Do You Get Taxed on Lotto Winnings?

By Tevait Feanle •  Updated: 12/22/24 •  5 min read

It’s everyone’s dream- a nice fat payout from the Lotto, invested wisely, so you never have to work again! While many of us have daydreamed about the potential in a Lotto win, what happens on the tax side of the equation if you actually do win someday? Today we look at some common questions around Lotto winnings, and what you should know about them.

Do Lotto Winnings get taxed in South Africa?

Lotto winnings are, for practical purposes, not taxed in South Africa. Officially, they are regarded as a type of capital gain, not as income, unless you are a serial gambler who demonstrably is making income from the act of playing games like the Lotto. However, they are also considered a special exemption under the Capital Gains Tax legislation.

However, it is a smart idea to openly declare your win to SARS. A large amount of money going into your account may otherwise accidentally be deemed from another source and taxed accordingly. While it is very normal to not want ‘the taxman’ knowing all your financial affairs, in this case, it does benefit you to be open about your winnings. 

Do note that this applies specifically to the ‘official’ South African lottery managed by Ithuba. Winnings from other lottery-style gambling events may be taxed as income, so it is always worth chatting to a tax specialist about your specific winnings and circumstances.

How Do I Protect My Lottery Winnings from Taxes?

In South Africa, there’s no need to try any ‘tricks’ to protect your lottery winning from taxes, as there will be no taxes due. Simply declare the win under ‘non-taxable income’ to avoid SARS triggering an audit or asking for tax on the money, and have the proof of your win ready should they ask for it. 

However, we still strongly advise that you consult with a tax professional should you score a large Lotto win. A tax professional can help you understand the financial implications of your lottery winnings and advise you on the most tax-efficient ways to manage your winnings. 

By investing your winnings in tax-efficient investment vehicles, such as tax-free savings accounts or retirement annuities, you can reduce your overall liability for taxable income and potentially lower your tax bill from your source of income. 

Likewise, if you have outstanding debt, such as credit card debt or a home loan, using your lottery winnings to pay off that debt can help you better structure your tax affairs as well as set you up for a brighter future. 

If you are concerned about your ability to manage a large lump sum of money, it can be placed into a trust or you can structure the payout to help keep you on-track to better spending habits, too.

How Much Are Lotto Winnings Taxed in South Africa?

Lotto winnings are not taxed in South Africa, something that makes a win on the SA lotto enticing indeed. The only time where you may attract tax on a Lotto winning in SA is if you are a ‘professional gambler’- someone who is clearly and indisputably making the bulk of their income from gambling winnings like the Lotto payout. In that one case, you will be taxed at your standard income tax rate for the money you have earned. Otherwise, Lotto wins are counted as ‘capital’ wins with a special exemption, so you can enjoy them tax-free. However, you are required to inform SARS of your winning to avoid it accidentally being determined as income.

Is Gambling Tax-Free in South Africa?

Gambling is not officially tax-free in South Africa, but for practical purposes, most people will never pay tax on their gambling winnings. The only exception is ‘professional’ gamblers who earn their income from prize monies, which will be subject to income tax in the same way as other types of income.

Let’s look at this in more detail. If you are awarded a prize from your company in relation to your work (like ‘long term service’ awards), it will be counted as part of your standard remuneration and taxed accordingly. However, raffle winnings, loyalty points, and occasional gambling activities as a hobbyist will not be taxed, although they must be declared in the ‘non-taxable income’ section of your income tax return. Only once it becomes a primary income source does it switch from an exempt capital amount to a tax-attracting income amount.

As with any tax matter, it’s advisable to consult with a qualified tax professional to ensure that you comply with all relevant tax regulations and pay the correct amount of tax on your income as well as protecting your winnings from accidental flags for taxation.

While South Africa’s stance on Lotto winnings is unusual globally- most jurisdictions will charge tax on winnings- this makes a win on the Lotto even more enticing. Hopefully, you now feel much more secure around Lotto winnings and tax matters and know how to handle any amount you win on your annual tax return, too.

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