In another couple of months you’ll be getting your tax documents in the mail (assuming you have some source of income, that is) and will prepare to file your 2015 returns. That means that at least for some of you, you’ll be dealing with the Obamacare mandate penalties if you didn’t have health insurance. (Or a government accepted form of it anyway.) If you paid the penalty last year it wasn’t much of a bite, but next April the fine is going to be a bit stiffer.
People who weren’t covered under a compliant health plan in 2015 or didn’t meet some specific exemptions will have to pay what amounts to a fine when they file their 2015 tax return. The government has two ways of calculating what you’ll owe in 2015. That’s the greater of $325 for each adult and $162.50 for each child, not to exceed $975, or 2 percent of your family’s adjusted gross income.
The most you can be fined is capped at the national average cost of a bronze-level health plan available on the exchanges. For 2015, that’s $2,570 for singles and $5,140 for families.
That’s basically double what it was last year. The example they provide in the article shows that a young married couple with no children (the most likely to not want to bother paying for insurance) will be paying $1,588 for this year as compared to $797 last year. Depending on your income and how you set up your deductions, if you normally expect a refund every year that could pretty much wipe it out for some people. But maybe you won’t have to pay it after all.
When people filed their taxes for 2014, the Wall Street Journal reported that a vast majority of those without insurance were not motivated to buy a plan off the exchanges by the threat. (Of course, the penalty was lower last year.) And not all of those who should have paid the penalty ponied up the cash anyway. There are actually a couple of ways to avoid paying it even if you didn’t purchase a health insurance plan.
The Motley Fool ran through some of them earlier this year and you might be able to manage one of them if you plan ahead. First of all, if the cost of the bronze level plan on Obamacare represents more than 8.05% of your income, you don’t have to pay the penalty. And if your income is at least relatively close to that level, last year’s forms allowed you to state that you thought it would be that much of your income and you could waive it off. But one far less well known aspect of the law gives you another option even if you’re supposed to get hit with it. You can just not pay it. But there’s a catch…
The best way to avoid paying the Obamacare tax penalty for not carrying qualifying healthcare coverage is arguably what Dan suggested — simply getting coverage. If that’s not for you, though, here’s an approach you might want to try: Don’t get a tax refund.
That’s right. It seems that, according to the way the rules are set up, unlike with some other tax penalties or consequences, there are no levies, liens, or criminal penalties imposed if you don’t pay. And because the penalty is subtracted from your tax refund, if you have no refund, you won’t lose that money.
It’s a simple solution, but not quite as simple as it sounds. That’s because you don’t just check a box to not get a refund. Instead, you must make some calculations, and be sure that you’re underpaying your tax obligations throughout the year, either via your withheld taxes or your self-employment estimated tax payments, or both.
Yep… you read that correctly. It looks like there are no legal penalties built into the law for not paying the penalty so they can’t come drag you into court. But you need to set up your deductions so that you don’t overpay your taxes for the year. If you do, they will take the penalty out of your refund. And in order for this to work you’ll need to do this year after year. If you overpay in later years and are owed a refund, they IRS will just take it back then.
If you have insurance and had it during the first two months of the year there’s really not much to worry about. If not… good luck.