According to recent data from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), around four million Americans were penalized over $2.8 billion through the Obamacare program for not having health insurance coverage between 2016 signup and April 27, 2017.
From 2014, Obamacare’s individual mandate forced Americans to purchase health insurance, or pay the government a tax. Originally, individuals with no insurance were forced to pay $95 or 1% of their income, whichever was greater. However, in a 2016 change to the law, Americans now had to pay $695 as the flat fee or 2.5% of their income to the government.
This most recent data from the Taxpayer Advocate Services shows that the amount increased yet again, as four million Americans paid an average of $708 in penalties. That is enough money to make a couple car payments, or even pay most of the rent!
On his first day in the White House as the President of the United States, Donald Trump signed an executive order to reduce the economic burden that Obamacare had been putting on individuals. This allowed the IRS to waive the penalties imposed by the individual mandate.
“The order stated that the agencies should exercise all authority and discretion to waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation of any requirement of the Act that would impose burden,” the taxpayer advocate explains.
This allowed individuals to make a “silent return,” by either skip checking a box that suggested they already had health insurance, fill another form that indicated they were exempt from paying the penalty, or judge for themselves how much penalty they’d be liable to pay on their return.
However, not even a month after Trump signed the executive order, the IRS started ignoring Trump’s executive order, and rejecting some of these “silent returns.”
According to the IRS, the number of people who paid the penalty decreased by over 28% as a result of Trump’s executive order. 5.6 million Americans paid the penalty in target year 2015 through April 28, 2016. That number decreased to 4 million in target year 2016 through April 27, 2017.
Conversely, the number of silent returns surged by almost 200,000 in a year. There were about 7.8 million silent returns in target year 2015, which increased to 8 million in target year 2016.
“The IRS is in the process of assessing various options to address silent returns filed in past as well as future filings, including the reinstatement of the plans to reject electronically filed silent returns, the issuance of educational or soft notices, and the issuance of penalty assessment notices,” the taxpayer advocate says.
“The National Taxpayer Advocate supports any efforts to reinstate plans to reject electronically filed silent returns as well as issue educational and soft notices,” the report states. “These options would help the taxpayer avoid future compliance problems.”