START OF 2018 OPEN ENROLLMENT PERIOD

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File this under "Yes, and your point is?"

Snarky headline aside, I a shout-out to contributor "dee" for this heads up:

H&R Block says health care law fines have more than doubled

Many people who went without health insurance last year are now seeing fines more than double under President Barack Obama’s health care law, H&R Block said Tuesday.

The Kansas City-based tax preparation company said that among its customers who owe a penalty for the 2015 tax year, the average fine is $383. That compares with $172 for 2014, the company said in a report that marked the halfway point in the current tax season.

(sigh) Yes. Of course it has. As the HHS Dept, HealthCare.Gov, all of the state exchanges, Enroll America, Families USA and dozens of other outlets were screaming about for months last fall (including myself, of course), the individual mandate tax for not Getting Covered increased dramatically this year, from $325 (or 2% of your household income) to $695 (or 2.5% of your income), whichever is higher.

$695 is around 2.1x as much as $325, and 2.5% is 25% higher than 2.0%. Interestingly, the average fine so far (this is a "mid-season report" which could change in the end) via H&R Block (which of course may or may not be representative of all tax returns) is actually slightly higher yet: $383 is more than 2.2x as much as $172.

My point is that this is interesteing, but shouldn't be news to anyone at this point...yet I guarantee you that millions of people are getting all shocked and outraged about it even as I'm typing this.

Separately, among those who complied with the law and took advantage of its taxpayer-subsidized private health insurance, six in 10 are now having to pay back to the IRS some portion of their financial assistance. Those payments also are trending higher this year, averaging $579, compared with $530 last tax season, Block said.

...Only 3 percent of its customers with health law subsidies saw no effect on their refunds, meaning they correctly estimated their incomes or called HealthCare.gov to report changes during the year.

...More than one in three overestimated their incomes, meaning that received a smaller tax credit than they were entitled to. They got an average of $450 back from the IRS.

In other words, 60% of subsidy-receiving exchange enrollees (roughly 5.4 million people out of 9 million people total, give or take (8.6 million as of March 2015, plus a few hundred thousand others who enrolled for part of the year during the off-season) underestimated their income for the year and have to pay back some of their tax credits. If you think about it, this could actually be a good thing in the big picture, because it means they made more money than they were expecting to last year. Meanwhile, another 37% overestimated their incomes and are therefore eligible for a larger tax credit than they were expecting...which is also good, since it means a nice, unexpected little cash bundle right when they need it most.

So, again: 5.4 million people will have to pay an average of $579 more in taxes this year because, you know, they earned more money than expected...and 3.3 million other people will pay an average of $450 less in taxes this year because, you know, they earned less money than they expected.

This is called "how paying taxes works." Generally speaking, when your income goes up, you're supposed to pay more in taxes, and when your income goes down, you pay less in taxes.

Again, I fail to see why any of this is shocking or worth making political hay out of, although obviously the GOP will do their best to do so.

H&R Block said it expected to see lots of confusion last year, the first time that people had to grapple with the connections between the health law and the income tax system. Such issues don’t seem to have diminished this tax filing season.

“There is still a steep learning curve,” said Mark Ciaramitaro, the company’s vice president for taxes and health care services.

(sigh) It would appear so.