Will I have to pay a penalty tax if I don't have qualifying health insurance?

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It depends. One of the main objectives of the health-care reform law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), is to encourage uninsured individuals to obtain health-care coverage. As a result of the ACA, everyone must have qualifying health insurance coverage, qualify for an exemption, or pay a penalty tax. This requirement is generally referred to as the individual insurance or individual shared responsibility mandate.

Health insurance plans that meet the requirements of the ACA generally include employer-sponsored health plans, government health plans, and health insurance purchased through state-based or federal health insurance exchange marketplaces.

Individuals who are exempt from the individual insurance mandate include:

Those who qualify for religious exemptions

Certain noncitizens
Incarcerated individuals
Members of federally recognized American Indian tribes
Those who qualify for a hardship exemption
Individuals may also qualify for an exemption if:

They are uninsured for less than three months
The lowest-priced insurance coverage available to them would cost more than 8% of their income
They are not required to file an income tax return because their income is below a specified threshold

For tax year 2014, the penalty tax equals the greater of 1% of the amount of your household income that exceeds a specific amount (generally, the standard deduction plus personal exemption amounts you're entitled to for the year) or $95 per uninsured adult (half that for uninsured family members under age 18), with a maximum household penalty of $285. In 2015, the percentage rate increases to 2%, the dollar amount per uninsured adult increases to $325, and the maximum household penalty increases to $975.

Pay attention to some rules

Having loan documentation may also be necessary to meet IRS requirements. If you're lending your child a significant amount, prepare a promissory note that details the loan amount, repayment schedule, collateral, and loan terms, and includes an interest rate that is at least equal to the applicable federal rate set by the IRS. Doing so may help ensure that the IRS doesn't deem the loan a gift and potentially subject you to gift and estate tax consequences. You or your child may need to meet certain requirements, too, if the loan proceeds will be used for a home down payment or a mortgage. The rules and consequences can be complex, so ask a legal or tax professional for information on your individual circumstances.

If you decide to say no

Consider offering other types of help

Your support matters to your child, even if it doesn't come in the form of a loan. For example, you might consider making a smaller, no-strings-attached gift to your child that doesn't have to be repaid, or offer to pay a bill or two for a short period of time.

Don't feel guilty

If you have serious reservations about making the loan, don't. Remember, your financial stability is just as important as your child's, and a healthy relationship is something that money can't buy.


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