Friday, December 26, 2014

What ObamaCare Tax Forms Should You Expect For Your 2014 Return?

Are you wondering what, if any, new ObamaCare tax forms you will either be receiving in the mail or including with your tax return come April?

This was a topic at a tax seminar I attended very recently. What may surprise you is that the ObamaCare tax forms are still in draft; yes, “draft,” and I am writing this in the middle of December.

Let’s go over the principal tax forms you may see and how they fit into the overall puzzle. The 2015 filing season will be the initial launch, and some rules have been relaxed or deferred until the 2016 filing season. This means you may or may not see or receive certain forms, depending upon the size of your employer and what type of insurance is offered. Let’s agree to speak in general terms and not include every technicality, otherwise we will both be pulling out our hair before this is over.

The key form (I suspect) you will receive is Form 1095-B.

You will be receiving the “B” from the employer’s insurance company. Its purpose is to show that you had health insurance (“minimum essential coverage” or “MEC,” in the lingo), as failure to have health insurance will trigger a penalty. The form has four parts, as follows:

(1) The name and address of the principal insured person (probably you)
(2) The name and address of the employer
(3) The name and address of the insurance company
(4) The name and social security number of every person covered under the policy for the principal insured person. There are boxes for all 12 months, as the ObamaCare penalty is a month-by-month calculation.

What if your employer did not provide health insurance and you purchased coverage on the exchange? Now we are talking Form 1095-A, and the exchange will send it to you. It has three parts:

(1) The name of the principal insured person, as well as information about the marketplace itself and some policy information.
(2) The names and social security numbers of those covered under the policy.
(3) Monthly information, such as the premium amount and the amount of any subsidy (“advance payment”) received.

You will have received this form because you or a family member obtained health insurance through the exchange. You already know that the principal insured person (likely you) has to settle up with the IRS at year-end, comparing his/her household income, any subsidy received and any subsidy actually entitled to. The information on the “A” will – in turn – be reported on that form, which we will discuss in a minute.

We still have one more “1095” to talk about: the 1095-C. Frankly, I find this one to be the most confusing of the three.

The employer issues the “C.” Not all employers, mind you, only the “large employers,” as defined and subject to the $2,000/$3,000 penalty for not offering health insurance or offering health insurance that is not affordable.

You will not receive a “C” in 2015. Rather, you will receive one in 2016 if you were a full-time employee anytime during 2015. It can be included with your 2015 W-2, should your employer choose.

It has three parts:

(1) Employee and employer information, including identification numbers and addresses
(2) Recap of insurance coverage offered the employee, detailed for each month of the year. There are a series of codes to fill-in, depending upon a matrix of minimum essential coverage, minimum value, affordability and availability of family coverage.
(3) The third part applies only if the employer is self-insured.

BTW, you may have read that there is 2015 transition relief for employers having between 50 and 99 employees. That applies to the penalty, not to filing this paperwork. An employer with between 50 and 99 employees still has to file the “C.” You will receive this form in 2016 - if your employer has at least 50 employees.

NOTE: The IRS has said that employers can file this form “voluntarily” in 2015 for the 2014 tax year. Uh, sure.

Let’s recap. You would have received the “A”or “B” from a third party and (unlikely) a “C” from your employer. You now have to prepare your individual tax return. What new forms will you see there?

If you acquired insurance on an exchange, you will receive Form 1095-A. You will in turn use information from the “A” to complete Form 8962. Since you are on an exchange, you have to run the numbers to see if you are entitled to a subsidy. Combine this with the possibility that you received an advance subsidy, and you get the following combinations:

(1) You received a subsidy and it is exactly the subsidy to which you are entitled. I expect to see zero of these in my practice.
(2) You received a subsidy and it is less than you are entitled to. Congratulations, you have won a prize. Your tax preparer will include the difference and your tax refund will be larger than it would otherwise be.
(3) You received a subsidy and it is more than you are entitled to. Sorry, you now have to pay it back. Your refund will be less than it would otherwise be.
(4) You received no subsidy and you are entitled to no subsidy. I expect this to be the default in my tax practice. I suspect that we will not even have to file the form in this case, but I am waiting for clarification.

What if you did not have insurance and you did not go on the exchange? There are two more forms:

(1) If you have an exemption from buying insurance, you will file Form 8965. You have to provide a reason (that is, an “exemption”) for not buying health insurance.
(2) All right, technically the next one is not a form but rather a “worksheet” to Form 8965. The difference is that a worksheet may, but does not have to be, included with your tax return. A “form” must be included.

You are here if you did not go on the exchange and you do not have an exemption. You will owe the ObamaCare penalty, and this is where you calculate it. The penalty will go from here to your Form 1040 as additional taxes you owe.

