American Players to Pay Taxes for the Money They Did Not Receive?

Poker Legislation | estimated reading time
2011. August 22.
The American tax authorities would make every Full Tilt Poker player pay taxes, even after the money they still have stuck on the Internet.

Even though it seems at this very moment that Full Tilt Poker will not be able to repay their players, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) leapt in action and is looking for another source of income: the closed poker accounts.

What makes them eligible for this is the American Treasury regulation no. 1.451-2 (available here), which states that players' funds on their accounts after ring game or tournament winnings “which the taxpayer could have access to if notice to withdraw had been given” are considered to be 'constructive', thus taxable. It is a difficult situation, as players could claim that the money they would have to pay taxes after is not available for withdrawal, but the answer from IRS would be that they could have withdrawn the amount earlier.

(There is an argument against this; namely, that Full Tilt did not have enough money to pay out everyone earlier either, and withdrawals were cancelled for this reason even before Black Friday, but this would be very hard/impossible to prove, so it does not make a real counter argument).

IRS

These are the basics of the 'constructive receipt'. One solution for the players would be to declare 'constructive loss', or 'Casualty Loss'- as referred to by the IRS. This would mean that there is evidence that Full Tilt will not pay back players. But this will not happen soon, as it would only be possible if Full Tilt had issued a statement declaring that they were never going to pay back funds to their players. And the reason why this is out of question is that FTP still has a secondary operating license from the Kahnawake Gaming Commission and has been stating that their intention is to pay back all players.

Looking at it from a bigger angle, these tax regulations also mean that licensed poker sites in the future will be required to file individual taxpayer reports of the players to the IRS every year. The players who were playing online and not declaring their revenue from poker (and, honestly, how many players did that?!) will not be able to write off the unreturned Full Tilt funds without admitting all past revenues from poker.

And with all these penalties, taxes and interest, it seems that even if Full Tilt Poker manages to return all the bankrolls at some point in the future, there will be not much (if any) left for the players; it will only make the US Government richer.

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