When the lottery is at the highs it has been recently, everyone is buying a ticket in the hope that they might be the one to win the millions if not billions of dollars. Around these times a very common question is asked is, “how are lottery winning taxed in California.” Although many California residents have made it big, the Golden State’s tax landscape can cast a shadow on the thrill of hitting the Jackpot. In this blog post we will go into the specifics of how lottery winnings are taxed and whether or not there are tax planning opportunities to take to reduce the lottery winnings.


How Our Lottery Winnings Taxed?

California, unlike some other states, does not levy income tax on lottery tickets purchased within its borders. However, this doesn’t mean the taxman won’t come knocking when fortune smiles upon you. Once you win the lottery, the state’s income tax laws swing into action.

Lottery winnings, considered taxable income, are subject to both federal and state income taxes. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) imposes a federal tax rate of 24%, and California’s state income tax, with rates ranging from 1% to 13.3%, adds an additional layer of taxation. While California doesn’t tax the purchase of lottery tickets, it certainly aims to collect its share when luck strikes.


Tax Planning Opportunities to reduce the tax on lottery winnings

Absolutely. Lottery winners can employ various tax planning strategies to mitigate their tax liability and make the most of their windfall.

a) Choose the Annuity Payments:

  • Opting for annuity payments allows winners to receive their prize money in installments over several years.
  • This approach can help spread the tax burden, potentially resulting in lower overall tax liability compared to a lump-sum payment.
  • By receiving the money over time, winners may find themselves in a lower tax bracket for each payment, minimizing the impact on their income.

b) Offset Income with Charitable Contributions:

  • Donating a portion of your winnings to qualified charitable organizations is not only a noble endeavor but also a strategic tax planning move.
  • Charitable contributions can be deducted from your taxable income, helping to offset the tax liability on lottery winnings.
  • Be sure to adhere to IRS guidelines and consult with tax professionals to ensure eligibility and maximize the benefits of charitable giving.

c) Establishing Certain Trusts:

  • Consider establishing trusts like Charitable Remainder Unitrusts (CRUT) or Charitable Lead Annuity Trusts (CLAT) to spread income over a more extended period.
  • These trusts provide a dual benefit of reducing immediate tax liability and supporting charitable causes simultaneously.
  • Consulting with financial and legal experts is crucial to navigate the intricacies of trust structures and ensure compliance with applicable laws.


While winning the lottery in California can be a game-changer, understanding and planning for the associated tax implications is equally crucial. By strategically choosing annuity payments, leveraging charitable contributions, or exploring trust options, lottery winners can navigate the tax landscape and pave the way for a golden financial future. Seek guidance from professionals to tailor a tax plan that aligns with your financial goals and ensures the longevity of your newfound prosperity.