Is the winner of the $321-million Mega Millions lottery a Canadian? They could be: no one has come forward yet to claim the eighth-largest prize in the lottery’s 12-year history. The single winning lottery ticket, announced on Tuesday, November 4, was sold in New York State, where plenty of Canadians and other non-U.S. residents visit.
Mega Millions winners, depending on the state, have either 180 days or one year to claim lottery prizes. The winner has the choice of either receiving annual payouts (30 graduated yearly installments) or receiving a one-time payout.
Non-U.S. Residents Eligible for Lottery Winnings
With so much money at play, it’s not a real surprise to learn that Canadians and other international tourists visiting the U.S. purchase lottery tickets. While the Mega Millions lottery doesn’t sell tickets to Canadians online, if they buy a ticket during their travels south of the border, they have a chance at the Mega Millions jackpot, just like everyone else.
Unfortunately, many lottery winners are unaware of their good luck because they forget to look up the numbers after returning home. For Canadians, this is because non-Canadian lottery numbers are not published or announced on local TV or in national newspapers. If you have a winning lottery ticket and fail to collect your winnings in the allotted period of time, you forfeit the jackpot.
Billions of Dollars in Lottery Winnings Go Unclaimed Every Year
While it may seem like a stretch that someone won’t claim the $321-million prize, the fact is that lottery winnings go unclaimed more often than people imagine.
More than 34 million winning lottery tickets go unclaimed every year. In 2013, more than $2.0 billion in prizes went unclaimed, and this past summer, a $12.0-million lottery prize in Texas went unclaimed after the 180-day prize window to claim the winnings closed.
The Difference for Non-U.S. Resident Lottery Winners
In Canada, lottery winnings are tax-free, but in the U.S., every significant lottery jackpot won by a Canadian or non-U.S. resident is subject to a 30% withholding tax. If a Canadian won the Mega Millions, the IRS will hold back $96.3 million!
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Schutzman, N., “Hudson Valley’s $321M lotto winner hasn’t come forward yet,” Poughkeepsie Journal web site, November 6, 2014; www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/story/news/local/2014/11/06/middletown-lottery-winner-ticket/18615229/.