Tax refunds for many affected by health law

Monday, April 6, 2015

WASHINGTON -- As the April 15 tax deadline nears, people who got help paying for health insurance under President Barack Obama's law are seeing the direct effect on their refunds -- hundreds of dollars, for better or worse.

The law offers tax credits so people without access to job-based health insurance can buy private coverage. Because these subsidies are tied to income, consumers must accurately estimate what they will make for the coming year.

That's been a challenge for millions of people.

Guess on the low side and get more help now with premiums, but owe money later at filing time. Overestimate income and expect bucks back from the taxman.

Many consumers may not have understood that is how it works when they signed up. Some experts caution such complications could discourage uninsured people from getting covered.

The average refund is large enough to offset any repayment in most cases, according to the Treasury Department. The White House says the Affordable Care Act is working even better than anticipated.

But this is the first year the complicated connections between the law and the tax system are playing out for consumers.

Initial reports suggest a fairly even split between tax-return winners and losers.

Earlier in the filing season, tax preparation company H&R Block reported that 52 percent of its customers who got health insurance subsidies owed money back. Repayments averaged $530, reducing expected refunds by 17 percent.

On the other hand, roughly one-third of customers with subsidies overestimated their incomes. As a result, their refunds went up by $365 on average.

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