Obamacare Stories Ignore Taxes, Penalties 88 Percent of the Time

Even in tax season, Obamacare-related taxes barely mentioned by evening news shows.

The federal tax filing deadline has arrived. Tax season, when H&R Block commercials are as inescapable as news how-to segments about filing taxes, is nearly over.

But there’s one big tax story the broadcast networks practically ignored this year: the Obamacare taxes that just took effect. The network evening news shows have aired 40 stories or news briefs that mentioned “Obamacare” or the “Affordable Care Act” between Jan. 1, 2014, and April 13, 2014. But 87.5 percent (35 of 40) of those ignored the taxes associated with the legislation by failing to mention any taxes or penalties related to Obamacare.

ABC was the worst offender with 11 mentions of Obamacare on “World News” and not one that mentioned taxes or penalties for non-compliance.

The networks talked about Obamacare when it suited them. They ran stories about the Zach Galifianakis comedy sketch plugging the Affordable Care Act. They let President Barack Obama take a “victory lap” for the alleged 7 million enrollees the administration claims it got by the March 31 “deadline.” But seldom reminded people what that deadline was all about.

Journalists know all about deadlines, after all, the work in an industry that lives by them. Deadlines mean consequences, yet the March 31 deadline to get acceptable health insurance or pay the tax was rarely explained on ABC, NBC or CBS evening news programs.

ABC “World News” skipped the individual mandate tax in its March 31 and April 1 reports about the “mad scramble” to sign up before the deadline.

Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl announced that the deadline had passed and “a surge of signups in person at enrollment centers around the country and online helped the White House succeed, even exceed its own expectations,” on “World News” April 1. Nowhere in that story did ABC explain the compulsion behind that deadline.

According to Americans for Tax Reform, which has a full list of tax hikes under President Obama, the individual mandate excise tax and employer mandate tax both took effect Jan. 1. ATR cited the Congressional Budget Office estimate that 6 million families would be liable for tax under the individual mandate. There was a delay in the employer mandate for some businesses announced in February by the Obama administration.

NBC’s White House correspondent Peter Alexander downplayed the cost of 2014 penalties on March 31, calling them “minimal this year” and “as low as $95” per adult. But Alexander did say that it could “jump” to $700 in years to come. That’s was the only “Nightly News” story that brought up Obamacare’s taxes or fines out of 10 stories (10 percent).

CBS “Evening News” did a slightly better job than the other two networks with four stories out of 19 that mentioned taxes or penalties (21 percent). Scott Pelley said March 31 that if you missed the deadline “you will have to pay at least a $95 fine in your income taxes next year.” The IRS rules actually stipulate that people without insurance in 2014 will owe either a $95 fine or 1 percent of your adjusted gross income -- whichever is higher.

Kaiser Health News explained this saying, “The $95 penalty has gotten a lot of press, but many people will be paying substantially more than that. A single person earning more than $19,650 would not qualify for the $95 penalty ($19,650 - $10,150 = $9,500 x 1% = $95). So the 1 percent penalty is the standard that will apply in most cases, say experts. For example, for a single person whose MAGI is $35,000, the penalty would be $249 ($35,000 - $10,150 = $24,850 x 1% = $249).”

Those penalties climb even higher in 2015 and 2016.

Drudge Pays ‘Liberty Tax,’ Garners Ridicule

In March, Matt Drudge of Drudge Report reaped scorn and derision from the Obama administration and left-wing websites like The Huffington Post for tweeting: “Just paid the Obamacare penalty for not ‘getting covered’ ... I’M CALLING  IT A LIBERTY TAX!”

The Washington Times reported that criticism and even accusations of lying came from Jesse Lee at the White House, Sahil Kapur and Dylan Scott of the left-wing website Talking Points Memo, and others. Scott alleged that Drudge was “probably lying.” But they all failed to realize that the self-employed must make estimated tax payments on a quarterly basis throughout the year.

So Drudge was paying the penalty for 2014 now, as required.

Breitbart reported that the IRS form for estimating those taxes recommends adding in the penalty and “to pay before the first quarterly deadline of April 15.”

“It is true that thousands of small businesses will be forced to pay Obamacare taxes quarterly in 2014,” a Senate Budget Committee aide told Breitbart News.

The Wall Street Journal said on Dec. 29, 2013, that the insurance tax itself would collect $8 billion in 2014 and thanks to an exemption for “any entity that is a self-insured employer” like a large union, the burden “falls on the saps who work for small businesses, the self-employed and individuals ...”

That editorial from WSJ cited an NFIB estimate that higher insurance costs will result in 146,000 to 262,000 fewer jobs over 10 years and that the majority (59 percent) would hit small businesses.

Although due to a late change some businesses may have more time. Before Obama announced yet another delay in February 2014, the employer mandate was going to require companies to provide “affordable insurance” to their full-time workers (anyone working more than 30 hours a week). Those that did not, would have to pay up to a $2,000 fine for each employee not offered coverage, according to The Washington Post.

Obama announced a delay in February for employers with 50 to 99 workers, allowing them to avoid the fine for two more years, and employers with more than 100 workers to avoid it by offering coverage to 70 percent of their employees in 2015, and 95 percent of employees by 2016. “Evening News” reported the mandate delay on Feb. 10 and mentioned the penalty modifications.

— Julia A. Seymour is Assistant Managing Editor for MRC Business at the Media Research Center. Follow Julia A. Seymour on Twitter.