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what to do if you win a car

Won a New Car? 8 Ways to Afford the Taxes on Your Prize

Worried About Paying Taxes on a Car Prize? Here’s How to Do It

Winning a new car is a dream for many sweepstakes fans. Owning a brand-new set of wheels without having to pay the manufacturer’s suggested retail price is a great deal. However, before you throw yourself into trying to become a car winner, you should make some plans for what to do once you’ve actually won a car. The dream can turn into a nightmare if you aren’t prepared for the consequences..

In the United States, winners are required to pay taxes on sweepstakes prizes, which are treated as income for tax purposes. That means you’ll be required to add the fair market value of your prize to your earnings from jobs and other sources when you report your income to the IRS.

The amount you’ll have to pay once you’ve won a car depends on your specific circumstances, but you can make a rough estimate that you’ll be paying around 1/3 of the prize’s value. So if you win a vehicle worth $30,000, you can expect to pay around $10,000 in taxes.

A $30,000 car for $10,000 is a great deal, but it can be a challenge to find an extra ten grand in your budget.

Don’t think you can afford it? Before you decline a car prize because of the taxes you’ll have to pay for it, here are eight creative ways to make your car more affordable.

Consult With a Tax Professional

The first thing that you should do after you win a new car (or any other large sweepstakes prize) is to consult with a tax professional. This should be done as soon as you receive the win notification so that you can get the earliest possible start preparing for your taxes. Your CPA or accountant can give you advice that is tailored to your situation, which is vital to ensuring that you are properly prepared.

If you don’t have a tax professional to help you, these tips will help you find an accountant who is right for your needs.

Don’t Panic – You’ve Got Time to Plan

Remember that you will pay taxes on your new car win in the year you take possession of the car, not on the date you found out that you were a winner. Especially in the case of large prizes like cars, it takes time for your win to be verified and your prize to be delivered.

For example, if you found out that you won a vehicle in August of 2018 and take possession of the car in February of 2019, then you won’t have to pay Federal taxes on the prize until you submit your 2019 taxes – usually in April of 2019. This gives you time to put together a plan and save for your taxes.

Research Your Prize’s Fair Market Value

U.S. citizens need to pay taxes on the fair market value (FMV) of any sweepstakes prize, including a new car. The FMV could be lower than the approximate retail value (ARV) listed in the sweepstakes, especially if it takes a while for you to take possession of the vehicle.

Car values drop after the new car models come out each year, so that 2018 model you won might be worth less than the ARV by the time you take possession of it.

So it makes sense to see how much your vehicle is worth at the time you take possession of it. If you find a difference between that value and the ARV, you can dispute the car’s value on your sweepstakes taxes.

Maximize Your Deductibles

If your taxes are going to be rising by the value of the car you won, you might be able to balance out the additional cash you’ll owe by finding ways to lower your overall tax burden.

Examine your finances carefully to see if you are eligible for any deductions or credits that could reduce the total taxes you owe. Perhaps you could make a charitable donation to offset some of the costs. Your tax adviser might be able to find additional deductions and credits you can use.

Set Aside Money Over Time

You can use the time you have before filing your annual taxes to save the money you need to cover the car taxes. Paying thousands of dollars in one hit can be difficult, but if you set aside some money every month you might not even notice the loss.

If you’re not great at saving money, these tips on getting into a money-saving habit could help.

Get a Secured Car Loan to Cover the Taxes

Once you’ve taken possession of the car, you can consider a secured loan to help with the taxes. With a brand new car in your possession, you can usually get a very generous interest rate on a new car loan.

And you won’t have to take out a loan for the car’s full value, since you’re only looking to cover the taxes you owe. You can make lower monthly payments and pay off your loan more quickly than you would if you bought a car with a loan.

Not sure whether a loan is right for you? Here are some things to consider ​before you get a car loan.

Sell Your Old Car for Tax Payments

Now that you have won a spiffy new car, you don’t need your old one anymore, right? You can sell your old car and put the money that you receive toward paying the taxes on the new one. This can defray some or all of the costs of winning a new car, and could even net you a profit.

If you’re not sure how to go about doing it, Popular Mechanics has tips on how to get the most money when you sell your car.

Sell Your New Car

It may be heartbreaking to contemplate, but selling your new car win could be an intelligent way to cover the taxes.

Many dealers will buy back a new car prize for a good price before you drive it off their lot; after all, they know that the car is in pristine condition.

You can end up with enough money to pay the IRS and still have thousands left over to buy a less expensive car or to use for other purposes.

If you've won a car or are interested in winning one, find out how to handle the sweepstakes taxes to enjoy your prize without going bust.

This ‘Price is Right’ contestant who gave up a new car for $1,500 is actually a secret genius

The audience booed, but Kevin was right.

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This is a story about Kevin, who had an incredible chance to win a car on The Price is Right but refused and instead took $1,500.

Kevin was playing “Let ’Em Roll,” a game where the contestant has a chance to win a car if they roll all five dice and they show a car symbol. On Kevin’s first roll he managed to land four car symbols, a rare feat that comes up in just 6.25 percent of games.

At this point Kevin has two options:

  • He can roll that final die two times, and if he gets a single car, he wins a car.
  • He can walk away and take the $1,500 on the final die.

Without thinking or agonizing, Kevin took the $1,500. It surprised host Drew Carey so much that he wanted Kevin to be clear on the rules of the game, telling him that he essentially had two free rolls and a 50/50 chance to win a car on each one.

Still Kevin was adamant: He was taking the $1,500. Carey could only try to cope with the shock.

The knee-jerk reaction here is to think Kevin was an idiot not for rolling two more times. We’re conditioned to think the biggest prize is always the best, but in reality he could have been playing chess while we were all playing checkers.

Here’s why .

In those final two rolls Kevin has a 50/50 chance of winning a car with each roll. Three faces on the dice are cars, three are cash in $500, $1,000, and $1,500 denominations. The odds of Kevin re-rolling another $1,500 are just one-in-six. Kevin is sitting on the best cash prize he can possibly get, and re-rolling doesn’t help his end game.

Winning the car sucks

I know this goes against every fiber of your being, but unless you were in the market for a new car and had the money aside to buy one, winning a car is horrible. Contestants still need to pay state income tax on whatever prizes they get, and it has to be paid before the prize is received.

The tax is based on which state the prize was won in, and based on MSRP, which is much higher than you would pay in a dealership. For The Price is Right, this means paying California income tax on $13,165 (the price of the Nissan Versa S sedan Kevin could have won). The show also makes you pay before you get the car AND the car could push you into a higher tax bracket, potentially increasing your overall liability.

I think I’ve heard of this .

You probably have. In 2004 when Oprah Winfrey gave away cars to her audience, it turned out to be a disaster.

The result of winning the $28,500 cars was that each audience member paid roughly $7,000 each for their car, which had to be up-front. Many of them had to get the money together to pay the tax, then try to sell the car in the hopes of just covering the tax bill.

So Kevin taking the $1,500 was actually genius?

Maybe. It depends on whether he wanted or needed a car, and had the money spare to be able to accept it. Taking the $1,500 was the safe answer that insured he got the maximum possible guaranteed prize. Sure, there’s a chance he could have flipped the Nissan Versa and made more — but this would have resulted in further income tax hits, possibly pushing him to a higher bracket.

The audience booed, but Kevin was right.