Winning ExpectationsIt is important to remember that there is no guarantee of winning any sweepstakes, no matter how many times or how many you enter. It is a game of chance, and entries are picked randomly. However, you can maximize your chances of winning, and your winning expectations, by entering as many as possible, as frequently as possible, and entering as many difficult sweepstakes as possible. This will help to guarantee that you have the best chances of winning prizes possible.
If you are selected as a winner, this will let you know when you may expect to win, and the process of claiming your prize.
Time Frame for Winning and receiving a prize
If your sweepstakes entry prize is selected as the winner, generally speaking the process will take between 30-90 days from the time you enter to the time you receive the prize. This is simply because most sweepstakes tend to run for at least one month, then may require 2-4 weeks to select a random winner, obtain an affidavit (if applicable), and then another 2-4 weeks to send out the prize.
It is, however, possible to receive a prize much sooner if your entry was selected just as the sweepstakes closed, the sponsor does not require an affidavit, and mails the prize out right away. Some people have literally reported next day wins, with the prize in their hands several days later.
Affidavits (If Applicable)
Some companies may require you to fill an affidavit as a condition of receiving a prize. Generally, the affidavit will be a general release form - which means you give the company permission to publish your name as a winner. Sometimes, a company may also require proof of who you are, or request a picture of your face. Usually this is to publicize your winning information. (I.e., "Congratulations to ___, our winner who won the ___ prize! Here is a smiling picture of their face!")
Many other times, these permissions will have already been listed in the rules as a condition of entering, so you will simply receive a prize in the mail. Many people report that they will wake up one morning, and see a Fedex truck delivering a new surprise to them, meaning they've received a prize! So it depends on the company sponsoring the sweepstakes.
Potential Hidden Costs
Disclaimer: The following information is provided as general information only in the USA, which may or may not be applicable to your situation. It is not specific tax advice, and is not intended as legal advice. Your tax situation may be different. You should consult a tax lawyer or tax accountant to see specifically what applies to you.
If the prize you receive is worth $600 or more USD, then you will usually receive something called a 1099 form from the sponsor. And you will need to use these forms when you do your taxes. Anything less than $600 USD in a single prize win is usually your responsibility to record and report. However, a couple good things:
- Record the "FMV" (Fair Market Value) of your wins. If the sponsor declares the value to be higher, but you can find that the fair market value is less than that, you may be able to use that value on your taxes. Keep any receipts/flyers/etc that show the fair market value. (I.e., so if a sponsor said a prize was worth $1,000, but you found local flyers from an established store said you could buy it for $500 - then you may be able to use the $500 value of the prize when calculating your taxes. This might happen if say the price of a prize has gone down from the time you received the form, to the time you actually receive the prize.)
- You may be able to deduct expenses against your wins. First of all, keep accurate and detailed records of any wins, and any expenses associated with obtaining those wins. If you can show that your expenses were legitimate and used solely for the purpose of obtaining those wins, then you may be able to deduct the costs associated with that. (So for example - specific sweepstakes website memberships, sweepstakes newsletters, and so forth most likely would be deductible, but of course you would have to consult with a tax professional to confirm. However, things like internet service would most likely not be - since most people also use internet for watching t.v., checking e-mail, and so forth - unless you could prove that you used it solely for the purpose of entering sweepstakes.)
- Sponsors may include cash to offset taxes for large prize wins. More and more sponsors are recognizing the potential tax burden for "large" prize wins (i.e., over $5,000 for a single prize) - so in many cases, you will see that they include cash as part of the prize package. So an all expense paid vacation may include several thousand dollars in cash, or a $25,000 vehicle may also include $10,000 cash as part of the prize package. So the cash portion of your prize win can be used to help offset any taxes.