Are You Having to Repay Part of Your Obamacare Subsidy and Don’t Know Why?
Premium Tax Credit Explained
Almost everyone is required to be insured or pay a penalty as part of Obamacare. Unfortunately, this created a substantial financial burden for lower-income families. So, in order to alleviate this situation, Obamacare included a subsidy, referred to as the premium tax credit (PTC), to help them pay the cost of the insurance which is based on family size, household income in relationship to the federal poverty.
Basis for The Tax Credit & Advance Premium Tax Credit
The primary variable in determining the actual credit is the family’s household income, so the exact amount of the PTC cannot be determined until after the close of the tax year. Providing the credit after the fact on the tax return for the year does not help families to pay their premiums during the year, so to alleviate that problem, Obamacare allows families to estimate their family income when they apply for their insurance and the government insurance marketplaces will estimate the PTC and allow it as a subsidy in advance. That subsidy is called the advance premium tax credit (APTC) and reduces the amount of the insurance premiums that the family must pay during the year.
The actual household income is known when the tax return for the year is prepared and the actual PTC to which the family is entitled is determined. If the PTC is greater than the APTC, then the difference is credited on the tax return. However, if the APTC – the subsidy paid in advance – is greater than the actual PTC the family is entitled to, then the difference must be repaid.
Therefore, if you had to repay some amount of the credit, it was generally due to your household income being underestimated when you signed up for the insurance, thus causing the APTC to be larger than the PTC. This is one of the hazards of estimating your household income in advance because you may receive unexpected income during the year, such as a raise, a bonus, a spouse starting to work, selling some stocks for a gain…the list goes on.
Additionally, there are other reasons for a mismatch between the APTC and PTC. For example –
- If your employer offered you affordable, compliant insurance for any month during the year, then you were not eligible for the PTC that month. (The IRS knows when this occurred based on a report that employers have to file.)
- Other things that can change the PTC include changes in family size created by marriage, divorce, children getting married, deaths, etc.
- Another reason is when a married couple is receiving APTC from the marketplace and files married filing separate (MFS) returns instead of filing jointly. The MFS filing status does not allow them to claim the PTC.
If you keep the insurance marketplace updated on your estimated family income and family size and allowing it to make appropriate adjustments to the APTC you can avoid the repayments.
If you have questions related to the premium tax credit or the repayments, please give this office a call.