Scammers are trying to trick people into paying Affordable Care Act (ACA) penalties to them. Like many scams, this one fools people because it contains a kernel of truth—if you do not obtain any health insurance, you genuinely might face penalties of as much as $695 in 2016 under the terms of the federal health insurance legislation. But victims of this scam could end up paying this penalty twice…or paying a penalty that does not actually apply to them.
In one variation, a victim receives a call or an e-mail from someone claiming to be collecting the penalties on behalf of the IRS or some other federal agency. The victim might be pushed to provide credit card or bank account information immediately to avoid additional penalties. In another variation, an unscrupulous tax preparer instructs a client to make this penalty payment in cash directly to the tax preparer or to a company the preparer controls. The money is never sent to the government.
In reality, if you owe an ACA penalty, you will automatically pay it to the IRS in the form of a reduced tax refund or a larger amount owed.
If you fail to pay a legitimate ACA penalty through your tax return, the IRS will send you a letter in the mail. If you want to confirm that it is authentic, call the IRS at 800-829-1040.
Seniors often are targeted, but you do not owe any penalty if you had Medicare coverage throughout the year.