Free Car! Except for the Taxes…Is That Price Right?

The biggest winner in the long history of The Price is Right … that’s what the media is calling Sheree Heil of Tacoma, Washington. In a show that aired in the waning days of 2013, Heil was playing the game called Gas Money. If you’re familiar with the show you know that to get that far, she’d already done well, in her case, winning $10,000 cash and a pair of Prada shoes. But there was more to come. 
 
In Gas Money, the contestant has to weed out four incorrect prices, until “the price is right.” As Heil eliminated each wrong price, she won more cash, and could have at any point taken the money and forfeited her chance for the big win. She pressed on, and ultimately hit the Grand Poobah of prizes. 
 
“She just won a $157,000 car,” said host Drew Carey. The car, an impressive Audi R8 Spyder Quattro convertible.
 
But wait… 
 
What about those pesky taxes? Previous winners have reported that, regardless of where you live, you cannot leave the studio with your prizes until California’s onerous taxes are paid. No driving away in your “free” car until you’ve settled with the Golden State’s taxman, (and more, much more will be due later. Those previous winners say sometimes TPIR winners walk away leaving their prizes unclaimed, because of the taxes. In Heil’s case, the car was on order, not ready to drive home so she did not have to fork over the taxes on it, yet. “I just got a letter from CBS today telling me the California taxes alone are nearly $12,000,” she said. 
 
Heil is a nurse who lives in Tacoma, Washington, where there is no state income tax. But she’ll still owe sales tax to Washington state, which according to one source looks to be about $14,915.
 
Then there is the federal tax bite of around $34,445. Added together the free car could require her to pay more than $61,000. 
 
So far, she’s not ruffled. “I have a brother-in-law who’s a tax guy, so I’ll let him figure it all out,” she told reporters at MyNorthwest.com.  
 
Let’s hope she can come up with the taxes and zip around Washington in her new car. But as is often the case with big prize winners, she may end up selling it. That presents another problem. The touted price of $157,000 is the amount she must pay tax on. But in reality, that is the manufacturer’s suggested retail price. The price you’d expect to pay if you went to the dealer and haggled would likely be much less. Plus, it’s common knowledge that new cars lose value immediately. 
 
Still … it’s nice to win free things, if you can afford free. 
 

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