IRS Prepares for Greater Role in Implementing Obamacare

“We’re always worried about that,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said when asked whether he was concerned the agency could suffer similar tech problems suffered — or caused — by the Department of Health and Human Services as they worked to implement Obamacare.

The agency is gearing up for new responsibilities in implementing the health care law, which will expand during the next filing season.

Most notably, the agency will assume the new responsibility of penalizing those who “refuse to get insured,” with a fine of $95 or 1 percent on income, whichever is greater, in 2014.  They will also have to ensure those who received tax credits to purchase insurance actually take the correct amount of subsidy.  The IRS has reportedly been “working for years to update its computer systems to prepare” for its newfound responsibilities, which, according to a 2013 analysis by the Galen Institute, tally up to 46 new powers.

The IRS commissioner is keenly aware of the technological hurdles that accompany carrying out these new powers. Koskinen stated, “People don’t realize it takes almost the entire year to prepare for the next filing season, and this one is going to be a major lift because we have to implement the Affordable Care Act.”   Yet, he said he is “confident” the IRS will “make it work.”

This despite allegedly being underfunded to undergo the information technology upgrades needed to implement and enforce a law as complex as Obamacare.  The Fiscal Times reports that after IRS Commissioner testified before a House Appropriations subcommittee, Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-FL) 44% called the IRS out for doling out employee bonuses as they complain about being underfunded:

What I find unacceptable is that in this $11.3 billion appropriation that the IRS received this year, that you can’t find the money to answer more than half the phone calls and yet you can find the money to pay $63 million in bonuses.  It seems to be that might be a slap in the face to the taxpayers.  

From supposed financial woes to perhaps very real technological hurdles, IRS officials are not the only ones worried about their new role in implementing and enforcing Obamacare.

According to a recent poll, 65 percent of Americans say the IRS should not be responsible for enforcing Obamacare, and with the IRS under investigation for targeting conservative groups for their political beliefs, they have good reason for concern.  As Townhall’s Daniel Doherty asked, “If the IRS cannot be trusted to impartially review the applications of organizations applying for tax-exempt status, how can they be trusted to enforce the Affordable Care Act?”

With the agency’s new powers comes a whole host of privacy concerns for Americans.  The IRS will have access to the personal health information virtually all Americans.  “Obamacare requires all insurance companies to report to the IRS the name, address, identification number, and type of policy purchased by every customer, along with a determination whether the insurance was “government-approved” for purposes of complying with Obamacare’s individual mandate,” Heritage has explained.  They added:

Both the IRS scandal and Obamacare contain similar themes: government overreach, massive intrusions, and bureaucrats granted opportunities to abuse their power in arbitrary and harmful ways.

And both the IRS commissioner and Americans have reason to be concerned about the agency’s new powers.

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