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IRS Says Health Care Coverage Fines Not Punitive, But Admits Govt Can Keep Refunds If Fines Not Paid

Penny Starr
CNS News
April 8, 2010

IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said on Monday that the health care bill signed into law last month by President Barack Obama is not “punitive,” but that the agency could withhold tax refunds if it determines a taxpayer does not have mandatory health care coverage and should pay a fine, as stipulated in the law.

The new health care law mandates that every American have health insurance, either on their own or through their employer. If a person refuses to buy health insurance, he can be penalized financially by the federal government.

“I think there’s a couple of important points that I would make, though, about our role in health reform,” Shulman said during a question-and-answer session following a speech at the National Press Club on Monday. “One is that these are not the kinds of things – check the box whether you’re here or not — that we send agents out. These are things where you get a letter from us.”

“Second is, Congress was very careful to make sure there was nothing too punitive in this bill,” Shulman said. “And so, we do not have authority – first of all, there’s no criminal sanctions for not paying this and there’s no ability to levy bank accounts, do seizures or some of the other tools.”

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