Obamacare Tax Woes for Non-taxpayers

One of the more vexing features of ObamaCare is that compliance is enforced by our beloved IRS. Rumor has it that some 16,000 new IRS agents were hired just to enforce compliance with the new law. The new agents make sure we’re insured, and if we’re not insured an ObamaCare tax can be levied on us. The mandate to buy ObamaCare is triggered by having a federal individual income tax liability; if one doesn’t owe income taxes, one isn’t required to have ObamaCare. And if one doesn’t owe income taxes one (usually) isn’t required to file a return.

But some income earners who don’t owe income taxes nonetheless file returns. And that’s a prudent idea as it establishes a paper trail for possible audits in years in which one will owe taxes. But in its majestic rationality, ObamaCare makes filing a return more complicated -- even for those who don’t owe taxes.

Consider Line 11 of the 2016 Form 1040EZ, which reads “Health care: individual responsibility (see instructions).” Even though the 1040EZ is supposed to be easy, one must go to the instruction booklet if one is unsure about Line 11. Would it be so very difficult to simply have a note on Form 1040EZ that says if you don’t owe taxes, you can leave Line 11 blank?

So off we go to the 46-page 1040EZ instructions. But you won’t find Line 11 listed in the Table of Contents; it’s on page 20. The explanation for Line 11 is about one page in length, but here’s the operative part for someone who doesn’t have ObamaCare and who doesn’t owe any income tax but wants to file anyway:

If you cannot check the box on this line, you must generally either claim a coverage exemption on Form 8965 or report a shared responsibility payment on line 11 for each month that you, your spouse (if filing jointly), or someone you can or do claim as a dependent didn't have coverage. See the Instructions for Form 8965 for information on coverage exemptions and figuring the shared responsibility payment. However, if you can be claimed as a dependent, you do not need to check the box, claim a coverage exemption, or report a payment. Leave the entry space blank. You do not need to attach Form 8965 or see its instructions.

Again, why doesn’t the IRS tell filers who don’t owe any taxes that they too, like those who “can be claimed as a dependent,” aren’t required “to check the box, claim a coverage exemption, or report a payment”? But no, we’re required to get the 20-page instructions for Form 8965, where on page 1 we read:

Not required to file a tax return. If you aren't required to file a tax return, your tax household is exempt from the shared responsibility payment and you don't need to file a tax return to claim the coverage exemption. However, if you aren't required to file a tax return but choose to file anyway, you must claim the coverage exemption on line 7 of Form 8965. (See the instructions under Part II, later.)

Part II is on page 5 and you can check it out for yourself. But the thing is, if you are exempt from having to comply with ObamaCare, don’t have ObamaCare, and aren’t even required to file an income tax return, your taxes are more complicated than they were. You must attach Form 8965, and check the box on Line 7, which reads: “If you are claiming a coverage exemption because your household income or gross income is below the filing threshold, check here.”

One must attach an extra form (the 8965) just so that one can check a box. Again, why the rigmarole? Surely the IRS is smart enough to know that you’re not sending in a payment. When encountering a return for someone who doesn’t owe income taxes but hasn’t responded to Line 11 and hasn’t attached Form 8965, one must wonder if IRS agents reject the return and don’t archive it.

ObamaCare has complicated income tax preparation even for the previously easy 1040EZ, and even for those not required to purchase ObamaCare nor even file a return. And the tax complications are much greater for those Americans wishing to take a religious exemption, and for those who did not have coverage for every month of a tax year, and for those getting a subsidy. (If you are planning to use the 1040EZ, be sure to read page 4 of the instructions. If you are “claiming the premium tax credit” or are “required to reconcile advance payments of the premium tax credit,” then you can’t use the 1040EZ form.)

And, of course, if you don’t comply exactly as they want you to, the IRS can come down on you just like they would if you hadn’t paid taxes on your income. Perhaps the IRS will garnishee your wages or take your home just because you ran afoul of ObamaCare. Perhaps the IRS will detail their swat team to come visit you. (By the way, the Supreme Court has ruled that ObamaCare’s “shared responsibility payment” is a tax.)

And consider income earners who don’t discover until the end of the year that they don’t owe income taxes but who had paid throughout the tax year for ObamaCare insurance they maybe didn’t want nor need nor could afford. And they weren’t even required to have purchased it, but didn’t know that until they already had. How aggravating is that? It’s like needing to pass a bill so you can know what’s in it. Can they get their money back?

With the added complexity of preparing a tax return and the involvement of the IRS in policing compliance, income tax changes are one of the more unpopular features of Obamacare. The mandates must go, as must the 16,000 new agents who enforce the mandates.

