As the most popular syndicated show on TV, with tens of millions of viewers everyday, competition to get on “Wheel of Fortune” is fierce: Millions of people apply to get on the game show every year. Of those, according to the show’s website, only 10,000 are selected to audition. Out of that pool, a mere 600 end up on the show, and of those, just 200 make it to the final round. Matt McMahan was one of them. In the the end he won $31,700 in cash and prizes — $16,400 in cash and two vacations valued at $15,300: a trip to Chile and a cruise down the Danube River.
All game show winnings — cash, prizes, trips, etc. — were taxed like regular income. The show allowed him to find less expensive versions of his two trips, so he was able to pay taxes on vacations worth $10,800 instead of the original $15,300. In the end, he estimates he’ll only walk away with about $6,000 in cash. That game show prizes come with strings attached may come as a surprise to contestants who expect their winnings free and clear, but McMahan said he and Hart never debated foregoing the vacations, especially since his cash winnings would cover the taxes they owed on them.