Jackpot? How much contestants really take home in game show winnings

Jason Cochran

Imagine you've made it to the final Tribal Council on Survivor. It's time to determine the winner, and host Jeff Probst keeps pulling slips bearing your name. Finally, he announces that you are the champion. Congratulations, you just won... $580,000!

Wait a minute, Jeff. Hang on. Isn't that prize short a few hundred thousand? I ate rancid sheep guts. I passed out from exhaustion. I earned my million bucks.

Nope. As the first Survivor winner, Richard Hatch, discovered through convictions and prison time, even if you win a prize on television, Uncle Sam counts it as taxable income. How much you're taxed depends on your income and the state you live in (because if your state levies income taxes, it will want its bite, too). However, it's safe to say that you'll lose nearly half to the taxman. If you want to survive on Survivor winnings for 20 years, you'll have to budget less than $30,000 a year after taxes.