New policy on “silent returns.” In light of the recent executive order directing federal agencies to exercise authority and discretion available to them to reduce potential burden, IRS has decided to make changes that would continue to allow electronic and paper returns to be accepted for processing in instances where a taxpayer doesn’t indicate their coverage status on line 61 of Form 1040. However, IRS notes that legislative provisions of the Affordable Care Act are still in force until changed by the Congress. Taxpayers remain required to follow the law and pay what they may owe.

IRS further notes that processing silent returns means that taxpayer returns are not systemically rejected, allowing them to be processed and minimizing burden on taxpayers, including those expecting a refund. However, it says that when IRS “has questions about a tax return, taxpayers may receive follow-up questions and correspondence at a future date, after the filing process is completed.”

As a reminder, the Instructions to Form 1040 for 2016 direct taxpayers who had qualifying health care coverage for every month of 2016 for themselves, spouses (if filing jointly), and dependents to check the box on line 61 and leave the entry space blank. A taxpayer that can’t check the box on line 61 must generally either claim a coverage exemption on Form 8965 (Health Coverage Exemptions) or report an individual mandate penalty on line 61 for each month that the taxpayer, spouse (if filing jointly), or someone the taxpayer can or does claim as a dependent didn’t have coverage. The amount of a taxpayer’s individual mandate penalty is based, in part, on the number of individuals he is responsible for who do not have minimum essential coverage.

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