trying to decide what philanthropic thing i’ll do when i hit a big lottery. there are so many issues that need money. i think paying for rape kits sitting on shelves to be processed would be one. also, the innocence project. something with animals, too, but not sure what. (comment below if you have any thoughts on this…)
preface: a sweepstakes is a random drawing. a contest requires a skill and is typically judged by the contest provider. also, i’m neither a lawyer or an accountant, but have been entering sweepstakes for 3 decades. i’m not endorsing anyone, caveat emptor, and void where prohibited. that said…
i love entering sweepstakes…but only the legit ones that conduct random drawings where anyone can win and has an equal chance (like coca-cola, pepsi, major food brands, major corporations, etc.) i’m still on the fence about publisher’s clearing house, but the major corporations i believe in. there’s a caveat though. be careful of taxes.
you have to pay taxes, sign affidavit’s (often required getting notarized), release them from any/all liability, etc., but the taxes are the biggie.
included with all the paperwork they send you (if the prize is $600.00 or more) is a tax form that they send to the irs. do not think for a second that you won’t have to pay the taxes, because the irs is already aware of your received prize. if i win cash, taxes are just fine…but if i win a trip, it’s not. here’s why:
i’ve never seen a sweepstakes where the value of the trip you could win didn’t have a very inflated value. in the official rules of every sweepstakes must be written the value of each prize (and you have to pay taxes on the value of that trip!). almost every trip i’ve seen, i could have scheduled it much cheaper myself. i’m not sure why their trip values are always so high, except maybe to make it sound grander than it is. at any rate, i never enter sweepstakes where a trip is the main prize. i’ve found that the taxes i’d have to pay on their deemed value is about what it would cost for me to book the trip myself. makes zero sense. plus, you usually have to travel on their specified dates. too much pressure all around.
a side note on sweepstakes taxes: the irs lets you claim “fair market value” on your prize, if you can prove it and it’s reasonable. for example: if you win a car the sweepstakes values at $50K, but you sold it to someone for $40K, you can change the value of taxes owed accordingly. one sweepstakes gave a bar of gold to the grand prize winner. at the time of the sweepstakes, its value was very, very high…but by the time the winner got the gold bar, gold prices dropped substantially. he only had to pay taxes on the “fair market value” of what he reasonably profited from the prize instead of the amount on the original tax form given to the irs.
also remember that rules, laws, guidelines can change at any moment.
and you never, ever, ever, EVER, have to pay anyone money to receive a prize from a legit sweepstakes. if they want money (for any reason), you are being scammed!
filing formal complaints in a moment with my attorney and other resources, but i want this in google for anyone using Bovada online gaming. they are a fraud and send fraudulent checks that the bank won’t accept for deposit. bovada.lv is a scam and others on google have verified this.
i won a delonghi coffee/espresso maker (worth $200!). the sweepstakes was offered by bestbuy.com and i thank them from the bottom of my heart 🙂
won a velveeta sweepstakes. a box of “velveeta shells and cheese” 🙂
want to enter (and hopefully win) sweepstakes, too? click here for the best sweepstakes site i’ve found.
i used to enter sweepstakes (valid ones, not the scams) non-stop. then, after a run of not winning, i decided to take on other interests. well…now i’m back on the proverbial horse and, if i win, will post on my blog in the “winning stuff” section 🙂
here’s my favorite sweepstakes site. tons and tons of sweepstakes on the cheap! click here.
i would have won the lottery last night, if all of my numbers would have matched.
Woo-Hoo! I won a thousand bucks on a scratch-off ticket (around 7-something after taxes). That last little star made my day 🙂
entering sweepstakes has been a side hobby of mine for about 17 years. no, not that crappy clearing house one, but actual sweepstakes that people can (and do) win. i’ve won so many prizes to date that i couldn’t possibly list them all. trips to disney, shirts, electronics, gift cards, you name it. i wish i had the time to do more of them, as it gives me some weird thrill. sort of like the lottery, where my friends make fun of me. my favorite line was “allen, you crack me up. you genuinely believe that you’re going to win, but then you’re genuinely suprised that you didn’t”. yep.
for the sweepsatakes newbie, let me give you the easy version in case you want to take a crack at it. the cost is very minimal….just the price of an envelope, a 3×5 card, and a stamp and you’re entered! here’s how it works…
every company from pepsi to your local store seems to offer some type of sweepstakes drawing for cash and/or prizes. the cost of these things are not only promotional advertising for them but is also a tax write-off (per se) for all the incurred costs to them for the promo. all the big guys (i’ll continue to use pepsi as an example since everyone’s familiar with them) uses what’s called a “third party judging agency”. this simply means that they pay an outside company to be objective by running the sweepstakes, randomly picking the winners from all entries, and then getting the prizes out to those winners. the logic here is that the sponsoring company keeps the whole thing as objective as possible and their hands aren’t in the proverbial cookie jar.
the law is that in order to offer a sweepstakes, it’s illegal for them to require you to make a purchase of their product to enter (i’ll assume that most of you have heard the term “no purchase necessary” when a sweepstakes commercial hits the tv stations?). so…if there is no purchase necessary, then what’s the alternative to enter the sweepstakes? easy…they want you to jump through a couple of hoops to enter the sweepstakes. about 99% of the time they want you to write your name, address, phone no., and birthdate on a 3×5 card (a pack of 100 is about 60 cents) and mail to them in a stamped envelope. for every sweepstakes, there must be rules and inside of those rules is the alternate entry information on what they want specifically. or….to make it easier just do what i (and almost all other sweepstakesaholics do) and get a subscription to one of the newsletters that gives you the list of sweepstakes and entry instructions in an easy to read/understand format. one of my favorites is the “best sweepstakes newsletter“. the only real rule of thumb is to follow the rules to the letter or your entry is disqualified. nothing difficult, but they are unforgiving from what i understand.
on a side note: even those “peel n’ win” prize pieces that are on cups and fries at mcdonald’s, taco bell, etc. must have “no purchase necessary” instructions. those are usually an address to send a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) to and get free game pieces mailed back to you.
anyhoo…the entry arrives at the judging agency and then, when it’s time for the drawing, a random entry (or entries) are drawn. if you won something of real value, then they will notify you by certified or registered mail and request that you complete, notarize, and send back their form and affidavit. this doesn’t mean you’ve won yet, until they check you out to make sure you’re not a relative of an employee of that company, etc. if you haven’t broken any rules, they’ll send you your prize (which can take anywhere from days to months to receive). if it’s a smaller prize like i usually win, you’ll never know you won until the prize just shows up on your doorstep one day.
there are more details and caveats but that’s the foundation to get you started. if you decide to give it a try, please remember me if you hit big (and forget me if you suffer from the same addiction as the rest of us 🙂