Whoever decided that having the Internal Revenue Service enforce the penalties for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was a good idea may have made a political mistake primed to explode.

Set aside for a moment the debate over the law itself. Whether you like it or not, PPACA is the law of the land. More importantly, that pesky individual mandate has grown some teeth.

The individual mandate is a critical component to PPACA. The provision requires that all Americans have qualifying health insurance. The mandate forces people who might not utilize as much healthcare, particularly young healthy people, to buy insurance to offset the higher costs to insurers associated with those who need more expensive healthcare. By guaranteeing a broader customer base, insurers should theoretically be able to offset their losses associated with PPACA’s requirements that they offer more comprehensive insurance policies.

The problem with the individual mandate is that it requires Americans to actively purchase a product. When Americans start filing their taxes this year, they will face the sting of the ACA’s penalty provisions for the first time, on as many as three different fronts.

First, those who have already received healthcare subsidies through a government exchange must reconcile their actual income with their estimated income used to calculate the subsidy. Those who have earned more than they anticipated may be required to repay part of the subsidy they received.

Americans who failed to purchase qualifying insurance in 2014, must pay the  greater of either $95 per person for the year ($47.50 per child under 18) or 1 percent of the taxpayer’s household income. That may not sound like such a harsh penalty, but it highlights a third potential PPACA tax trap.

Many taxpayers will likely discover the PPACA penalty while filing their 2014 tax returns. Those returns are not due until April 15, 2015. The problem is that the open enrollment period for the federal exchanges ended on Feb. 15. As such, only a few exceptions permit individuals to purchase insurance until the next enrollment period. In other words, many taxpayers may not realize their need to purchase insurance until it is too late. To make matter worse, there is a good chance they will be subject to the 2015 PPACA penalty when they file their taxes in 2016.

The 2015 penalty is $325 per person ($162.50 per child under 18) or 2 percent of household income in 2015. If the 2014 penalty was not enough to cause political problems, the 2015 PPACA penalty will be.

The PPACA’s architects seemingly overlooked one critical reality: the level of civic participation in government. Only a small fraction of American citizens actually vote. Voting is free. Forcing Americans to spend money on something, even something that might benefit them, will likely prove much more difficult.

Unfortunately for President Obama and PPACA’s supporters, middle-class Americans are most likely to be ensnared by the PPACA’s tax traps. Medicaid will cover the poorest Americans, while more affluent Americans will continue the private or employer-based insurance many of them already carried.

If PPACA’s penalties are as painful and widespread as they could be, President Obama will be forced to negotiate with a Congress perfectly willing to let him suffer the political consequences of the law he enacted over their objections. Americans are never excited about tax season, but PPACA’s tax traps may just push them over the edge.

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