By Ken Berry
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is bracing for one of the biggest challenges it has faced in years: the implementation of the massive new health care legislation.
A few select provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 – the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for short – have already taken effect; however, the most controversial sections of the new law are not scheduled to kick in until 2014. According to a new report released by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) on January 5, 2012, the IRS Appeals Office is gearing up for the anticipated onslaught.
The TIGTA report indicates that the new law's impact on appeals should be minimal for the next two years, but it expects the floodgates to open in 2014. The IRS Appeals Office has made some initial preparations, including reassigning some of its staff to the IRS ACA division, as well as creating an internal website with links to ACA-related IRS training, guidance, and other resources.
"Because of the potential for the ACA to affect most taxpayers, effective planning is critical to ensuring Appeals' readiness to prepare for this legislation and resolve taxpayer requests in a timely and effective manner", said J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, in a press release.
The latest TIGTA report follows up on a mostly positive audit conducted last year. In that audit, TIGTA determined that the IRS appears to be on track in meeting the new technological challenges it can expect to face as a result of the health care legislation.
Under several key provisions in the new law, individuals who are not eligible for Medicare or Medicaid must obtain minimum health coverage, while businesses are generally required to offer minimum coverage to their employees. The IRS bears the burden of collecting penalties from taxpayers and business entities that fail to live up to their responsibilities. In addition, health insurance coverage will become available through exchanges operated by the individual states.
Currently, a qualified small business can claim tax credits for providing health insurance coverage to its employees. For 2014 and thereafter, an employer may benefit from tax credits offsetting part of the cost of offering coverage through one of the state-run exchanges.
The IRS expects to face numerous appeals on these issues as both individuals and employers grapple with the new ACA rules. In the meantime, what can you do? Tax professionals are advised to educate themselves well in advance of 2014 in order to be responsive to their clients' needs.