The Affordable Care Act—enacted nearly five years ago—phased in many new requirements affecting individuals and employers. One of the most far-reaching requirements, the individual mandate, took effect this year and will be reported on 2014 income tax returns filed in 2015. The IRS is bracing for an avalanche of questions about taxpayer reporting on 2014 returns and, if liable, any shared responsibility payment. For many taxpayers, the best approach is to be familiar with the basics before beginning to prepare and file their returns.
Beginning January 1, 2014, the Affordable Care Act requires individuals (and their dependents) to have minimum essential health care coverage or make a shared responsibility payment, unless exempt. This is commonly called the “individual mandate.”
Nearly all employer-provided health coverage is treated as minimum essential coverage. This includes self-insured plans, COBRA coverage, and retiree coverage. Large employers will provide employees with new Form 1095-C, Employer-Provided Health Insurance Coverage and Offer, which will report the type of coverage provided. The IRS has encouraged employers to voluntarily report starting in 2015 for the 2014 plan year. Mandatory reporting begins in 2016 for the 2015 plan year.
Coverage obtained through the Affordable Care Act Marketplace is also treated as minimum essential coverage. Marketplace enrollees should expect to receive new Form 1095-A, Health Insurance Marketplace Statement, from the Marketplace. Individuals with Marketplace coverage will indicate on their returns that they have minimum essential coverage. Because so many individuals with Marketplace coverage also qualify for a special tax credit, they will also likely need to complete new Form 8962, Premium Tax Credit (discussed below).
Medicare, Medicaid and other government coverage
Medicare, TRICARE, CHIP, Medicaid, and other government health programs are treated as minimum essential coverage. There are some very narrow exceptions but overall, most government-sponsored coverage is minimum essential coverage.
Some individuals are expressly exempt under the Affordable Care Act from making a shared responsibility payment. There are multiple categories of exemptions. They include:
- Short coverage gap
- Religious conscience
- Federally-recognized Native American nation
- Income below income tax return filing requirement
The short coverage gap applies to individuals who lacked minimum essential coverage for less than three consecutive months during 2014. They will not be responsible for making a shared responsibility payment. Individuals who are members of a religious organization recognized as conscientiously opposed to accepting insurance benefits also are exempt from the individual mandate. Similarly, members of a federally-recognized Native American nation are exempt. If a taxpayer’s income is below the minimum threshold for filing a return, he or she is exempt from making a shared responsibility payment.
The IRS has developed new Form 8965, Health Coverage Exemptions. Taxpayers exempt from the individual mandate will file Form 8965 with their federal income tax return.
Shared responsibility payment
All other individuals – individuals without minimum essential coverage and who are not exempt – must make a shared responsibility payment when they file their 2014 return. For 2014, the payment amount is the greater of: One percent of the person’s household income that is above the tax return threshold for their filing status; or a flat dollar amount, which is $95 per adult and $47.50 per child, limited to a maximum of $285. The individual shared responsibility payment is capped at the cost of the national average premium for the bronze level health plan available through the Marketplace in 2014. Taxpayers will report the amount of their individual shared responsibility payment on their 2014 Form 1040.
The IRS has cautioned that it will offset a taxpayer’s refund if he or she fails to make a shared responsibility payment if required. However, the Affordable Care Act prevents the IRS from using its lien and levy authority to collect an unpaid shared responsibility payment.
Code Sec. 36B credit
Only individuals who obtain coverage through the Marketplace are eligible for the Code Sec. 36B premium assistance tax credit. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has reported that more than two-thirds of Marketplace enrollees are eligible for the credit and many enrollees have received advance payment of the credit.
All advance payments of the credit must be reconciled on new Form 8962, which will be filed with the taxpayer’s income tax return. Taxpayers will calculate the actual credit they qualified for based on their actual 2014 income. If the actual premium tax credit is larger than the sum of advance payments made during the year, the individual will be entitled to an additional credit amount. If the actual credit is smaller than the sum of the advance payments, the individual’s refund will be reduced or the amount of tax owed will be increased, subject to a sliding scale of income-based repayment caps.
A change in circumstance, such as marriage or the birth/adoption of a child, could increase or decrease the amount of the credit. Individuals who are receiving an advance payment of the credit should notify the Marketplace of any life changes so the amount of the advance payment can be adjusted if necessary. Please contact our office if you have any questions about the Code Sec. 36B credit.
IRS officials have told Congress that the agency is ready for the new filings and reporting requirements. Our office will keep you posted of developments.