By Olivia Marovich • Of the News-Register • 

Tax forms feature some new wrinkles

The biggest change stems from passage of the federal Affordable Care Act, an initiative to bring all Americans under some type of health insurance. In the last 12 months, it has already served to cut the percentage of uninsured Americans 18 years and up from 17.1 to 12.9.

However, people who still have not acquired health coverage face having to pay an additional tax, called the Health Care Individual Responsibility Tax.

“If you use a computer program to do your taxes, it may or may not alert you to the new fee,” said Kevin Olsen, an accountant at McMinnville H&R Block outlet. “We expect to see an influx of people coming in here as a result of the this change,” he said.

Low-income individuals are exempt, but are required to fill out a form on their financial circumstances and any government financial assistance they receive.

Local CPA Kathy Bernards said the tax bite isn't very big this year, but has an escalator built in.

“This year’s fee may not be high enough to persuade people to buy health insurance,” she said. “But as the rate goes up, it will become more of an incentive for people.”

This year, individuals who make enough money to pay for health insurance, but do not currently carry any, will be assessed 1 percent of their taxable income or $95, whichever is greater. And the charge is slated to escalate to 2 percent or $325 in 2016 and 2.5 percent or $695 in 2107.The push is based on the fact that the uninsured tend to put off routine care that could head off costly future emergencies, then seek high-cost emergency room care when such an emergency strike — and the fact they often can't or don't pick up the tab, serving to drive costs up for everyone else.

Taxpayers who do their taxes online may be surprised to discover the new provision. However, the vast majorty do enjoy some form of coverage, so won't be directly affected.

Oregon residents will see tax changes of their own this year. Small employers are coming under new health insurance provisions of their own, and the rules have changed for retirement plan rollovers and minimum distribution requirements.

Seniors and low-income taxpayers qualify for free assistance through the Taxaid program. For time and place details, call the senior center at 503-435-0407 or public library at 503-435-5562.

Other taxpayers can find information on the state Department of Revenue and federal Internal Revenue Service websites,  seek help from the agencies over the phone, consult independent web sources or visit local accounting or tax preparation offices.


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