IRS Commissioner Can’t Say How Many New Agents IRS Will Need to Enforce Obamacare

By Penny Starr | April 7, 2010 | 12:50 PM EDT

IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman speaking at the National Press Club on Monday Aug. 5, 2010 ( photo/Penny Starr)

( - Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Douglas Shulman said at the National Press Club on Monday that the IRS cannot say how many new agents it will need to enforce the new health care law signed by President Barack Obama last month. 
The IRS will play a key role in the new national health care system created by the law because it will be responsible for monitoring whether people buy health insurance, as the law mandates, and for collecting a fine from those who fail to buy insurance.
“But it’s way too early to say exactly what we’re going to need three or four years from now for the actual full implentation," said Shulman, when asked how many new people the IRS would need to carry out the law.

Shulman’s statement contrasts with an analysis done by the Republican staff of the House Ways and Means Committee who estimated that the IRS will need to hire 16,500 new agents over the next decade to enforce the health care law. The Ways and Means Republicans based their estimation on a CBO analysis that said the IRS will need an additional $10 billion over the next ten years to enforce Obamacare.
Shulman explained at Monday’s event that the IRS will work with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and insurance companies to determine if Americans are complying with the mandate to purchase health insurance and to penalize them if they are not covered at any time during the tax year.
“The way this will work is the Department of Health and Human Services and the insurance companies will work together to determine what adequate health coverage is,” Shulman said. “When someone files their return, the insurance company will send us a little box that is checked; a yes-no question that says do they have coverage or not.
“They’ll send it to the individual. The individual will attach it to their return and they’ll send it to us,” Shulman said. “Think it’s just like a 1099 where you get information reporting about the interest that you have on the bank account.
“We will run matching programs around that and if somebody doesn’t have coverage, they will either pay the penalty that they owe or they’ll get a letter from us saying that you owe this amount,” Shulman said.

When asked how many workers the IRS would need to handle inquiries from taxpayers and implementing the fines under the new health care bill, Shulman said: “We are right now looking at all of the implications around resources for this bill and other bills as they come along. We're going to try to create as many options as we can for people. So, we can answer the phones, give peopele all the tools and information they need on line, and obviously have some people around that depending on the implementation--But it’s way too early to say exactly what we’re going to need three or four years from now for the actual full implentation."