I recently moved to England and was somewhat surprised to learn that gambling winnings are not taxed. A Google search reveals this article from Forbes that explains that such a tax would be at most revenue neutral. According to the author, the UK would want also to give tax credits for losses. Then since the bookies take a slice, there will be more losses than winnings, hence more credits than taxes, and the government will lose money on the whole.

One obvious objection is that tax policy is up to the government, and rates can presumably be tuned so that credits for losses are not as substantial as the taxes on gains.

It is interesting that the article focuses on spread betting in the financial industry and its parallels to more traditional forms of gambling like horse racing and poker playing. I am wondering if the real reason that gambling winnings are not taxed is to make the UK more attractive to the financial industry, so that the capital gains tax rate here can be offset by spread betting?

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    @user2309840 Since it appears you are originally from the US, take note that your gambling winnings are still taxable by the US. The US government does not care that your winnings come entirely from the UK, its lottery system or that they're not taxable in the UK. All that matters is that you are American and any money you receive from anywhere while you are anywhere is taxed by Uncle Sam. This is only true for Americans and not for anyone else (i.e. a Brit living in the US who wins money in Las Vegas does not pay tax to Queen Elizabeth) Nov 22 '18 at 14:20
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    @RedSonja then perhaps they should rename their revenue agency? gov.uk/government/organisations/hm-revenue-customs Nov 22 '18 at 14:50
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    @CodyBugstein Ah yes, non-logical terminology. This is Her Majesty as head of the government, not as Aunt Lillibet. But you'd need some kind of lawyer to state it correctly. Anyway, the money does not go to her. Well, only some of it, and not directly.
    – RedSonja
    Nov 22 '18 at 14:52
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    @RedSonja no, the money goes to her, but she has delegated the decision making of how to spend it. And she's the Head of State, not the Head of Government
    – Caleth
    Nov 22 '18 at 16:05
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    @RedSonja Given the mention of "Uncle Sam", I don't think Cody meant it literally to the Queen. I think he only mentioned her as a symbol of the government. Anyway, good discussion.
    – JoL
    Nov 22 '18 at 23:02

Wow, so my understanding was way out of date. Here's a history of taxation and gambling in the UK, which includes what I though was still the case;

The first shops opened in 1961 but under the condition that a new levy was to be charged at 6.75% to bookmakers. Bookies passed this on to punters in the form of a 9% betting tax. The tax could either be paid at the time of placing a bet or on the winnings instead. A levy of 9% on winnings can be a lot of money so most people elected to pay the tax on the stake.

In short winnings are not taxed because it is considered more efficient to tax businesses that provide the ability to gamble than it is to tax people gambling regardless of whether they win or lose.

By requiring the Business to pay the tax, collection of the duty is passed onto a third party, meaning HMRC doesn't need to keep track of each individual bet made by large numbers of individual punters. Each facet of the Gambling industry pays these taxes, or duties at slightly different rates. The National Lottery for instance includes a 12% duty, while Machine Game Duty seems less straight forwards.

This duty, or gambling tax is in addition to other taxes these businesses would expect to pay in the course of their operation.

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    Reminds me of the hassle I heard them having over people making money off ebay sales (apparently owed at least £860 million) - finding and tracking all of those people is far from a simple task. Doing the same with gambling would likely cause a similar headache. Best to go straight to the company and make them sort it out. Nov 22 '18 at 15:04
  • Do you happen to know what duty a financial trading company that administers spread betting for investors would have to pay? Is it really only 3%? Nov 23 '18 at 10:45
  • @user2309840 I do not have a full understanding of the taxation structure for spreadbetting, the linked site in the answer has an overview, suggesting there's no tax for the placing and winning spread bets through a bookmaker. But it also states it is regulated by the FCA, which suggest Gambling Duties would not apply. I would also assume that only financial spread betting is regulated by the FCA and sports spread betting is different.
    – Jontia
    Nov 23 '18 at 11:32
  • I did not realise they paid so much. I bet they are getting hammered by online crypto gambling.
    – Dave
    Apr 21 at 18:24
  • A similar analysis applies to why inheritances when they are taxed are usually taxed in the decedent's estate rather than as income to the beneficiary of the inheritance.
    – ohwilleke
    Apr 21 at 19:19

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