What determines the size of the jackpot?
The jackpot starts at a minimum of $40 million. For every consecutive drawing in which there is no winner, the jackpot is increased in relation to ticket sales, but will always be increased by a minimum of $5 million. When the jackpot becomes excessively large, it may increase substantially due to increased ticket sales. After a drawing in which one or more tickets wins the top prize, the jackpot is reset to the minimum $40 million level. The jackpot is divided evenly among all tickets winning the top prize in one drawing. Note: The starting jackpot was lowered to $20 million during the 2020 pandemic.
Can non-US citizens play? What if a non-US citizen wins?
Yes, non-US citizens can legally play, and non-US citizens are eligible to win any prize offered in the game.
If a non-US citizen wins, they would claim their prize in the same manner that a US citizen would, but the taxes withheld would be different. For example, federal withholding for non-US citizens is a flat 30%. Also, individual states may have different tax structures for non-US citizens than they do for US citizens. Depending on which country the person is a legal resident of, there also may be tax treaties between the US and that other country which could be helpful in offsetting whatever the US tax liabilities are.
In short, non-US citizens can play and win Mega Millions. If a non-US citizen wins a large prize, they will be responsible for some amount of tax, which in the end will probably be an amount similar to what a US citizen would pay, but there are so many possible variations with international tax codes that you’ll need to consult with a local tax attorney if you need to know a precise amount of tax liability.
What is the Megaplier?
The Megaplier is an option that is currently offered in all states that sell Mega Millions tickets except California. For an extra $1.00 per ticket you can increase your non-jackpot prize winnings by 2, 3, 4, or 5 times. The Megaplier number will be chosen from a field of 15 numbers according to the following frequency: one 5X, three 4X, six 3X and five 2X.
The Megaplier is not available in California because the state law that requires all lottery prizes to be paid out on a pari-mutuel basis is not compatible with the fixed nature of Megaplier payouts.
The Megaplier multiplier number is chosen at random by computerized drawing in Texas at around the same time the Mega Millions numbers are drawn in Georgia. The Megaplier was invented by the Texas Lottery as an add-on available only in that state, but was later available in all of the Mega Millions states except California starting in 2010. The Megaplier continues to be drawn in Texas.
A player must choose the Megaplier option when they buy their Mega Millions ticket, and then the ticket must match one of the 9 Ways to Win (except the jackpot) before the multiplier takes effect. Megaplier costs an extra $1 per play. See How to Play Mega Millions for more information.
Is it legal to play the lottery over the Internet?
The state lotteries and MUSL (the organization that runs Powerball) are all very firm in their assertion that playing the lottery in any manner over the Internet is illegal. We are not lawyers and can’t provide legal advice, but we are not so sure about their position. Their absolute certainty that it is illegal may have more to do with not wanting to lose control of the player interaction, and less to do with a firm legal footing.
When we assess the legality, we look at what has actually happened in court cases. There have been people in the past who purchased a lottery ticket from an Internet Web site, subsequently won the jackpot, and the lottery attempted to block them from receiving the jackpot. In each case, the winners took the lottery to court and won. They received their jackpot as if they walked into a store and purchased a ticket.
You must keep in mind that any type of Internet-based lottery service is not risk-free. From a legal standpoint, the services are dealing in loopholes in the current law, and the US Congress has taken steps to make those loopholes tighter, particularly in trying to prevent banks and credit cards from allowing Internet payments for lottery services. But there is a much bigger threat when you use an Internet lottery service: getting ripped off.
By not making a purchase in a store, you may be doing something worse than throwing your money away: you may be helping to keep a scam operation running. Stay away from anything referring to a «syndicate». We are not aware of any site using that terminology that is not a scam. Also beware of sites that state «Insured by ___» at the bottom. It is like saying «We don’t really buy lottery tickets, but trust us, you’ll get paid if you win.» Have you ever heard of an insurance company paying out a $200 million Powerball jackpot? We haven’t.
We do allow some advertising on USA Mega for lottery services. We recommend that USA residents stay away from such services, and make your purchases in a store. The ads are directed at non-USA residents, who may not have the online lottery restrictions that exist in the USA.
Why is the cash option always a different percentage of the annuity from draw to draw?
If you’re calculating what percentage the cash value is of the annuity, then you’re looking at it backwards. The cash value is the starting point, as it is a direct percentage of ticket sales. Then the annuity amount is calculated from that, based on prevailing interest rates. Since the interest rates are constantly changing, the annuity amount calculated on one day will be a different number than if it is calculated the next day. So when a drawing occurs and the lottery has to estimate the next annuity jackpot, they first estimate the number of tickets that will be sold for the next drawing, which determines what the cash value estimate is (because a fixed percentage of each ticket sold goes toward prizes). Then they finally calculate what the annuity will be based on the current interest rates.
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.
If I should win the jackpot, do I have the option of remaining anonymous as far as the public and the media are concerned?
