U.S. government says Obamacare could affect up to 29 percent of taxpayers

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 28, 2015 5:32 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration estimates that up to 29 percent of U.S. taxpayers could have to take the law known as Obamacare into account as they complete their 2014 income tax returns, officials said on Wednesday.

Two to 4 percent are expected to pay a penalty for failing to obtain health coverage last year under President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, according to official estimates.

Treasury and healthcare officials told reporters that 3 percent to 5 percent could have to reconcile the federal subsidies they received to help pay for health coverage in 2014, if fluctuations in their income led them to receive too much or too little assistance.

Another 10 percent to 20 percent of taxpayers are expected to use their tax filings to seek exemptions from the law's coverage requirements. That would constitute 15 million to 20 million people.

The estimates are based on U.S. Treasury expectations for about 150 million income tax filings, which are due to the Internal Revenue Service by an April 15 deadline.

This year marks the first time that the public must take health coverage into account as part of their tax calculations. The administration said it would work with a nearly a dozen tax preparers and nonprofit groups to help consumers navigate the new requirements.

The group includes tax preparers H&R Block Inc, Jackson Hewitt Tax Service Inc [JAKHT.UL] and Intuit Inc, whose products include TurboTax.

The IRS is also waiving penalties that people might otherwise face if they were found to owe insurance subsidies back to the federal government.

The Affordable Care Act requires most Americans to have health coverage and fines eligible consumers who failed to obtain it in 2014 $95 or 1 percent of household income, whichever is higher. The penalty is set to rise in 2015 and 2016.

Most of the 6.7 million people who were enrolled in private coverage through online insurance exchanges at the end of 2014 received federal subsidies, based on their income, to help pay for premiums or other expenses. Still others received subsidies but did not remain in the markets for the entire year, officials said.

Those whose incomes fluctuated over the year could now owe money back or qualify for a tax windfall.

The Department of Health and Human Services is sending out 4 million official forms that will specify the amount of federal subsidies consumers received after enrolling in health coverage through the federal website, Healthcare.gov.

(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)