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Tax Preparer Offering ACA Penalty Advice

The Affordable Care Act requires that everyone who can afford health insurance should buy it – or there’s a penalty on their federal taxes.

H & R Block, a major player in the tax-preparation industry, decided to open its doors Thursday to answer questions for those who wonder if they owe money or should be worried about it.

Nearly a million Floridians found coverage through the federal marketplace last year. Many others, who could have but didn't bother, may have to pay up as part of their federal income tax filing, due April 15.

Who has to pay the penalty? Only the uninsured who make above the poverty level. And how much is it?  For the 2014 tax return, those above the poverty level who don’t have insurance must pay at least $95 a person – usually more.

On Wednesday, Vivian Ennis-Huntley said she and co-workers at the St. Petersburg H & R Block  office were bracing for a crowd.

"I'm getting excited about it, we're ready for it," she said.

Now, most people aren't affected by this change in the tax season. People who get their insurance through an employer, Medicare or some other government program don’t need to worry about all.

But many do, and Huntley said they can come ask questions too.

"Don't be confused, don't be scared, it's not that big of a deal," she said.

H&R Block is holding the event now in hopes of getting the attention of uninsured people while enrollment for 2015 through the federal marketplace is still going on.  That deadline is Feb. 15.

--Health News Florida special correspondent Carol Gentry is part of WUSF Public Media in Tampa. Contact Gentry at Health News Florida receives support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Carol Gentry, founder and special correspondent of Health News Florida, has four decades of experience covering health finance and policy, with an emphasis on consumer education and protection.