AURORA - For Crystal Tanner, whose disability may eventually require a wheelchair, winning the St. Jude Dream Home this past month was a huge blessing, but it’s all out of reach.
“I couldn’t stop smiling for three days,” Tanner said.
After maxing out her credit card to get 50 $100 raffle tickets for the home drawing, Tanner ended up winning the grand prize of a $550,000 home in Aurora.
“I was in a depression this last year,” Tanner said. “Every time I looked at the video of the house, I couldn’t turn down this idea that this house is exactly like I would make it.”
But because she can’t afford the $180,000 in taxes, Tanner may have to forfeit the prize. She shared a letter with 9NEWS written by St. Jude’s legal department that indicated if she can’t come up with the money, she’ll have to give up on the home.
“I have been just devastated,” Tanner said, adding she can’t get a loan because she relies on disability income.
Tanner lives with cerebellum ataxia, a condition that causes loss of control of muscle as her brain deteriorates. She said the large home would have been perfect for her condition for improved mobility.
“I was already mostly packed and now I am just depressed. I was on Cloud 9 for so long,” Tanner said during an interview in front of the home.
“Prizes and awards are income. They’re gross income,” said CU Denver professor Eric Zinn, who oversees a graduate program at the university’s business school. “And you’re taxed on the value of the award.”
A disclaimer found on St. Jude’s website makes it clear winners are responsible for taxes on prizes.
“If you’re given the option of property or the cash, you should always take the cash because that way you can get the money to pay the taxes associated with your prize winnings,” Zinn said.
St. Jude is not offering any cash option in this case. WFAA's sister station in Denver, KUSA, found other charities which do home raffles that will offer winners a cash prize option if they can’t afford the taxes.
This is the statement from ALSAC/St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital:
“We work closely with winners as they make determinations about payment of the required taxes, and we welcome them to call us for further discussion. They also have the option to decline the home. Please know we do our very best to communicate the IRS-imposed requirements of the ticket holders through online and print materials prior to and during the purchase.”
When asked why St. Jude is not offering a cash prize for Crystal, a spokesperson said, “Every giveaway is unique. In this case, a cash prize was not included in the package nor was it advertised that way.”
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