Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Popular Tax Myths About the Health Care Reform Legislation

This week President Obama intends to address Congress to encourage them to pass their health care reform bill. However, with recent polls showing that a majority of Americans either moderately or strongly oppose the current legislation, getting members of Congress to vote in favor of it is going to be difficult. As the debate continues, it seems like television commercials and e-mail blasts are going out left and right to either promote or discredit the bill. To help people confused by some of the claims being made in these advertisements I have put together the following list of the top tax myths about the health care reform bill.

The Bill is Fully Funded

President Obama has repeatedly claimed that the health care overhaul will be paid for, and that he would not sign a bill that is not "deficit-neutral." The plan to raise taxes on the top income earners is expected to generate $239 billion in additional federal revenue over the next ten years. However, the reform is expected to cost more than $600 billion. Obama stated that his team has identified cuts to pay for the rest of the bill, including cuts to Medicare and payments to insurers and practitioners. However, these cuts are quite unpopular and have a history of never coming to fruition. This has left many wondering if Obama will go back on his promise and sign a bill that will increase the national debt and ultimately lead to additional tax increases.

US Taxpayers will Pay for Heath Care for Illegal Immigrants

Although there has been speculation that over 5 million illegal immigrants will be covered by Obama's health care plan, it is almost entirely a fabrication. The bill drafted by the House of Representatives specifically says that no money will be spent giving illegal immigrants health care. H.R. 3200: Sec 246 claims "nothing in this subtitle shall allow Federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States."

The Government Health Agency will have Unlimited Access to Taxpayer's Financial Information

The myth that the government's new health care agency will have access to every American's financial information has been making the rounds for a few weeks. The actually legislation does allow the government to get certain information about taxpayers attempting to qualify for health benefits. However, the bill limits the information that can be requested to "(i) taxpayer identity information with respect to such taxpayer, (ii) the filing status of such taxpayer, (iii) the modified adjusted gross income of such taxpayer (as defined in section 59B(e)(5)), (iv) the number of dependents of the taxpayer, (v) such other information as is prescribed by the Secretary of regulation as might indicate whether the taxpayer is eligible for such affordability credits (and the amount thereof)." Additionally, the bill also limits the use of the information to only establishing and verifying the appropriate credit, "and providing for the repayment of any such credit which was in excess of such appropriate amount."

Employers Not Offering the Public Option will Pay an Additional 8% Tax

This myth is actually somewhat based in fact, except is has been exaggerated slightly. The current health care bill does require employers to either offer private health benefits or help pay for the public option through additional taxes. Employers with annual payrolls over $400,000 will have to pay 8%, and those with payrolls between $250,000 and $400,000 will pay a lesser amount. However, employers with payrolls under $250,000 will not have to pay an additional tax or be forced to offer health benefits.

Taxpayers without Acceptable Health Care will Pay 10% or More in Taxes

As part of the health care package, there is a mandate requiring everyone to have insurance. Therefore, those without acceptable coverage will have to pay a penalty. There have been dozens of rumors swirling around that this penalty could exceed 10% or more, however the actual bill calls for a penalty of 2.5% of a taxpayer’s adjusted gross income, not exceeding the national average premium for individual coverage.

Estate Taxes will be Locked in Before a Taxpayers Death

This claim, along with others of a suicide council, are all misinterpretations of a provision to the House's bill asserting that Medicare will cover voluntary end-of-life counseling sessions between seniors and their doctors. These sessions can include topics such as hospice care, creating a living will, etc. However, there is no mention of forcing taxpayers to lock in their estate taxes while on their deathbeds.

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