exemptions

Get (Free) Help With Your Taxes!

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Don't pay to have your taxes prepared!  

You can get free help if you are low income (less than 54,000/year for in person help or less than $66,000/year for online help).  

People need help filing their taxes for many reasons. Whatever the reason, there are some great resources.  Scroll down for a complete list of help in Washtenaw County. For anywhere else in the country, go to myfreetaxes.com and look for assistance from a local United Way—or do-it-yourself online!

What About the Health Insurance Requirement?

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The Affordable Care Act required that most people have health care in 2018 or pay a penalty (shared responsibility payment) unless you qualify for an exemption.  If you had health care through the Marketplace (healthcare.gov) make sure you bring your 1095-A with you when you go to file your taxes.  Your 1095-A is available in the Messages section of your Marketplace (healthcare.gov) account.  You can also call the Marketplace (1-800-318-2596) and they can give the account holder the information over the phone.

For 2019, there is still a mandate requiring people to have health insurance but there is no longer a penalty. When filing taxes in 2020 for the 2019 year, there would be no penalty for not having health insurance.

EXEMPTIONS from the Shared Responsibility Payment

If you are an undocumented immigrant filing taxes using an ITIN number, or if your income is very low, or if your employer insurance was too expensive, you may not have to pay a penalty.  If you are not sure you qualify for an exemption, use the Health Coverage Exemptions tool.  The Exemptions Tool uses your answers to find exemptions that may work for you. It helps you see if you may qualify and tells you how to apply.  If you do qualify, talk to your tax preparer about receiving an exemption.  No tax preparer should ever collect money from you for not having health insurance, only the IRS can collect the shared responsibility payment.  [You can also read about the exemptions on the IRS web site.]

What Information Do You Need To File Taxes?

Here is a list of documents to bring with you to any tax preparation appointment or gather before you start your tax return online.  Make sure to contact your preparer about any specific requirements for receiving help.

  • Social Security or ITIN numbers for all family members, photo ID

  • W-2 forms for all jobs worked in the previous year

  • Proof of rent or mortgage and property tax payments

  • Childcare provider's name, address and federal tax ID number

  • Blank, voided check or deposit slip to set up direct deposit of refund

  • 1099 forms for other income, including unemployment, retirement, contract work

  • Social Security Letter(s) or W-2s

  • 1095-A, if you had health care from the Marketplace (healthcare.gov)

  • Copy of your last year's return (if available)

  • A heating bill from November 2015 - February 2016 or access to your energy bill online

  • Any other tax-related letters or documents

WHERE Can You go for Free Help? 

VITA - UNITED WAY OF WASHTENAW COUNTY

FREE income tax preparation assistance from the United Way of Washtenaw County for residents making up to $54,000 in 2018.

To schedule an appointment call 734-677-7235 or schedule online here.   Multiple locations can be scheduled online including the agencies below.

  • United Way, 2305 Platt Rd. Ann Arbor, 48104. 734-677-7235

  • Manchester Community Resource Center 710 East Main St., Manchester, 48158. 734-428-7722

  • Michigan Works! 304 Harriet St., Ypsilanti, 48197.

  • EMU College of Business 300 W. Michigan Ave. Ypsilanti, 48197.

Many other areas in Michigan have VITA or other tax assistance--use this link to find help in your area.

MYFREETAXES.COM

Do you use a computer?  Do you have access to the computer?  Does your family make $66,000 or less? Myfreetaxes.com is a free online service for tax preparation and filing from United Way and H&R Block.  

Myfreetaxes.com provides email, live chat and telephone support in English and Spanish. 80% of people who filed using this service finished in less than one hour.  If you do not have a computer or would prefer in-person help, computers are available during open VITA clinic hours at the United Way. Computers and volunteer assistance available on a first come, first served basis.

AARP Foundation Tax-Aide

AARP serves adults (55+) with low incomes. Call to make an appointment or inquire about walk-in times.

  • Housing Bureau for Seniors @ the Turner Center 2401 Plymouth Rd., Ann Arbor, 48105. Call 734-998-9341.

  • Milan Senior Center 45 Neckel Ct., Milan, 48160. Call 734-508-6229.

  • Saline Area Senior Center 7190 N. Maple Rd., Saline, 48176. Call 734-429-9274.

  • Ypsilanti District Library 229 W. Michigan Ave., Ypsilanti, 48197. Call 734-482-4110 Ext. 1385.

  • Chelsea Senior Center 512 E. Washington St., Chelsea, 48118. Call 734-475-9242 for Jennifer Smith.

Ann Arbor Senior Center

Ann Arbor Senior Center serves adults (55+) with low incomes. 1320 Baldwin Ave., Ann Arbor, 48104. Call 734-998-9341.

St. Francis

Adults and families with low incomes who have non-complex returns to file. 2150 Frieze Ave., Ann Arbor, 48104. Call 734-769-2550 and ask for Scott Wright.

