News Coverage

28 February 2014

VOXXI: Why accurate tax records are important for Hispanic health

Category: News Coverage

Tax season is upon the country, and for many immigrants –documented or otherwise– filing taxes can be difficult due to language barriers that cause complications and miscommunication during the process. Because of this, PRNewswire indicates Hispanics often are the unknowing perpetrators of tax fraud or deliberately avoid filing taxes all together, and these indiscretions can have a negative impact on health. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is designed to grant health insurance access to millions of people in the United States, and Hispanics, as one of the largest uninsured populations in the country, stand to gain hefty benefits from the reform law.

The only catch is that properly filed tax returns are a must for eligibility, and that may put some Hispanics in a difficult position. Thankfully, a new program has launched to help reduce the fear and reservation associated with tax filing so Hispanics can apply for the insurance they need. The Hispanic Access Foundation (HAF) has partnered with H&R Block tax service to form Prepárate Para Un Futuro Mejor” (Prepare Yourself for a Better Future), a series of free tax preparation workshops designed for Spanish-speaking individuals. The programs will be nationwide and will focus on tax misinformation, ACA eligibility and potential immigration law changes that will also impact how Hispanics file.

“This campaign has helped tens of thousands of Hispanics with concerns about immigration status, past experiences with fraud and inadequate tax preparation,” said in a press release Maite Arce, president and CEO of HAF. “With the rapid expansion of the Hispanic population, it is essential to provide accurate information and access to bilingual, professional tax experts to successfully navigate the United States tax system. With a better understanding of the filing process, we can strengthen our families, communities and nation.”

Hispanics looking to take part in the ACA can use their prior tax returns to verify not only eligibility for coverage, but possible eligibility for tax credits.  The IRS indicates assistance to purchase health insurance comes through the tax filing process as does the penalty assigned should an individual or family decline coverage.

“If you get insurance through the Marketplace, you may be eligible to claim the premium tax credit,” states the agency. “You can elect to have advance payments of the tax credit sent directly to your insurer during 2014, or wait to claim the credit when you file your tax return in 2015. If you choose to have advance payments sent to your insurer, you will have to reconcile the payments on your 2014 tax return, which will be filed in 2015.” Because many of the tax provisions surrounding the ACA begin this year, now is the time for Hispanics to take advantage of free educational programs so past tax issues aren’t repeated, causing an issue with the ability to purchase or maintain health care coverage.

“Hispanics have the highest uninsured rates of any racial or ethnic group in the country,” said Arce. “While the first step for everyone is to make sure your taxes are in order, for many Hispanics there is a steep learning curve. Not only are we providing education on the tax process, but also on why health insurance is important and how the system operates as a whole.”

Proper tax preparation is not only important to Hispanics when it comes to health insurance, but experts indicate tax returns may soon become an intricate part of immigration reform. Any Hispanics who are in the process of completing documented immigration status may eventually be required to show proof of tax documentation for multiple years before citizenship is granted.

From  By: Hope Gillette 

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