H&R Block Inc. is opening its tax offices Thursday to answer questions for free about the Affordable Care Act’s impact on taxes this season.
The act, commonly called Obamacare, requires most Americans to have had health insurance in 2014 and provided help covering the costs for those who qualified.
As taxpayers file their 2014 taxes in the coming months, most Americans will need to take some step related to the act. It may be as simple as declaring that they had health coverage throughout 2014, perhaps through an employer.
More will be required of those who did not get coverage or bought it through a government exchange and got a reduced price because of their income.
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“Our research indicates that many consumers may be in for a surprise at tax time,” Block’s Tax Institute executive director Kathy Pickering said in an announcement. “Many may get a smaller refund because they had to pay a penalty for being uninsured. Or, the refund is smaller because they had to pay back some of the Advanced Premium Tax Credit.”
The credit was based on what the person receiving the financial help expected to earn throughout 2014. If the person earned more, he would need to repay part of the subsidy. If he earned less, he may receive a larger refund.
This would be news to roughly two out of three filers, based on an H&R Block survey in October. It found that 66 percent did not know that receiving the advance tax credit in 2014 could change their refund when the filed in early 2015.
“For a lot of folks, since they did not get a check, it is going to be a surprise to them. They didn’t realize a check was sent on their behalf to an insurance company,” said Kip Knight, president of Block’s U.S. retail operations. “That’s part of the education that’s going to have to take place at tax desks.”
Taxpayers who visit Block offices Thursday will receive a two-page information sheet that would indicate, for example, how much penalty they may face for not having health care coverage throughout the year. It notes too that taxpayers who did not have coverage may be eligible for exemptions from the penalty.
H&R Block said its offices will be open from 9 a. m. to 9 p. m. Thursday to offer free advice about the health reform’s impact on taxes. Help will be provided on a first-come, first served basis, and no appointments will be needed.
Tax preparers at H&R Block received specific training about the reform act’s effects on taxes along with their regular tax training for the current filing season.
The company also offers help understanding the Affordable Care Act on its website.