In Tax Simplification, Part II, I expounded on a 2010 Annual Report to Congress, in which National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson focused on the need for tax reform as the No. 1 priority in tax administration. In particular, she focused on the problem of delivering social benefits through the tax system, which complicates the mission of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), resulting in a dual mission of welfare administration as well as revenue collection. But instead of taking heed, the federal government doubled down, adding a new health care excise tax and health insurance premium tax credit to the IRS’s burden.
Telephone hold times with the IRS can sometimes run as long as four to seven hours these days, and if you don’t believe me try calling yourself. A taxpayer facing a federal tax lien, levy or wage garnishment doesn’t have a choice. He or she must call immediately in order to prevent an adverse action, but unless they have a day to spare and a very powerful battery, may wind up on the phone for several days just trying to get someone on the line. The federal government has taken an agency best suited for revenue collection, and turned it into a socialist style welfare office, long lines and all.
In Part 2, I affirmed that the shared responsibility payment isn’t a fee, because nothing is received in return. Nor is it a penalty, because failure to purchase health insurance doesn’t constitute a crime. The individual shared responsibility provision imposes an excise tax on a tiny minority of U.S. residents who don’t have government-mandated health insurance or qualify for one of several exemptions. Although Internal Revenue Code – Section 5000A refers to it as a penalty, in general, if it involves filling out a federal income tax form (i.e. Form 8965), and is assessed on and payable with your personal income tax return, it’s a tax.