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It’s once again time to submit

Affordable Care Act means big changes next year

The busy season for tax preparers has arrived. W-2s and 1099s have been sent out, the IRS is accepting returns and Americans are preparing to file their tax returns for 2013.

The IRS expects to receive 6.1 million individual 2013 tax returns from Illinois.

Local preparers say there aren’t any big changes this year, but advise taxpayers to be prepared for additional questions about health insurance when filing next season.

“Nothing really jumps out at me as being very different this year,” said Pat Anderson, a Genoa certified public accountant.

She said the software doesn’t ask anything about health care this year, and no penalties are assessed for those not covered by health insurance.

Dale Fluegel of Liberty Tax Service in DeKalb said, for those who had a bad year medically, the deduction for medical expenses has increased from 7.5 percent to 10 percent.

As for big changes, Fluegel said next year will be a different story because of the Affordable Care Act.

“It’s a complicated law being enforced by the IRS,” Fluegel said.

Taxpayers have a grace period to sign up for health care, as mandated by the ACA, until March 31. After that date, they will be charged a pro-rated penalty for every month they do not have coverage.

A flat fee of $95 per adult and $47.50 per child, with a maximum of $285 per household, may be charged. The second way of figuring the penalty is 1 percent of adjusted gross income, and the fine will be whichever is greater, Fluegel explained.

The following year, the penalties increase to $325 per adult, $162.50 per child with a household maximum of $975, or 2 percent of the filer’s adjusted gross income.

Penalties increase yet again the following year to $695 per adult, $347.50 per child with a household maximum of $2,085 or 2.5 percent of the filer’s adjusted gross income.

Those who qualify for and accept government subsidies for health insurance have to be careful not to underestimate their incomes, Fluegel said.

“Subsidies are available,” Fluegel said, “but if you get it wrong, you will pay for it at tax time. If you pay upfront and qualify for a subsidy, you will get a refund.”

Because the IRS is the enforcement agency, Fluegel said tax preparers will be the bad guys.

“Tax people are the ones giving the news about enforcement of the law,” Fluegel said.

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