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Open Enrollment Question: Do I Have To Take My Employer Healthcare Coverage? (Usually, Yes)

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For many employees, Open Enrollment period for employer insurance comes in the fall, and is a short two or four week period where you have to make important decisions about health care for the coming year. This can be a lot of pressure, and so it turns out that a little preparation can go a long way. If you are a new employee at a job, you may be offered insurance right away, or after a period of 90 or 180 days.

Know your options, because if this were a relationship on Facebook, you might say, "It's Complicated!" What follows is a series of questions that will hopefully help you figure it out.

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If you are going to turn down your employer insurance, you want to make sure you are clear about the alternatives. Although it doesn't matter to Medicaid if you have an offer of employer insurance, it does matter if you were hoping to get subsidies on the Marketplace. Don't turn down your offer of coverage without studying your options!

1. Does your employer coverage meet Minimum Essential Coverage guidelines?

This would mean the the employer coverage covers:

  • Ambulatory patient services(Appointments and procedures in a doctor's office);

  • Emergency services;

  • Hospitalization;

  • Maternity and newborn care;

  • Mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment;

  • Prescription drugs;

  • Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices;

  • Laboratory services;

  • Preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management and Pediatric services, including oral and vision care.

If the answer is yes, continue. If the answer is no, consider Marketplace and Medicaid eligibility and enrollment.

BEWARE: Some employers offer very inexpensive medical plans that do not cover hospitalization or emergency services. These do not meet Minimum Essential Coverage guidelines.

 

2. Does your employer coverage meet Minimum Value standards? 

Minimum value standard is a standard of minimum coverage that applies to job-based health plans. If your employer’s plan meets this standard and is considered “affordable,” you won’t be eligible for a premium tax credit if you buy a Marketplace insurance plan instead.

A health plan meets the minimum value standard if both of these apply:

  • It’s designed to pay at least 60% of the total cost of medical services for a standard population

  • Its benefits include substantial coverage of physician and inpatient hospital services

If you are unsure, ask your employer to fill out the Employer Coverage Tool.  

If the answer is yes, continue. If the answer is no, consider Marketplace and Medicaid eligibility and enrollment. 

NOTE: If the answer is no to EITHER the minimum essential coverage or minimum value standard, and you are income-eligible, you should be eligible for advance premium tax credits.

 

3. Is your family income low enough for some or all of your family to qualify for Medicaid?

Look here for the income eligibility tables for Medicaid. If you (or some members of your family) are income-eligible for Medicaid, you can apply for Medicaid instead of or in addition to your employer coverage. Because the income cutoffs for children are higher than for adults, often children can be enrolled in Medicaid or MIChild while the parents enroll in employer coverage. You can also have both Medicaid and your employer insurance--Medicaid will pay co-pays and deductibles not covered by your employer coverage, and this can be useful if you have a high-deductible plan. 

 

4. What is the cost of your insurance, relative to your income? 

To figure this out, look at the lowest-cost plan your employer is offering that meets the minimum standards (see #1 and #2 above), and the cost for the health coverage for the employee alone. 

Example 1: The cost is $100/month for the employee alone, and the employee makes $1000/month. $100/$1000=10% of income.

Example 2: The cost is $100/month for the employee alone, and the employee makes $2000/month. $100/$2000=5% of income.

Generally, if the cost is more than 8% of family income but less than 9.69% of family income, you are exempt from having to take the insurance, but you are not eligible to get advance premium tax credits on the Marketplace. [You may, however, be eligible for Medicaid!]

If the cost is more than 9.69% of family income, you don't have to take your employer insurance, but you can buy on the Marketplace and qualify for advance premium tax credits.

 

5. What about the rest of the family?  The Family Glitch

The Affordable Care Act looks primarily at affordability for the employee only. Different people in a family can get covered in different ways. 

If the cost of insurance for the employee is affordable, and the cost for the rest of the family is not affordable, you fall into what is called the "family glitch." The rest of the family is probably not going to be eligible for subsidized plans on the Marketplace. At this point, help from someone familiar with insurance options can be a big help. You may very well be exempted from the mandate to have health insurance, but that doesn’t help with getting health care. On the other hand, other family members may get covered differently. Possibilities may include: 

Thanks to healthinsurance.org for the image.

Thanks to healthinsurance.org for the image.

Don't forget: in many cases, different people in a family are covered in different ways. For example, each parent may be covered by his/her own employer, and the children may be covered by MIChild.

 

6. What if employer coverage gets offered or dropped in the middle of the year?

Changes in employer coverage in the middle of the year create Special Enrollment Period opportunities. If employer coverage is offered, you should evaluate it. If you have Medicaid and will continue to qualify for Medicaid, you may not want to take it. If you have a Marketplace plan and the employer coverage meets minimum standards, you may need to take the employer coverage because you will no longer be eligible for APTCs. If you take it and have a Marketplace plan, make sure to let the Marketplace know!

