Millions Could Face Surprise Obamacare Tax Penalty
Policy + Politics

Millions Could Face Surprise Obamacare Tax Penalty

The deadline to file taxes is just two days away, and yet nearly half of all uninsured Americans have no idea that they will be subject to Obamacare’s tax penalty for not having health coverage this year. 

A new study from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Urban Institute found that of the uninsured population that will be filing a federal tax return this year, about 47 percent said they didn’t know anything at all or very little about Obamacare’s individual mandate penalty. 

Related: Tax Day: Americans Muddle Through a Flawed System 

Under the Affordable Care Act, Americans who did not have health coverage in 2014 are subject to a penalty of $95 or 1 percent of their income, whichever is greater. This year, that jumps to  $325 or 2 percent of their income. 

Since this is the first tax filing season that the mandate takes effect, the administration announced that it would be granting people who were unaware of the penalty a special enrollment period to sign up for coverage before the tax filing deadline. 

The official deadline to sign up for coverage on the state or federal exchanges was February 15, but uninsured people who say they were not aware of the penalty now have until April 30 to enroll in health insurance.  

“These findings suggest that there is still an awareness gap about basic features of the Affordable Care Act a half decade after it was passed,” Kathy Hempstead, who directs coverage issues at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said in a statement. “It remains to be seen how this tax season and the special enrollment period will help people learn more about how the law can benefit them, and the penalties they may face for not having insurance.” 

Related: Tax Season by the Numbers: What You Need to Know 

The survey results come in the middle of a push by the administration to make more people aware of the Obamacare penalty and the exemptions that people may qualify for—including the hardship exemption which includes

homelessness, being evicted in the last six months, being a victim of domestic violence and other personal problems. 

The Treasury Department estimated that between 3 and 6 million people will likely be subject to the penalty this year. 

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