Survivor contestants who manage to make it to the end of the show, will receive significant cash prizes. The first place contestant wins 1 million dollars; the second place contestant might get $250,000; the third place contestant and fourth place may win $100,000 each. Generally, the known amount of cash won is for the 1st place winner, the rest of the contestant monetary compensation is a guess, because Survivor does not disclose the cash prizes up front. The CBS network states that other contestants, other than the 1st place winner, may receive cash prizes, but they will not disclose the amounts.
For contestants who are not the 1st place million dollar winner, in prior shows, the 2nd place winner only won $100,000, which is much lower than it is now, so it’s clear just how the stakes are higher and how much more difficult the game has become.
For the 1st place winner, the cash prize of 1 million dollars will end up being much less after taxes, both federal and state will take out a nice chunk of their winnings. They will suddenly see their million dollar cash winning dwindle significantly. For instance, if the winner lives in New York, they will need to put aside approximately $104,000 of the million dollars to pay off the taxes. If they lived in California, they would need to set aside $91,000. In Hawaii, the taxes will add up to $82,000. But, if the Survivor winner lives in Montana, they will lose approximately $107,000 in taxes.
It’s well known the the first years winner of Survivor, Richard Hatch, was convicted by the IRS for tax evasion, he claimed he was under the impression that CBS would take care of paying the taxes on his winnings; that he had a heated argument with the executive producer of the show, Mark Burnett that CBS will take care of the tax liability if Hatch kept quiet about the alleged cheating going on during the game. Unfortunately, CBS denied any such agreement, and convicted Hatch of 2 counts of tax evasion and he was sentenced to 51 month of prison time.
So, even if the 1st place winner of Survivor receives 1 million dollars, they will basically end up with considerably less (after taxes), but it’s still better than ending up in jail.