Pennsylvania House passes Bernstine bill to hold lottery winners accountable for debts

HARRISBURG – Legislation to intercept lottery winnings by individuals who are delinquent on state taxes or behind on child support payments has passed unanimously in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

The bill was sponsored by state Rep. Aaron Bernstine, who announced its passage.

House Bill 674 requires the Department of Revenue to determine whether taxpayers who win a single prize of more than $2,500 from the Pennsylvania Lottery have any unpaid state taxes. If the taxpayer does have an outstanding state tax liability and all appeal rights have been exhausted, the amount of state tax that is owed will be deducted from the winnings and paid to the Commonwealth.


“Simply put, this is an accountability bill that holds those responsible who owe back taxes, restitution, or child support,” Bernstine said. “If a person is lucky enough to win the lottery, those that they owe child support to and the rest of the state’s taxpayers will share in that luck as outstanding bills will be paid.”

The bill also mandates that the Department of Revenue determine if prize winners have outstanding court-ordered obligations such as court costs, fines and restitution. If winners do have an obligation, that amount will be deducted from the winnings following deductions for child support and unpaid state taxes.


“I’m sure there will be single parents all over Pennsylvania who will rejoice at receiving back payments that help them just to put food on the table,” Bernstine noted. “If a lottery winner owes child support, there will be no choice in the matter. Those winnings will automatically be redirected to the family members who have been struggling without receiving what’s legally due to them.”


Furthermore, another important part of the bill is a check of public assistance benefits. The Department of Revenue must send the winner’s information to the Department of Human Services to determine if he or she is a recipient of public assistance benefits. If the prizewinner does receive benefits, a determination will be made regarding if he or she remains eligible for those benefits.

“I think this will certainly be a help in increasing accountability for both the winners and Pennsylvania’s public assistance system,” Bernstine said. “Some lottery prizes can completely change an individual’s financial circumstance. If that’s the case, we need to ensure that their welfare checks will be changed accordingly.”

House Bill 674 now awaits consideration in the state Senate.