A Partial Defense of the IRS as Health Care Agency

Monahan, Amy B.

Despite the fact that the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) is overburdened and struggling to meet the needs of taxpayers, Congress continues to add to IRS responsibilities in areas that appear far removed from the agency’s core revenue raising function. The Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) is a commonly cited example of the non-revenue raising regulatory roles the IRS is increasingly asked to play, to the criticism of many. After providing an historical overview of the IRS’s involvement in health care regulation, the article provides a partial defense of the expanded role that the IRS has been given as a result of the ACA. The article concludes that much of the IRS’s involvement in health care regulation appears not only defensible, but efficient. For better or for worse, there is no better system for processing payments to or from a large number of taxpayers than the federal income tax system. Additionally, the use of excise taxes to shape taxpayer behavior appears to offer the best of both worlds: a powerful incentive that requires very few enforcement resources. The article concludes, however, that significant burden could be removed from the IRS by modifying or removing the IRS’s substantive rulemaking authority with respect to health care matters, deferring instead to other federal agencies, such as the Department of Health and Human Services, that have particular health policy expertise.


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Columbia Journal of Tax Law

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November 21, 2016