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.