Are prizes in competitions regarded as assessable income?


Question: A client, an architect employed by a company, along with another colleague, participated in a station design competition organized by the government office (OVGA). They made it to the final five and were awarded a prize of $40,000 to develop a plan for the project. They were asked to send an invoice to OVGA for the prize money. The ultimate reward for winning the competition was a contract to design the station. Is the prize considered as taxable income?

Answer: Typically, gifts or prizes are seen as personal windfalls and not counted as regular income. However, if the prize is related to an income-producing activity of the taxpayer, it's considered taxable. Courts consider various factors to determine this:

  • The capacity and reason for receiving the prize or gift
  • Whether it's common in the recipient's profession
  • If it was voluntarily given or solicited
  • If it's a token of gratitude for services rendered
  • The donor's motive
  • Whether the recipient relies on it for regular expenses.

In this case, the "prize" from the "competition" was essentially part of a bidding process for a contract. The amount won is directly linked to the architect's income-producing work and acknowledges their architectural design skills. Therefore, it's seen as payment for services and is fully taxable as assessable income.

Written by Ideas Group

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