'America's Got Talent' Winner Won't Really Get $1M

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The winner of Season 12 of America’s Got Talent will be crowned on Wednesday night and viewers will hear repeatedly – as they have all summer – about the $1 million grand prize.

In fact, the winner will not receive $1 million (all figures U.S.). No AGT winner ever has.

At the end of every episode of AGT, a disclaimer flashes on the screen explaining: “The prize, which totals $1,000,000, is payable in a financial annuity over forty years, or the contestant may choose to receive the present cash value of such annuity.”

If the winner chooses the first payment option, he or she will receive about $25,000 a year for the next 40 years. This is taxable income in the U.S., so the total amount received after four decades would be significantly less than $1 million.

This season’s frontrunners are 10-year-old singer Angelica Hale and 12-year-old ventriloquist Darci Lynne Farmer. If they took the grand prize in the form of an annuity, they would be 50 and 52 respectively by the time the last cheque was issued.

Choosing the “present cash value” of the annuity instead would earn the winner about $300,000, less taxes – meaning he or she would pocket between $150,000 and $200,000.

AGT also promises “a headline show in Las Vegas” as part of the prize package. That’s nothing more than performing as the final act in a variety show on Nov. 3 and Nov. 4 at the PH Showroom at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino.

Only a handful of AGT winners have gone on to successful entertainment careers. Season 2 winner, ventriloquist Terry Fater, and magician Matt Franco, who won Season 9, signed lucrative deals for their own shows in Vegas.

But singers who won the show – including Bianca Ryan, Neal E. Boyd, Kevin Skinner, Landau Eugene Murphy – have failed to cash in on their AGT success. Last season’s winner Grace VanderWaal has a debut album coming out in November.