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City. 

One of the more vexing features of ObamaCare is that compliance is enforced by our beloved IRS. Rumor has it that some 16,000 new IRS agents were hired just to enforce compliance with the new law. The new agents make sure we’re insured, and if we’re not insured an ObamaCare tax can be levied on us. The mandate to buy ObamaCare is triggered by having a federal individual income tax liability; if one doesn’t owe income taxes, one isn’t required to have ObamaCare. And if one doesn’t owe income taxes one (usually) isn’t required to file a return.

But some income earners who don’t owe income taxes nonetheless file returns. And that’s a prudent idea as it establishes a paper trail for possible audits in years in which one will owe taxes. But in its majestic rationality, ObamaCare makes filing a return more complicated -- even for those who don’t owe taxes.

Consider Line 11 of the 2016 Form 1040EZ, which reads “Health care: individual responsibility (see instructions).” Even though the 1040EZ is supposed to be easy, one must go to the instruction booklet if one is unsure about Line 11. Would it be so very difficult to simply have a note on Form 1040EZ that says if you don’t owe taxes, you can leave Line 11 blank?

So off we go to the 46-page 1040EZ instructions. But you won’t find Line 11 listed in the Table of Contents; it’s on page 20. The explanation for Line 11 is about one page in length, but here’s the operative part for someone who doesn’t have ObamaCare and who doesn’t owe any income tax but wants to file anyway:

If you cannot check the box on this line, you must generally either claim a coverage exemption on Form 8965 or report a shared responsibility payment on line 11 for each month that you, your spouse (if filing jointly), or someone you can or do claim as a dependent didn't have coverage. See the Instructions for Form 8965 for information on coverage exemptions and figuring the shared responsibility payment. However, if you can be claimed as a dependent, you do not need to check the box, claim a coverage exemption, or report a payment. Leave the entry space blank. You do not need to attach Form 8965 or see its instructions.

Again, why doesn’t the IRS tell filers who don’t owe any taxes that they too, like those who “can be claimed as a dependent,” aren’t required “to check the box, claim a coverage exemption, or report a payment”? But no, we’re required to get the 20-page instructions for Form 8965, where on page 1 we read:

Not required to file a tax return. If you aren't required to file a tax return, your tax household is exempt from the shared responsibility payment and you don't need to file a tax return to claim the coverage exemption. However, if you aren't required to file a tax return but choose to file anyway, you must claim the coverage exemption on line 7 of Form 8965. (See the instructions under Part II, later.)

Part II is on page 5 and you can check it out for yourself. But the thing is, if you are exempt from having to comply with ObamaCare, don’t have ObamaCare, and aren’t even required to file an income tax return, your taxes are more complicated than they were. You must attach Form 8965, and check the box on Line 7, which reads: “If you are claiming a coverage exemption because your household income or gross income is below the filing threshold, check here.”

One must attach an extra form (the 8965) just so that one can check a box. Again, why the rigmarole? Surely the IRS is smart enough to know that you’re not sending in a payment. When encountering a return for someone who doesn’t owe income taxes but hasn’t responded to Line 11 and hasn’t attached Form 8965, one must wonder if IRS agents reject the return and don’t archive it.

ObamaCare has complicated income tax preparation even for the previously easy 1040EZ, and even for those not required to purchase ObamaCare nor even file a return. And the tax complications are much greater for those Americans wishing to take a religious exemption, and for those who did not have coverage for every month of a tax year, and for those getting a subsidy. (If you are planning to use the 1040EZ, be sure to read page 4 of the instructions. If you are “claiming the premium tax credit” or are “required to reconcile advance payments of the premium tax credit,” then you can’t use the 1040EZ form.)

And, of course, if you don’t comply exactly as they want you to, the IRS can come down on you just like they would if you hadn’t paid taxes on your income. Perhaps the IRS will garnishee your wages or take your home just because you ran afoul of ObamaCare. Perhaps the IRS will detail their swat team to come visit you. (By the way, the Supreme Court has ruled that ObamaCare’s “shared responsibility payment” is a tax.)

And consider income earners who don’t discover until the end of the year that they don’t owe income taxes but who had paid throughout the tax year for ObamaCare insurance they maybe didn’t want nor need nor could afford. And they weren’t even required to have purchased it, but didn’t know that until they already had. How aggravating is that? It’s like needing to pass a bill so you can know what’s in it. Can they get their money back?

With the added complexity of preparing a tax return and the involvement of the IRS in policing compliance, income tax changes are one of the more unpopular features of Obamacare. The mandates must go, as must the 16,000 new agents who enforce the mandates.

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City. 

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