And there you have it.

By the way, expect your tax preparation fees to go up.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas

Joseph (Humphrey Bogart): "I’m going to buy them their Christmas turkey."

Albert (Aldo Ray): "Buy? Do you really mean ‘buy'?"

Joseph: "Yes, buy! In the Spirit of Christmas. The hard part’s going to be stealing the money to pay for it.

From "We're No Angels" (1955)

Friday, December 19, 2014

Spotting A (Tax) Dependent

Let’s talk about claiming someone as a dependent.

There are several tax “breaks” that require you to have a dependent, for example:

·        Head of household (HoH) filing status
·        A dependent exemption
·        Child credit
·        Child care credit
·        Education credit
·        Earned income credit

Some of these breaks go only so far. The head of household (HoH) filing status, for example, can get you to zero tax, but it cannot “create” a tax refund. You have to have tax withholdings before HoH can get you a refund; even then, you are getting your own money back. Not so with the child credit or the earned income credit, however.  Meet all the triggers and the EIC can refund you over $6,000, irrespective of whether you have any withholdings or not. It is a transfer payment from the government.

So what is required to claim someone as a tax dependent?

There are two overall categories of dependents. The first is your own child (or stepchild, adopted child, or descendants of the same) and is referred to as a “qualifying child.” This is the workhorse test: think a child at home with his/her parents.

There are five requirements for a “qualifying child”:
  1. Are they related to you? 
  2. Are they under age 19 or – if a full-time student – under age 24? 
  3. Do they live with you for more than half the year?
  4. Do you support them financially? 
  5. Are you the only person claiming the child?
Any other type of dependent is a referred to as a “qualifying relative.” The requirements are as follows:
  1. Do they live with you for more than half the year?
  2. Do they make less than $3,950?
  3. Do you support them financially?
  4. Are you the only person claiming the child?
The term “qualifying relative” is misleading, by the way. The person does not need to be related to you at all. For example, a girlfriend could be my dependent – assuming that all the other requirements were met AND my wife allowed me to have a girlfriend.

Did you notice the age thing? A qualifying child ends at age 24 (unless we are talking permanent disability, which is a different rule). Past age 23 and the child is your dependent under the qualifying relative rules.

Which also means that an income test kicks-in. That after-age-23 child would not qualify as a dependent if he/she earned more than $3,950 for the year. This can be a cruel surprise at tax time for parents whose kids have moved back.

That answer, by the way, is the same for an over-18-under-24 child who does not go on to college.

Let’s take a little quiz on dependents. We will use the Tax Court case of James Edward Roberts v Commissioner. Here are selected facts:
  1. In January, 2012 Roberts’ daughter became homeless. 
  2. She had two young kids. 
  3. She was pregnant with the third.
Roberts was a decent soul, and worked out a deal with a Ms. Moody, whereby he and the two children (very soon three) moved in with her. He agreed to pay 75% of the rent and utilities. He also agreed to pay 100% of the meals.

Then he did something unexpected. He wrote down the agreement, and both he and Ms. Moody signed and dated it.

Roberts and his (now three) grandchildren lived in the apartment from January until October, 2012. His daughter also lived there on-and-off. When she was not there, Ms. Moody helped take care of the kids.

When Roberts filed his 2012 tax return, he claimed the following:

(1)  Head of household
(2)  Dependent exemption for three grandchildren
(3)  Child credit
(4)  Earned income credit

The IRS bounced his return, and they wound up in Tax Court.

The IRS had an issue whether the kids were his dependents.

What do you think?

Let’s walk through it.

·        The kids are related (grandchildren) to Roberts. CHECK
·        The kids are young. CHECK
·        They lived with him from January through October, which is more than half the year. CHECK
·        He paid 75% of the rent and utilities and 100% of the food. Sounds to me like that would be over half the support for the kids. CHECK
·        The Court tells us that their mom did not claim them. CHECK

Seems that Roberts met all the requirements to claim the grandchildren as dependents for 2012. Why did the IRS press on this?

I don’t know, and the Court did not explain why. I can guess, though.

I see a person who…

·        moved
·        put three dependents on his return who were not there the prior year
·        was not living with the kids by the time the IRS contacted him
·        lived in an apartment with someone who (perhaps, who knows) might have been his girlfriend. This would raise the issue of who actually paid the expenses for rent, utilities and food – you know, the same expenses that Roberts needed to show that he supported the kids.

Roberts won his day in Court.

I suspect that written – and contemporaneously signed - agreement with Ms. Moody carried a lot of weight with the Court.

I allow that the IRS had cause to look at this return. After that, however, they should have left Mr. Roberts alone.  The IRS made a mistake on this one.