Hey Weekly Standard: Could you correct that Obamacare tax thing?

Kimberly Pinter is a tax attorney in northern Virginia*. So her April 3 article in the Weekly Standard, “Obamacare Pinches the Poor,” on ACA’s tax requirements will understandably concern many low-income citizens.** She writes:

According to the www.healthcare.gov web site, you can get an income-based exemption if “you don’t have to file a tax return because your income is below the level that requires you to file.”

Sounds simple enough, right? Until further investigation reveals that this exemption is claimed directly on the tax return. That’s right – the tax return you’re not required to file.

While the circular nature of this exemption is ludicrous on its face, its effects are far-reaching and incredibly regressive….

It’s a safe bet that many members of this population will not be cognizant of their need to file simply to avoid the Obamacare penalty for being uninsured.

[….]compliance with this behemoth law disproportionately burdens the poorest of the poor.  Like a shark silently stalking its unknowing prey, Obamacare lurks waiting to take a bite out of the unwary. And in this case, it’s the poor.

Yet another stupid Rube Goldberg application of the Nanny State, right?  Well no. actually. ACA has its share of glitches and complications. But this isn’t one of them. As ACA legal expert Timothy Jost notes over email, Pinter is wrong.

Indeed here is the government’s actual directions to low-income people. I found this through a quick Google search at a website called IRS.gov:

If you are not required to file a tax return and don’t want to file a return, you do not need to file a return solely to report your coverage or to claim an exemption.

This isn’t Nanny State. It isn’t Rube Goldberg. Nothing behemoth. No shark is stalking or biting. It’s not particularly complicated, either.

The Weekly Standard should run a correction on this important point.

*A friend notes that my description of Ms. Pinter as a tax attorney conveys the impression that Ms. Pinter is someone whose main duties are assisting people with their taxes. Her byline says: “Kimberly Pinter is a tax policy lawyer and writer in Northern Virginia.” Her Twitter byline notes that she is a “Tax policy expert, lawyer, lobbyist, jewelry designer, and Zumba fitness instructor.”  Sounds kindof cool, actually.

**Update: I received a very professional email from the Weekly Standard. To their credit, they are now looking into this. I await a correction or amplification.

Author: Harold Pollack

Harold Pollack is Helen Ross Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. He has served on three expert committees of the National Academies of Science. His recent research appears in such journals as Addiction, Journal of the American Medical Association, and American Journal of Public Health. He writes regularly on HIV prevention, crime and drug policy, health reform, and disability policy for American Prospect, tnr.com, and other news outlets. His essay, "Lessons from an Emergency Room Nightmare" was selected for the collection The Best American Medical Writing, 2009. He recently participated, with zero critical acclaim, in the University of Chicago's annual Latke-Hamentaschen debate.

8 thoughts on “Hey Weekly Standard: Could you correct that Obamacare tax thing?”

  1. If you intend to ask the Weekly Standard to correct every piece of dishonest,, inaccurate bullshit they print, you have a job for the rest of your life

  2. Your statement about the Weekly Standard running a correction makes the assumption that they intend to tell the truth rather intending to lie. This assumption is not supported by the facts in evidence.

  3. Ms. Pinter's Twitter Account describes her as a "Tax policy expert, lawyer, lobbyist, jewelry designer, and Zumba fitness instructor, not necessarily in that order." (Ok, I made up the "not necessarily in that order" part, but it did seem apt.)

  4. A commenter at Lawyers, Guns, and Money points out that Kimberly Pinter is not a tax attorney. The Weekly Standard identified her as a "tax policy lawyer," which is fairly meaningless. Her resume consists of working as a lobbyist for the National Association of Manufacturers, working for Republican Senator Craig Thomas on the Senate Finance Committee, and working for Pfizer on trade and tax issues relating to Pfizer's business in Africa and the Middle East.

    1. You've conveniently ignored her qualifications to opine on tax policy matters as a " jewelry designer and Zumba fitness instructor." Shame on you.

  5. It bothers me not at all that this person I've never heard of designs jewelry and exercises. Were she a man who liked to run marathons and … I don't know, collect vinyl, would you find it worth mentioning? Those activities are equally non-relevant and non-socially worthwhile.

    And what are you people doing on Twitter? Serious people don't use Twitter for serious issues. Twitter is for events that are actually happening to you, not policy debates.

    Notwithstanding the above, people should always admit when they are factually wrong (at a minimum).

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