New TIGTA Report Shows Obamacare Revenue Lagging, IRS Snagging

According to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Admininstration (TIGTA), the 2.3% medical device excise tax enacted to help pay for Obamacare is not meeting targets.

The tax went into affect January 1, 2013. The TIGTA report analyzed the returns for the first two quarters (6 months) of 2013, and found that the “excise tax revenue being reported are lower than estimated” for a total of $913.4 million. The IRS expected to have received “excise tax revenue of $1.2 billion for this same period.”

The report also states that the “Joint Committee on Taxation estimated revenues from the medical device excise tax of $20 billion for Fiscal Years 2013 through 2019.”. And yet, in the first six months alone, the estimate amounts are off by 25%. That does not bode well.

Many of the problems originate in the IRS. In fact, the report is aptly named “An Improved Strategy Is Needed to Ensure Accurate Reporting and Payment of the Medical Device Excise Tax”. Some of the key findings:

“The IRS is attempting to develop a compliance strategy to ensure that businesses are compliant with medical device excise tax filing and payment requirements and has taken several measures to advise medical device manufacturers of the new excise tax. However, the IRS cannot identify the population of medical device manufacturers registered with the Food and Drug Administration that are required to file a Form 720 and pay the excise tax.”

“In addition, processing controls do not ensure the accuracy of medical device excise tax figures reported on paper-filed Forms 720. Our analysis of 5,107 Forms 720 processed for the quarters ending March 31 and June 30, 2013, identified discrepancies in the amount of the medical device excise tax and/or taxable sales amount captured from 276 paper‑filed tax returns. TIGTA identified medical device excise tax discrepancies totaling almost $117.8 million when comparing the excise tax amount captured by the IRS from the Form 720 to the excise tax amount TIGTA calculated.”

And the most interesting:

“Finally, the IRS erroneously assessed 219 failure to deposit penalties totaling $706,753 against businesses filing a Form 720 for the quarters ending March 31 and June 30, 2013, which was designated a penalty relief period. The IRS had reversed 133 of the 219 penalty assessments. When TIGTA alerted the IRS of the remaining 86 penalties, IRS management reversed the penalties and issued apology letters to the affected taxpayers.”

The IRS, it seems, was unprepared to handle the collection of excise tax, and furthermore, did not seems to understand basic reporting and penalty relief periods of which it was put in charge.

Think about this: we are now in August of 2014. That means that the second half of 2013 and the first half of 2014 went by before the TIGTA report was released with its findings. If the first 6 months of revenue were found to be about 25% under estimate, it is likely the trend continued for the next full year.

The IRS did agree to the findings of the TIGTA report. However, the summary does not leave one feeling confident that there will be swift resolution now that the problems have been discovered and dissected. Note the ambiguity and qualifiers:

The IRS agreed with our recommendations and plans to consider alternative strategies for identifying noncompliant manufacturers, identify programming changes needed to improve the math verification for paper-filed Forms 720, and implement procedures for corresponding with taxpayers if the changes can be accomplished within budgetary constraints.

Never mind the fact that the Affordable Care Act passed in March 2010 with the excise tax being a key, but controversial, revenue-raiser. The IRS had nearly three years to come up with a) a system to identify companies who owed the tax and b) a system to process the associated forms. And it couldn’t do it.

With the tax being so controversial from the get-go, there have been measures in Congress calling for its repeal because of its impact on the cost of devices and well as jobs in the medical device field.

“The medical device industry has been lobbying hard to get the tax repealed, and there has been movement in Congress. Both the House and the Senate have passed separate pieces of legislation calling for the tax to be repealed, though the Senate vote was on a nonbinding resolution.”

The problem at this point with excise tax repeal is the question of how to make up for even more lost revenue to pay for Obamacare. Taxpayers should be indeed be nervous that the tax collection is showing to be only 75% and we actually have no idea if it improved or worsened at all over the following year because data is not available for it.

The only thing we do know is that we are certain to see a premium rate increases this coming year because the projections have been so off-estimate.

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