trade or business. However, the issue for professional gamblers was that Sec. 165(d) specified that deductible losses from wagering transactions would be limited to the gains from such transactions. In the past six decades, the Tax Court has generally followed the Offutt rule, under which courts have applied Sec. 165(d) to limit the deductibility of professional gamblers’ trade or business expenses.
In Offutt, the petitioner’s principal occupation and source of income was bookmaking and betting on horse races. He sought to claim and carry back a net loss from these activities against other income, arguing that, because gambling was his regular business, he should be treated differently from a taxpayer who undertook such activities for profit but only sporadically. The Tax Court noted that the predecessor statute to Sec. 165(d) (which contained identical language) made no such distinction and ruled against the taxpayer.
The ruling in January 2011 by the U.S. Tax Court covered questions sought by Robert Mayo, a professional gambler from California. Mayo wagered $131,760 on horse racing in 2001, collecting $120,463 on his wagers. As part of his tax return that year, Mayo listed expenses of $10,968, which included automobile expenses for travel to the racetracks, and fees for race handicapping information and other research purposes. The court ruled those gambling expenses were not a wagering loss, but business expenses that contributed to a net operating loss for the year.
For additional information, see IRS Chief Counsel Memorandum on Professional Gambler’s Wagering Losses and Business Expenses.
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