Tips & Advice

Are My Prize or Lottery Winnings Taxed in Canada?

Everyone dreams of winning the lottery or hitting the jackpot at the casino. But you may wonder how much tax you’ll pay on all that money. The good news is that in Canada, your winnings are usually tax-free!

Lotteries

Winnings from a Canadian lottery such as Lotto Max or 649 are considered to be windfalls, and windfalls are not subject to tax.

Even winnings from a sweepstake or lottery sponsored by a charitable organization are generally tax-free. Everything from your local hockey team’s 50/50 draw to the Big Brothers/Big Sisters travel lotto vouchers are included in the windfall category and therefore not subject to tax.

However, though the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) does not tax the winnings themselves, you may need to pay taxes on any income that money generates if you invest in a non-registered investment or account.

For example:

  • If you put your lottery prize in the bank, any interest earned on that account will be taxable.
  • If you invest some of your winnings in stocks or mutual funds, any dividends earned on the investments will be taxable. As will any Capital Gains you may make when you dispose of or sell the investments.

For this reason, if you do plan on investing your winnings, you may want to consider investing in your Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA) or Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) if you have the available contribution room. This TurboTax article explains further Paying Taxes on Investments.

Casinos

If you score big from a Canadian casino, your winnings will be treated the same as other lotteries and usually remain tax-free.

However, over the past few years, the CRA has begun looking for professional gamblersclassifying their “winnings” as business income and therefore taxable like any other business income. At the same time, this also means professional gamblers can claim business expenses. In theory, pro gamblers should also be able to claim losses as a business loss, but the CRA usually doesn’t allow it.

Workplace Contests

Prizes won from your place of employment aren’t always tax-free.

Cash awards or near-cash awards such as gift cards, are almost always considered to be taxable employment benefits. This means the award will be considered as part of your income and should be reported on your T4- Statement of Remuneration Paid in Box 40. Your employer will deduct income tax, Canada Pension Plan (CCP) and in some cases, Employment Insurance (EI) premiums on this type of award or prize.

What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas…

The rules discussed above only apply to winnings from Canadian sources. If you like to gamble or play lotteries that are based in the US, their government has different rules that would apply even if you are not a US citizen.

The US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) considers all winnings to be taxable. If you win a US lottery, you would have to file a US tax return and pay taxes on the prize. If you hit the jackpot at a casino, a good chunk of those winnings will be withheld by the casino to ensure your tax obligations are met before you even leave the country.

Even if you are gambling online from your own home, if you play on a US online poker site, any winnings or prize money will be considered to be American income and taxed accordingly.