The Internal Revenue Service has reversed its requirement taxpayers prove they either have health coverage or are exempt, Reason.com reported.
The move is a result of an executive order signed by President Donald Trump just hours after he took the oath of office and is seen as a blow to Obamacare's individual mandate that was touted by former President Barack Obama as part of the three-legged stool vital to maintain the Affordable Care Act.
Though proof of insurance has been previously required when filing income taxes, this year was to be the first that returns would have been rejected if the filer either did not prove coverage or indicate an allowed exemption.
"The recent executive order directed federal agencies to exercise authority and discretion available to them to reduce potential burden," the IRS told Reason. "Consistent with that, the IRS has decided to make changes that would continue to allow electronic and paper returns to be accepted for processing in instances where a taxpayer doesn't indicate their coverage status."
The move does not, however, mean any law has been changed, and taxpayers still technically owe a penalty for not having coverage or an exemption. The IRS did not indicate what, if anything, would flag a return that did not check the coverage box, something known as a "silent return."
"Processing silent returns means that taxpayer returns are not systemically rejected, allowing them to be processed and minimizing burden on taxpayers, including those expecting a refund," the IRS said.
The move has brought questions of legality since the White House is required to enforce the law since it has been deemed constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. But Ryan Ellis, a senior fellow at the Conservative Reform Network, told Reason the policy does not rise to the level of not enforcing the law.
"If the IRS turns a blind eye to people's status, that isn't quite not enforcing it," Ellis said. "It's more like the IRS wanting to maintain plausible deniability."
Trump ran on repealing and replacing Obamacare with its "three-legged stool" that consists of requiring people to buy health coverage, health insurers to take all applicants, and provide subsidies for those below certain income levels.
While proponents point to those who have been able to get coverage for the first time under the ACA, opponents note many have had to give up the coverage they had — or have had to pay skyrocketing premiums and deductibles.
Republicans control both houses of Congress and also have vowed to repeal and replace the ACA.
"This is a huge blow to the mandate," conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh said on his show Wednesday. "It's not full-fledged. It doesn't require . . . It isn't legislative rollback, but it's a big move!"
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