As many as 7.5 million U.S. taxpayers reported that they owed a tax penalty for 2014 for not signing up for health insurance, the Internal Revenue Service said. That amounted to roughly $1.5 billion in penalties.
That was at least 1.5 million more taxpayers than the Obama administration expected to see paying penalties under terms of the Affordable Care Act, according to reported forecasts, and as much as triple what some officials had forecast. The number, however, will come down, as the IRS says 300,000 should have claimed an exemption to the penalty.
Further, penalties for those who failed to sign up for insurance averaged around $200, but they still weren’t enough to offset refunds due for the vast majority of taxpayers. Roughly 85% of these taxpayers still reported getting a refund for the 2014 tax year, the IRS said.
“About 40% of these payments were $100 or less and about 95% of these payments were $500 or less,” the agency said in a press release.
The agency said 12 million taxpayers claimed they were exempt from health-care coverage. And a total of 102 million tax returns, or 76% of all taxpayers, indicated they had qualifying coverage for the 2014 fiscal year.
The number of those owing the IRS a penalty, though, could climb. The agency said 5.1 million more didn’t claim an exemption, reported they would pay a penalty or said they already had coverage. The IRS said those still are being analyzed to determine their status.
Administration officials had projected that anywhere from 2.7 million to 6 million taxpayers would have to shell out at least some money in penalties, according to various sources. The Obama administration had seen 2% to 4% of taxpayers forking over the fines, but that has ended up being 6% and could go higher.
It also means that the number opting not to sign up for Obamacare was roughly the same as those who did enroll in the health-care plan through HealthCare.gov and state-run exchanges before the first enrollment period closed.
But the number enrolled in the program for the 2015 fiscal year is expected to outpace those who pay the penalty as the fines go up. A website called ACAsignups.net estimates nearly 13 million have enrolled in Obamacare programs via public exchanges through the middle of July.