- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The IRS will not require that tax returns indicate that a person has health insurance under Obamacare — a decision that Reason magazine called a major blow to the law’s individual mandate.

In a statement to Reason, which first reported the policy Tuesday night, the IRS said it was responding to an order from President Trump to reduce the Affordable Care Act’s burdens on the American taxpayer.

“The recent executive order directed federal agencies to exercise authority and discretion available to them to reduce potential burden,” the IRS said in its statement. “Consistent with that, the IRS has decided to make changes that would continue to allow electronic and paper returns to be accepted for processing in instances where a taxpayer doesn’t indicate their coverage status.”

For most people, the proof that they have complied with the individual mandate to buy insurance is indicating such to the IRS on Line 61 of the 1040 form. Starting this year, the Obama administration had ordered the agency to start rejecting as invalid returns that didn’t fill out Line 61 or address the alternatives to not having health insurance, such as paying the tax penalty.

That is apparently no longer the case.

The IRS says taxpayers are still legally required to have health insurance or pay the penalty. It also maintains that it still has discretion to follow up on a filer not indicating his health-insurance coverage status but, according to Reason, it’s not clear what would cause the agency to do that.

“Although the new policy leaves Obamacare’s individual mandate on the books, it may make it easier for individuals to go without coverage while avoiding the penalty. Essentially, if not explicitly, it is a weakening of the mandate enforcement mechanism,” Reason reporter Peter Suderman wrote.

“It’s hard to enforce something without information,” Ryan Ellis, a senior fellow at the Conservative Reform Network, told Reason.

• Victor Morton can be reached at vmorton@washingtontimes.com.

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