IRS Obamacare Power of the Day: High Medical Bills Tax
Throughout the summer, Americans for Tax Reform will be highlighting the most outrageous new powers that the IRS will have under the Obamacare law. According to a report from GAO, the IRS is tasked with nearly four dozen new powers under that law. Each day, one will be selected for a brief review.
Americans have long been allowed to deduct out of pocket medical expenses as an itemized deduction on their taxes. They cannot have already benefited from other tax provisions for health care like tax-free employer-provided care or tax-free accounts like flexible spending accounts (FSAs) or health savings accounts (HSAs). A full list of qualified expenses can be found in IRS Publication 502.
After totaling all unreimbursed, out-of-pocket medical expenses, the taxpayer must then subtract from this figure an amount equal to 7.5 percent of the taxpayer's adjusted gross income (AGI). This subtraction amount is known commonly as a "haircut."
According to the IRS, 10 million families took advantage of this tax deduction in 2009, the latest year of available data. They deducted $80 billion in medical expenses after applying the “haircut.” The Office of Management and Budget reports that this tax deduction saves these taxpayers upwards of $10 billion annually.
The Obamacare law made one change to this tax provision: it raised the "haircut" from 7.5 percent of AGI to 10 percent of AGI. Since virtually all taxpayers claiming this income tax deduction make less than $200,000 per year, the income tax hike falls almost exclusively on the middle class:
-Virtually every family taking this deduction made less than $200,000 in 2009. Over 90 percent earned less than $100,000.
-The average taxpayer claiming this deduction earns just over $53,000 annually.
-ATR estimates that the average income tax increase for the average family claiming this tax benefit will be $200 - $400 per year.
-This income tax increase is focused on families with the largest medical bills that weren't covered by insurance. So the target population is low-and middle-income families with debilitating medical costs. That's a good definition of the opposite of “affordable” or “caring.”
According to the Joint Tax Committee, this tax increase is scheduled to raise between $2 billion and $3 billion annually. That may be a drop in the bucket in Washington DC, but try telling that to the $53,000 family with high medical bills that just saw a tax increase.