The fantasy football season is in full swing as we are approaching the middle of the NFL season. For some, the season is going great and you are eagerly awaiting the playoffs, while others are all but eliminated from contention after drafting a team full of underachieving duds. For those of you lucky enough to be in the thick of the playoff hunt, remember that Uncle Sam is cheering you on. That is, he wants a cut of your winnings.
Some of you may be thinking, “why would the government care about fantasy football? It’s just a fun hobby and gives me something to talk about at the water cooler.” The truth is, fantasy football is a major industry and the IRS is very aware of such notion. According to an article from the Fantasy Sports Trade Association’s website, nearly 37 million people play fantasy football. According to the article, fantasy football players will spend an average of $111 per year. At 37 million players, that’s a staggering total of $4.1 billion each year. You better believe that Uncle Sam wants in on the winnings!
If your fantasy football skills earn you a payout of $600 or more, you will likely receive a 1099-MISC in the mail come January, which reports your winnings to the IRS. The amount of your winnings that are taxable can be reduced by entry fees, transaction fees, research materials (such as magazines) and losses from other leagues where you weren’t quite as lucky. So be sure to keep records of all your expenditures to support the information reported on your 1040.
Once you come to the net of all your winnings less all expenses, this amount will be reported as “other income” on line 21 of your 1040. Since the amount reported will not match the 1099-MISC you received, you will need to attach a statement to the return reconciling the 1099-MISC to the amount reported. Note that if you were in several fantasy football leagues where you lost money and one where you won, you will not be able claim a loss on your return and will just report income of $0.
So I hope everyone’s season is going well, but remember, Uncle Sam has a rooting interest in your team as well.
By: Mark Sawyer, CPA