In most states, lottery winner information is public domain, therefore it is public information. Publicized information normally includes the jackpot winner’s name, city, county, game in which they won, date won, and the amount of the prize.
After you win the jackpot, we recommend seeking the professional guidance of a good lawyer and accountant to see if there are ways of maintaining as much privacy as possible — before contacting the lottery and/or claiming the prize, and possibly even before letting friends or family know. You may be tempted to yell to the rooftops in glee about your newfound fortune, but you will probably end up regretting that decision once the excitement of the win calms down, and you are left with a continuous stream of lawsuits and requests for money from those who want a piece of your win.
Why is the cash option different than the advertised jackpot?
The Mega Millions jackpot is an estimated 29-year annuity value, with a total 30 payments (the first payment happens right away, followed by 29 annual payments). When players choose the annuity option for their prize, the state lottery pays the prize out over 29 years (30 payments) by buying U.S. Government Treasury Securities, which earn interest and mature annually over the 29 years. That annual return is the amount the winners receive each year for the 29 year period. With the cash option, the state lottery will take the amount of money that would have been invested and will pay it directly to the winner in one payment. Both payment options have federal and applicable state taxes deducted from them, although with an annuity option you pay taxes gradually on each annual payout, not all at once like with the cash option.
Are lottery prizes taxable?
Lottery winnings of $600.01 and over are subject to Federal Withholding tax. For winnings of $600.01, up to and including $5,000, you will be issued a W-2G form to report your winnings on your federal income tax form. For winnings of $5,000.01 and over, your state’s Department of Revenue removes the 24% federal withholding before you receive your winnings check (or, if it is an annuity, from each winnings check). You then receive a W-2G form with each check to submit with your 1040 form to show that the 24% federal withholding already has been paid. In addition to federal tax, your state will make additional withholdings for taxes, and most states will deduct other money that you may owe to the state, such as back taxes, child support, loan payments, etc. In addition, like the federal tax withholding, the state tax withholding at the time
of prize payout may not be the total state tax owed at the end of the year. You must consult your state division of taxation for more information about the total state tax requirements for lottery winners.
The state tax withholdings are as follows:
|Arizona||4.8% state withholding (Arizona residents), 6% state withholding (non-Arizona residents)|
|Arkansas||6.6% state withholding|
|California||No state tax on lottery prizes|
|Colorado||4% initial withholding at time of payout, 4.63% total tax due|
|Connecticut||6.99% state withholding|
|Delaware||0% initial withholding at time of payout, 6.6% total tax due|
|Florida||No state tax on lottery prizes|
|Georgia||5.75% state withholding|
|Idaho||6.925% state withholding|
|Illinois||4.95% state withholding|
|Indiana||3.23% state withholding|
|Iowa||5% initial withholding at time of payout, 8.53% total tax due|
|Kansas||5% initial withholding at time of payout, 5.7% total tax due|
|Kentucky||5% state withholding|
|Louisiana||5% initial withholding at time of payout, 6% total tax due|
|Maine||5% initial withholding at time of payout, 7.15% total tax due|
|Maryland||8.95% state withholding (Maryland residents), 8% state withholding (non-Maryland residents)|
|Massachusetts||5% state withholding|
|Michigan||4.25% state withholding|
|Minnesota||7.25% initial withholding at time of payout, 9.85% total tax due|
|Mississippi||5% state withholding|
|Missouri||4% initial withholding at time of payout, 5.4% total tax due|
|Montana||6.9% state withholding|
|Nebraska||5% initial withholding at time of payout, 6.84% total tax due|
|New Hampshire||No state tax on lottery prizes|
|New Jersey||8% initial withholding at time of payout, 10.75% total tax due|
|New Mexico||6% state withholding|
|New York||8.82% initial withholding at time of payout, 9.62% total tax due. Note: New York imposes additional withholding if you live in one of the following jurisdictions: New York City (3.876%) and Yonkers (1.477%).|
|North Carolina||5.25% state withholding|
|North Dakota||2.9% state withholding|
|Ohio||4.797% state withholding|
|Oklahoma||5% state withholding|
|Oregon||8% initial withholding at time of payout, 9.9% total tax due|
|Pennsylvania||3.07% state withholding|
|Rhode Island||5.99% state withholding|
|South Carolina||7% state withholding|
|South Dakota||No state tax on lottery prizes|
|Tennessee||No state tax on lottery prizes|
|Texas||No state tax on lottery prizes|
|U.S. Virgin Islands||This state/jurisdiction has not responded to our requests for this information|
|Vermont||6% initial withholding at time of payout, 8.75% total tax due|
|Virginia||4% initial withholding at time of payout, 5.75% total tax due|
|Washington||No state tax on lottery prizes|
|Washington, D.C.||8.95% state withholding|
|West Virginia||6.5% state withholding|
|Wisconsin||7.65% state withholding|
|Wyoming||No state tax on lottery prizes|