As tax deadline nears, most uninsured appear likely to choose penalty; some with coverage are having to refund part of subsidy

Kentucky Health News

Most people facing a tax penalty for not having health insurance appear likely to pay it instead of taking advantage of a special opportunity to but coverage and minimize the penalty.

“Major tax-preparation firms say many customers are paying the penalty
and not getting health insurance,” reports Stephanie Armour of The Wall Street Journal. “Research also suggests that many
people who lack health insurance will pay the penalty and not get
covered this year.”

Many polls have found that many if not most people without health insurance are unaware that they are subject to a tax penalty under the federal health-reform law. That percentage appears to be declining as they prepare their income-tax returns, but a poll taken in late February found that when told of the penalty, only 12 percent of the uninsured said they would get coverage.

For many people, the choice is simply financial, since coverage for them would be more expensive than the penalty — 1 percent of their income, or $95 per adult or $47.50 per child, whichever is larger. Others say they don’t need coverage, and some object to the penalty or the law altogether.

The penalty will increase to 2 percent of income and $325 per adult or $167.50 per child for the 2015 tax year, so if you are uninsured and don’t qualify for Medicaid or one of the law’s exemptions, the end of the special enrollment period, April 30, is the last chance to avoid that penalty.

“In late February, H & R Block reported that its uninsured clients
had paid an average penalty of $172,” reports Abby Goodnough of The New York Times. “The money comes out of refunds,
while people who do not get refunds are required to pay the Internal Revenue Service by April 15.”

Some people who have coverage “might find another unpleasant
surprise: As many as half the nearly 7 million Americans who got
subsidies to offset their premiums may have to refund money to the
government, according to an estimate by H & R Block,” the Journal reports. “The subsidies are
based on consumers’ own projections of their 2014 income, but some
estimated incorrectly and received overly generous credits. Those people
will see smaller-than-expected refunds or could owe the government
money.”

“H & R Block also found that as of Feb. 24, just over half of its
clients with subsidized marketplace coverage had to repay a portion of
their subsidy because their 2014 income turned out to be higher than
what they estimated when they applied for coverage,” the Times reports. “The process includes “new forms that even seasoned preparers are finding confusing.”

The Obama administration announced last month that 800,000 people with insurance bought under the reform law had received incorrect information needed for their tax returns. About 10 percent of them have still not received corrected forms, it announced Friday. “The administration said people who have not received the corrected forms do not have to wait to file their taxes and will not have to pay any additional tax due to the effort,” The Hill reports.

The Wall Street Journal reports, “Consumers who already filed their tax returns using the incorrect forms provided though state or federal exchanges won’t be required to file amended forms, and the Internal Revenue Service won’t assess additional taxes, said Mark Mazur, the Treasury Department’s assistant secretary for tax policy.”

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