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On the Third Hand: A tax preparer

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Sometimes, I cover insurance seminars, and the organizers ask me, “So, how did we do? What we could do to make it better?”

I hate to answer a question like that, as a reporter, because, first, it seems unethical for a reporter to directly shape what people in an industry are doing, and, also, because, when I’m acting as a reporter, I have tastes that clash with what I want in other circumstances.

In everyday life, I love harmony. I want everyone to get along. I don’t mind watching zombies eat people on The Walking Dead, but I have a hard time watching workers get into spats on Mad Men.

As a reporter, I want to see conflict. Lots of conflict. When I’m reporting, my secret wish for the panel discussions is, “More fistfights!”

So, when I visited a tax office in New York the other day (many details changed to protect privacy) to spy on what the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA) is doing to our income tax filing system, I was hoping to see PPACA exchange plan enrollees screaming over erroneous Form 1095-A coverage notices. Maybe a man trying to get the premium tax credit for an immigrant step-child that he’d had in his household for seven months in 2014. Maybe a woman singing My Country ‘Tis of Thee and insisting on her right to get a religious exemption from owning Minimum Essential Coverage (MEC) without going through one of those infernal PPACA exchanges.

Or, at the very least, a lot of Advance Premium Tax Credit (APTC) posters on the walls.

No such luck. 

There was one Earned Income Tax Credit poster, and drawings, by schoolchildren, of the Evil Taxman, but no PPACA posters. 

A tax preparer I talked to, had gotten only four hours of sleep the night before I saw her. New York City residents generally have a low uninsured rate, and the tax preparer said most her clients had good employer-sponsored coverage last year and have good employer-sponsored coverage this year.

On the one hand, some of her clients who have been coming in without coverage are a little confused about the PPACA penalty, and some who are coming in with PPACA exchange coverage are missing their 1095-A forms, or have slightly incorrect forms.

See also: Meet IRS Form 1095-A

On the other hand, the preparer’s attitude seemed to be that clients always come in missing forms, or with erroneous forms. The preparer didn’t seem to think PPACA tax problems are a particularly interesting topic. 

I hunted around for accountant and tax preparer message boards, to see if other harried tax preparers are flooding the Web with expressions of misery about PPACA tax problems. So far, no luck. I even found a few message board posts indicating that the Internal Revenue Service is already, accurately, deducting the penalty for failures to have MEC from taxpayers’ refunds.

On the third hand, PPACA tax return-related fistfights could always show up later. Maybe around April 8, when the least-organized taxpayers rush into the tax preparers’ offices. But, at this point, it looks as if the tax return episode might be a bust.

See also: H&R Block earnings: Where are the PPACA tax claims?

Maybe the PPACA Show will heat back up this summer, when health insurers start trying to collect PPACA reinsurance program payments…


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