As Deadline to Claim $1.5B Mega Millions Jackpot Nears, a Look at How Often Lottery Winnings Go Unclaimed

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More than two months have gone by since a mystery person won the $1.5 billion Mega Millions jackpot, but the staggering prize has yet to be claimed and the deadline to do so is drawing near.

The person or persons who bought the winning ticket at the KC Mart in Simpsonville, South Carolina, have 180 days from the Oct. 23 drawing to claim their prize: a nearly $900 million lump-sum payout. 

The prospective winner, who is allowed to remain anonymous, may be hoping to benefit by waiting until the new year to come forward, according to financial experts. 

When the winner receives the payout will determine the year the tax has to be paid. Taxes for monies claimed in 2018 will have to be paid in April, whereas taxes for funds collected in 2019 will not be paid until April 2020. 

“That’s 16 more months it can sit in a bank and collect interest,” Joe Poore, a senior manager with Elliot Davis, a Greenville-based accounting firm, told The State. “That could be a difference of millions of dollars.”

There’s also a possibility that the winner is sorting out their finances prior to coming forward or that they have forgotten they bought a ticket in the first place.

More than $2 billion in lottery prize money went unclaimed in 2017 in the U.S., according to research from lottery expert Brett Jacobson. 

At least $24 million in winnings went unclaimed in California in 2016, while in Michigan, winners missed out on more than $27.6 million in 2017. A $77 million ticket purchased in Georgia in 2011, a $31 million ticket purchased in New York in 2006 and a $68 million ticket bought in New York in 2002 have all gone unclaimed. And oftentimes, winners of smaller, but still hefty, prizes are also unaware that they have in their possession a golden ticket.

"People don't even realize there are secondary prizes," Jacobson told CNNMoney.com.    

According to Jacobson’s data, about 114 prizes worth $1 million or more went unclaimed in 2015. 

The winner of October’s life-changing prize has until April 21 to claim their winnings. If the jackpot is not claimed by then, each participating state in the Mega Millions game will get back the money it contributed to the jackpot. The winning numbers were 5, 28, 62, 65, 70 and Mega Ball 5. 

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