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If I should win the jackpot, do I have the option of remaining anonymous as far as the public and the media are concerned?

In most states, lottery winner information is public domain, therefore it is public information. 
Publicized information normally includes the jackpot winner’s name, city, county, game in which they won,
date won, and the amount of the prize.

After you win the jackpot, we recommend seeking the professional guidance of a good lawyer and accountant to see if there are ways of maintaining as much privacy as possible— before contacting the lottery and/or claiming the prize, and possibly even before letting friends or family know.  You may be tempted to yell to the rooftops in glee about your newfound fortune, but you will probably end up regretting that decision once the excitement of the win calms down, and you are left with a continuous stream of lawsuits and requests for money from those who want a piece of your win.

Are lottery prizes taxable?

Lottery winnings of $600.01 and over are subject to Federal Withholding tax.  For
winnings of $600.01, up to and including $5,000, you will be issued a W-2G form
to report your winnings on your federal income tax form.  For winnings of
$5,000.01 and over, your state’s Department of Revenue removes the 24 percent federal
withholding before you receive your winnings check (or, if it is
an annuity, from each winnings check).  You then receive a W-2G form with each
check to submit with your 1040 form to show that the 24 percent federal
withholding already has been paid.  In addition to federal tax, your state will
make additional withholdings for taxes, and most states will deduct other money that
you may owe to the state, such as back taxes, child support, loan payments, etc. 
In addition, like the federal tax withholding, the state tax withholding at the time
of prize payout may not be the total state tax owed at the end of the year. 
You must consult your state division of taxation for more information about the total
state tax requirements for lottery winners.

The state tax withholdings are as follows:

Arizona  5% state withholding (Arizona residents), 6% state withholding (non-Arizona residents)
Arkansas  7% state withholding
California  No state tax on lottery prizes
Colorado  4% state withholding
Connecticut  6.99% state withholding
Delaware  No state tax on lottery prizes
Florida  No state tax on lottery prizes
Georgia  6% state withholding
Idaho  6.925% state withholding
Illinois  4.95% state withholding
Indiana  3.23% state withholding
Iowa  5% state withholding
Kansas  5% state withholding
Kentucky  5% state withholding
Louisiana  5% state withholding
Maine  5% state withholding
Maryland  8.95% state withholding (Maryland residents), 8% state withholding (non-Maryland residents)
Massachusetts  5% state withholding
Michigan  4.25% state withholding
Minnesota  7.25% state withholding
Mississippi  5% state withholding
Missouri  4% state withholding
Montana  6.9% state withholding
Nebraska  5% state withholding
New Hampshire  No state tax on lottery prizes
New Jersey  8% state withholding
New Mexico  6% state withholding
New York  8.82% state withholding, plus: 3.876% (NYC residents), 1.323% (Yonkers residents)
North Carolina  5.499% state withholding
North Dakota  2.9% state withholding
Ohio  4% state withholding
Oklahoma  4% state withholding
Oregon  8% state withholding
Pennsylvania  3.07% state withholding
Rhode Island  5.99% state withholding
South Carolina  7% state withholding
South Dakota  No state tax on lottery prizes
Tennessee  No state tax on lottery prizes
Texas  No state tax on lottery prizes
U.S. Virgin Islands  † Unknown State Tax Rate
Vermont  6% state withholding
Virginia  4% state withholding
Washington  No state tax on lottery prizes
Washington, D.C.  8.5% state withholding
West Virginia  6.5% state withholding
Wisconsin  7.65% state withholding
Wyoming  No state tax on lottery prizes

† This state/jurisdiction has not responded to our requests for this information.

Why is the cash option different than the advertised jackpot?

The Mega Millions jackpot is an estimated 29-year annuity value, with a total 30 payments (the first payment happens right away, followed by 29 annual payments).  When players choose
the annuity option for their prize, the state lottery pays the prize out over 29 years (30 payments) by
buying U.S. Government Treasury Securities, which earn interest and mature annually over
the 29 years.  That annual return is the amount the winners receive each year for the
29 year period.  With the cash option, the state lottery will take the amount of
money that would have been invested and will pay it directly to the winner in one
payment.  Both payment options have federal and applicable state taxes deducted
from them, although with an annuity option you pay taxes gradually on each annual payout, not all at once like with the cash option.

If I live in a state that taxes prizes, but bought my ticket in a state with no tax on prizes, do I still need to pay state tax?

Yes, you do.  Think of lottery prizes as regular earned income from a job.  Just because you may work in a different state, that doesn’t permit you to get away with not paying state income tax in your state of residence.  The lottery works the same way.

Whether it’s income from a job or income from gambling, the state where the money is won will tax the prize first at their out-of-state tax rate (assuming the state taxes lottery winnings).  If your state of residence has the same or lower tax rate, then you won’t owe anything else.  But if your state has a higher rate, you will get a credit for what you paid in the other state, and pay the difference to your state.

If the other state has no tax, you just pay the entire tax bill to your state.

The net result is that you end up paying whichever tax rate is higher between your state of residence and the state where you purchased the ticket.  Of course, the tax law is quite complex and it’s possible that some condition or arrangement exists between the two states and a good tax attorney and/or accountant could discover a tax-saving loophole.  That’s why we always recommend that major prize winners do not make any major decisions before first hiring a good legal and financial team.

One other option to consider, depending on how much in taxes you’re looking to save: the residency requirements as they relate to prize claims, state taxes, and income reporting.  Since you aren’t responsible for paying taxes until you claim the prize, perhaps there is time to establish residency in the state where you purchased the ticket before the prize claim period expires.  However, that is something you would definitely need to explore with an attorney before taking any action to assess the feasibility.  You would also need to decide if it would be worth the risk of that important little piece of paper not getting lost, damaged, or destroyed in the time you spend arranging everything.

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