TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Tax Consequences of Survivor's Car Challenge

Survivor_2Andrew Mitchel blogs the tax consequences of the recent Survivor episode in which a contestent was given the choice of winning a new car for herself or letting the four other contestents win a new car:

On the December 8th episode of Survivor, Cindy Hall, one of the last five competitors, won a reward challenge. The prize for winning the challenge was a new car. Immediately after the challenge, the show’s host, Jeff Probst, announced that she had won the car, and he presented her with the keys. The car drove up to the scene and was available for Cindy to take possession of at that moment.

Immediately after telling Cindy that she won the car, Jeff presented her with a proposition: keep the car and risk losing the game, presumably from the other players’ resentment that she won the car (dubbed the "car curse"), or give up the wheels and the other four competitors would each win their own automobiles. Cindy chose to keep the car. Consistent with the car curse, she was voted off at the next tribal council.

A number of interesting tax questions arise if she had chosen to forego the car. She still would have been taxed on the receipt of the car.

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Wrong analysis. Constructive receipt doesn't apply. The contestant did not earn the car. It was a prize, and until title is handed over there is no concept of 'turning one's back on income."

Posted by: Phil Z | Dec 28, 2005 5:52:24 PM

Need to know more. I won a motorcycle last year. $100 raffle. What are the tax consequences?

Posted by: Jerry U | Feb 22, 2006 3:25:40 PM