The Internal Revenue Service has announced that for the first time, tax returns filed electronically in 2018 will be rejected if they do not contain the information about whether the filer has coverage, including whether the filer is exempt from the individual mandate or will pay the tax penalty imposed by the law on those who don’t buy coverage.
Tax returns filed on paper could have processing suspended and thus any possible refund delayed.
The New York Times reports that the IRS appears to be acting in contradiction to the first executive order issued by the Trump White House on inauguration day, in which Trump instructed agencies to “scale back” enforcement of regulations governing the ACA.
The move by the IRS reminds people that they can’t just ignore the ACA, despite the EO. Although only those lacking coverage have to pay the penalty, everyone has to indicate their insurance coverage status on their filing.
According to legal experts cited in the report, the IRS is indicating that although the administration may have leeway in how aggressively it enforces the mandate provision, it’s still in effect unless and until Congress specifically repeals it.
While many people thought they didn’t have to bother with reporting, and many insurers have raised rates anticipating that the lack of a mandate would lead to lower enrollments and higher costs for them, that’s not the case. Initially the IRS did not reject returns because the law was new.
The penalty is pretty steep; for those who don’t have coverage, it can range from $695 for an individual to a maximum of $2,085 for a family or 2.5 percent of AGI, whichever is higher. Not everyone without coverage would be penalized, though; if their income is too low or if the lowest-priced coverage costs more than 8.16 percent of their income, they’ll avoid the penalty.
That said, it’s not known how stringently the IRS will be in enforcing the mandate. But at least taxpayers will know whether they’re exempt from the penalty or whether they’re obligated to buy coverage.