Tax Forms May be Next Obamacare Challenge

Monday, 11 Aug 2014 06:48 PM

By Greg Richter

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With the troubled launch of Healthcare.gov in the rearview mirror, the next challenge for the Affordable Care Act lies with 2015's tax filing season.

The law requires every American to have health insurance or to obtain a waiver. And since the IRS will be checking compliance, there will be a new line on tax forms to ensure tax filers are following the law, Politico reports.

Every filer will have to prove whether he or she — and dependents — have insurance. Those who receive subsidies to help pay their premiums will have to make certain they have received the correct amount.

The new forms look "very daunting," Mark Ciaramitaro of H&R Block told Politico. "Overall, we expect the complexity level is just going to go up for a significant group of moderate- to low-income people, whether they got insurance through the marketplace or they didn’t."

Ryan Ellis, Tax Policy Director at Americans for Tax Reform, testified before Congress in early June that the upcoming tax season " has the potential to be one of the most chaotic in years."

One of the main problems, Ellis said, is in the calculation of subsidies, which are done by estimate and may not reflect actual income — especially for those whose income changes dramatically during the year.

It is unclear, however, what the IRS will do if people ignore the line on their tax form requesting insurance information, Jackson Hewitt Tax Service's George Brandes, told Politico. He thinks people who dodge the question may have an easier time than those who comply.

"You’re at much greater risk for having things gummed up if you’ve done what you’re supposed to do," Brandes said.

"For people who have fairly simple returns and tend to file early, the simple lack of a necessary piece of paper if it’s not generated in time will delay their ability to do that," said Ed Haislmaier of the Heritage Foundation.

Tax Foundation economist Alan Cole told the website that the agency isn't as likely to crack down hard on noncompliance in the first year, seeing it more as a trial run.

Applying for an exemption is also complicated. And even filing for them through the federal exchange can be done only through old-fashioned snail-mail.

Even if people receive all their forms on time to file their returns, Brandes worries they could have inaccurate information.

"They’re still processing inconsistencies from last time around," he told Politico. "This is taxmaggedon here."

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