A lot has been said about the terrible math making its way through the tubes of the Interwebs today, claiming the current Powerball jackpot’s annuity value (now $1.4 billion) divided by the population of the United States (about 318.9 million) would mean everybody gets a little more than $4 million, which might be true in Terrence Howard’s world. But in the reality the rest of us live in, it’s more like $4.
Even that is ignoring a few obvious factors. For one, the $1.4 billion is the total payout of an annuity. The cash option as I write this is $868 million. Still not a bad payday, but still.
For another, the taxman cometh. The IRS would take around $343 million. (I’m no tax expert, but I’m assuming you’re filing as an individual, using Forbes’ poorly formatted tables.) Here in Massachusetts, the commonwealth would take another 5.1%, or $44 million. You’d take home a check for about $480 million. Divide that by the population, and everyone would get $1.51, which is enough to cover a used copy of the Super Mario Bros movie.
EDIT: Okay, I know, the original meme was meant to illustrate if instead of having a mega-jackpot the Multi-State Lottery Association could distribute the money to the public directly. But for one thing, they only have enough money to buy the annuity. For another, disbursing that as something other than a jackpot would be fraud, since people are buying tickets to try to win it. And since the lotteries are state agencies, there are probably laws that designate that money as jackpot money.
EDIT 2: My numbers were slightly off, but it’s all an approximation anyway, since even MUSL won’t know the cash value of the prize until after the drawing. I’ve corrected the numbers above. I also just realized I’m using the 2015 tax rates, not the 2016 rates, but since that only changes the tax liability by about a quarter million (ha-ha, “only”), and it’s all an approximation anyway, I’m not going to bother updating the graphic.