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21 Jul, 2015 22:03

7.5 million Americans paid Obamacare penalty – IRS

7.5 million Americans paid Obamacare penalty – IRS

2014 was the first year Americans have had to deal with tax credits and penalties pertaining to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Approximately 7.5 million taxpayers reported paying a total of $1.5 billion in penalties.

More Americans paid the penalty for not having healthcare coverage in 2014 than the tax authorities originally estimated, the IRS commissioner confirmed in a letter to members of Congress. The vast majority of US taxpayers had qualifying health coverage.

Following “numerous requests” from members of Congress, Internal Revenue Service commissioner John Koskinen sent out a four-page letter with the data the agency has collected so far, after processing about 135 million out of the estimated 150 million tax returns for 2014. 

Out of those returns, Koskinen wrote, approximately 7.5 million taxpayers reported a total of $1.5 billion in “individual shared responsibility payments,” as the penalty for not having qualifying health insurance is called under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Government estimates from earlier this year predicted that number of returns affected by the penalty would range from $3-6 million, according to NPR.

Under the ACA, also known as Obamacare, the 2014 individual tax penalty for not having health insurance is 1 percent of one’s annual income or $95, whichever is greater.

According to the IRS commissioner, the penalties were “relatively small,” with the average payment around $200. He said 85 percent of the taxpayers who reported a penalty still got a tax refund. 

READ MORE: Clean bill of health: Obamacare upheld by Supreme Court

Approximately 300,000 taxpayers who reported a penalty payment were in the low-income group that should have claimed an exemption, Koskinen wrote, noting that the IRS would reach out to them and urge them to file an amended tax return.

About 76 percent of taxpayers – approximately 102 million tax returns – checked the box indicating they had qualifying coverage all year. Another 12 million taxpayers claimed an exemption, including people whose incomes were too low and Native Americans.

There were 5.1 million returns in 2014 that did not claim qualifying coverage, an exemption, or a penalty. "We are analyzing these cases to determine their status," Commissioner Koskinen wrote.

Reporting on the federal subsidies for qualified taxpayers, the IRS chief said about 2.7 million taxpayers claimed approximately $9 billion, with an average subsidy amounting to $3,400. Out of that number, only 20 percent reported subsidies of $5,000 or more, while the rest were split evenly between those receiving less than $2,000 and those receiving between $2,000 and $5,000 in federal tax credits.