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The IRS just gave Republicans a big opportunity on Obamacare

Here’s betting that they’ll miss it


The Internal Revenue Service announced that it will no longer accept tax returns that leave out whether the filer has health insurance. This presents a great opportunity for Republicans to take a very big step toward repealing Obamacare. If only they’ll seize it.

According to CNBC:

“Taxpayers remain obligated to follow the law and pay what they may owe at the point of filing,” the IRS said in a description of the new policy.

The ACA requires most people to have some form of health insurance coverage or pay a tax penalty — a requirement known as Obamacare’s individual mandate….

The agency, in an online notification to tax professionals, said that in the upcoming tax filing season “the IRS will not accept electronically filed tax returns where the taxpayer does not address the health coverage requirements of the Affordable Care Act.”

“Returns filed on paper that do not address the health coverage requirements may be suspended pending the receipt of additional information and any refunds may be delayed,” the IRS said.

This is clearly an arbitrary use of power the IRS has not engaged in until now. If Congressional Republicans are smart, they’ll use this to repeal Obamacare’s individual mandate. They will take to the airwaves to argue that Obamacare allows the government to abuse its power, enforcing the law when it sees fit and ignoring it when it wants. It is time, they could say, to reduce the power of the IRS.

The Republicans can do this without having to worry about getting 60 votes in the Senate to overcome a filibuster. Under Obamacare, a taxpayer who does not have insurance must pay a penalty of $695 or 2.5 percent of gross adjusted income, whichever is higher. That makes the individual mandate a revenue issue, which means it is subject to budget reconciliation rules—i.e., it only requires 51 votes in the Senate to pass. Republican can simply put forward a law that reduces the penalty to $0 or zero percent of gross adjusted income.

That would effectively finish the individual mandate for good. Democrats could try to revive the penalty once they were back in power, but in doing so they would be giving a potent weapon to Republicans.

Will the GOP jump on this? Well, as the saying goes, Republicans never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

That’s where President Trump comes in. He can call on Republicans to act. To show he is serious, he can fire IRS boss John Koskinen.

Trump is usually pretty good about seizing an opportunity. Let’s hope this time is no different.

(Originally the wrong person was identified as author. The mistake has been corrected.)

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The Author

David Hogberg

David Hogberg is a writer living in Maryland. He is author of the book, "Medicare’s Victims: How the U.S. Government’s Largest Health Care Program Harms Patients and Impairs Physicians."