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The New Health Care Law and the IRS

Your questions answered

Q. I heard that the IRS is hiring 16,500 agents just to make sure we buy insurance?

A. The Internal Revenue Service has not yet determined how many employees it will need to carry out its new responsibilities under the health reform law, an IRS spokeswoman said. But most of their work will be helping people, not hunting them down.

The agency has to make sure everyone eligible gets tax credits to help them purchase health insurance. “A substantial portion of IRS’ administrative expenses” will go toward this work, she said, which includes educating individuals and businesses about available tax incentives and how to claim them, answering taxpayers’ questions, and improving the agency’s technology and infrastructure capacity to handle the job.

One thing the IRS will not do: contact individuals about their health insurance.

IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman told a congressional committee in March that “we expect to get a simple form, that we won’t look behind, that says this person has acceptable health coverage.” The form—sent by an insurance company—will verify that the taxpayer has health coverage. It will be similar to the 1099 interest form a bank completes.

Susan Jaffe of Washington, D.C., covers health and aging issues and writes the Bulletin’s weekly column, Health Care Reform Explained: Your Questions Answered.

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