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HHS Finds Taxpayers Some Help Navigating Obamacare Requirements

This is the maiden voyage for claiming the insurance premium credit.

The annual headaches of filing a tax return this year will be compounded by the first round of reporting basic income and insurance information under the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

On Wednesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell announced that her department has enlisted an array of nonprofits and the major tax preparation companies “to ensure that the public understands how health care and their taxes intersect.”

Participants in the public-private partnership include Tax-Aide (the nation’s largest free, volunteer-run tax preparation program), the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the nonprofit Community Action Partnership, the Corporation for Enterprise Development, FileYourTaxes.com, H&R Block, Jackson Hewitt, Liberty Tax Service, the National Women’s Law Center, TaxACT and TurboTax.

Noting that 91 percent of taxpayers now rely on software to prepare returns, Burwell noted that commercial products have updated their online tools to reflect requirements that taxpayers who have private, government or employer-provided insurance simply check a box indicating so.

A smaller number—the 3 percent to 5 percent who benefited from advanced payment of tax credits to lower the cost of their insurance -- will “need to reconcile those credits in order to ensure that they received the correct amount.” Some 10 percent to 20 percent of taxpayers who were uninsured for part of 2014 will need to claim an exemption from the mandate for coverage.

“A much smaller fraction of taxpayers, an estimated 2 to 4 percent,” an HHS statement said, “will pay a fee because they made a choice to not obtain coverage they could have afforded and are not eligible for an exemption.”

HHS also reminded the public that additional help is available from the Internal Revenue Service. But Internal Revenue Commissioner John Koskinen has warned that budget cuts have increased wait times for callers and encouraged taxpayers to use the IRS website before calling.

The IRS has set up a special section at IRS.gov/aca with more information about the Affordable Care Act and the 2014 income tax return. “Alternatively,” an IRS statement said, “low-and moderate-income taxpayers can get help meeting this health-care requirement and filing their return for free by visiting one of the more than 12,000 community-based tax help sites staffed by more than 90,000 volunteers that participate in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly programs.”

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