Affordable Care Act A Tax Nightmare

This tax season, for the first time since the Affordable Care Act passed five years ago, consumers are facing its financial consequences.

Whether they owe a penalty for not having health insurance, or have to figure out whether they need to pay back part of the subsidy they received to offset the cost of monthly insurance premiums, many people have to contend with new tax forms and calculations.

It’s hard for many people to perfectly estimate their annual income in advance, and changes in family status — such as marriage or divorce —can also throw off that estimate. The size of the premium tax credit is based on a family’s income.

The amount that people have to repay has a cap that’s based on their income. People whose income tops 400 percent of poverty ($45,960 for an individual) have to repay the entire premium tax credit.

The message for taxpayers is clear: If your income or family status changes, go back to the insurance marketplace now — and as necessary throughout the year — to make adjustments so you can minimize repayment issues when 2015 taxes are due.

Consumers who learn they owe a penalty when they file their 2014 taxes can qualify for a special enrollment period to buy 2015 coverage, if they haven’t already done so. That would protect them against a penalty on their next return.

Also, tax filers may be able to avoid the penalty by qualifying for an exemption.