If you lose employer coverage during the middle of the year, you may be eligible for Marketplace or Medicaid plans. The Special Enrollment Period on the Marketplace after you lose employer insurance is good for 60 days. Medicaid is open year-round.

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If you have questions, call or walk in to the WHP office.

Washtenaw Health Plan, where We Help People like you!

Monday through Friday from 9am to 4pm

555 Towner, Ypsilanti, MI 48198

 

Resources

Employer Coverage Tool:  Use this tool to gather answers about any employer health coverage that you’re eligible for (even if it’s from another person’s job, like a parent or spouse). You’ll need this information to complete your Marketplace application. Complete one tool for each employer that offers health coverage that you’re eligible for.

Healthcare.gov: Apply here for Marketplace insurance. 

MiBridges: Apply here for Medicaid insurance. 

HealthSherpa:  Use this tool to compare health plans. 

Healthcare.gov Estimator: Compare or preview plans and rates with this estimator. Plans for 2019 should be available during the last week of October.

 

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Got Out Of Prison? Now You Need Health Care!

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, over 2.2 million people are in prisons and jails. So chances are good that you know somebody who is incarcerated, or has gotten out of jail or prison. Many people who are in prison or jail have physical health, mental health, and oral health needs--and those needs don't go away when they are freed.

Sometimes, people get information while still in prison about how to access medical care--but other times, they don't know what to do! In reality, the choices are very similar to people who have not been incarcerated.

Medicaid

If you are not working, or if your income is low enough, you will be eligible for Medicaid. Apply anytime!

NOTE: If you had Medicaid before you were incarcerated, while you were imprisoned you may have been listed in the Medicaid system as having Medicaid for Incarceration. When you are incarcerated, Medicaid only pays for inpatient hospital expenses. If you are STILL listed in Medicaid's records as being incarcerated, even though you are now free, you may need to call the Medicaid Beneficiary Help Line, (888) 367-6557, in order to tell them you are out of prison, and you should get full Medicaid. 

Employer Insurance

If you are employed, and your employer insurance is affordable, you will need to take your employer insurance. Getting out of prison should give you a 30-day special enrollment period, so be sure to get on the insurance right away, if you are eligible.

Marketplace Insurance

If your income, or your family income, is a bit higher, you can sign up for health care on the Marketplace. Getting out of prison entitles you to a 60-day special enrollment period. Don't delay, because if you miss it, you won't be able to get health insurance until the next open enrollment period (November - January)! 

If you have a Marketplace plan, and someone in your family becomes incarcerated, you need to report a life change to the Marketplace. People who are incarcerated are not eligible for Marketplace plans. 

will i owe a health care penalty for when i was imprisoned?

At the end of the year, if someone in your family was incarcerated, they will qualify for an exemption from the requirement to have health care during that time. For 2015, this was exemption F.  Be sure to mark the exemption when you fill out IRS Form 8965.

NOTE: The U.S. government just released more specific rules about the definition of incarceration, and when you are eligible to get health care on the Marketplace. You can read more here.

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Three Steps Toward Qualifying for a Health Care Tax Exemption

In 2015, maybe you...thought you had health care, but you didn't

...you missed open enrollment on the Marketplace

...you lost your job and didn't realize you could apply for Medicaid or the Marketplace

...you thought health care would be too expensive. 

Now, you're doing your taxes, and you realize that you should have had health coverage, and since you didn't, you might need to pay a penalty! The penalty for 2015 could be as much as 2% of your income.

1. Before you panic, take a look at your whole family, and each person individually, to see if all or part of your family qualifies for a tax exemption. 

Look at each person in your family separately to figure out who might qualify for an exemption.

Look at each person in your family separately to figure out who might qualify for an exemption.

If anyone does qualify for an exemption, you will need to fill out IRS form 8965. 

2. The IRS has some excellent resources.

Don't forget--if you are low-income you can do your taxes with free software, free filing, and no messy handwriting!   

Don't forget--if you are low-income you can do your taxes with free software, free filing, and no messy handwriting!

 

If you got a Marketplace exemption, you will get a letter with an Exemption Certificate Number. [Can't find your letter? Log into your account on healthcare.gov and download it again.] If you have an IRS exemption, you just fill it in on Form 8965. 

Common reasons for exemptions:

  • The insurance you were offered was unaffordable
  • You only missed coverage for a couple of months
  • You are a member of a federally-recognized Indian tribe.

Less common reasons for exemptions:

  • Someone in your house was out of the country for several months
  • Someone in your household is not documented
  • You had a special hardship, such as an eviction.

3. File your taxes! You can get free help at these locations.

And while you are doing your taxes, think about the implications for next year. If during the next year, you get married...divorced...get a new job...lose a job...have a baby...move...graduate from college...it would be prudent to get a health care check-up! That would be a good time to visit the Washtenaw Health Plan or get some other health insurance help!

 

 

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