Obamacare adds new challenges to tax season

The countdown is on: 83 days from Thursday to get your taxes filed. It's a process plenty of people put off to the last minute, but if you're not careful, three words could cost you a bunch of money.

Tax experts say the Affordable Care Act, or \"Obamacare\", will add time, and potentially stress to filing.

\"Although it's only one change, the impact in scope is huge,\" H & R Block Spokesperson Jennifer Kurzynski said in her Pewaukee office Thursday.

The ACA adds 46 changes to the tax code alone. If you had insurance through work all of last year, you'll just check a box on your forms. If you got healthcare through an exchange, you'll get a 1095A form, which will take more work and information. If you didn't have insurance for the full 12 months of 2014, you could end up paying a penalty -- $95 at minimum for each adult member of the household and $47.50 for each dependent under 18. Otherwise, you may pay 1 percent of the household income, whichever is great. But there is good news.

\"There's over 30 exemptions to apply for to either minimize or take away that penalty,\" Kurzynski said.

Even so, tax experts like Ty Boswell at Liberty Tax Service says many people she's helped this year are unprepared.

\"Seeing the penalties assessed to people, it's like, wow, it's serious, it's here,\" Boswell said.

Meanwhile, congressional budget cuts at the IRS mean fewer people to answer your calls and work on your returns this season. It's why just about every specialist will tell you to file electronically and see them for advice.

But if you don't have the cash to pay for help, MATC offers its accounting services for free. It's a program Jim Benedum has overseen for decades.

\"It's best for the people that we serve because they get a tax return that's done for free that might well cost them $150 to $200 easily,\" Benedum said.

The MATC program is available to families with an income of $53,000 or less. You can go to the downtown Milwaukee campus (Student Center located at 700 W. State Street) Tuesdays and Saturdays from Jan. 31 through April 14. Tuesdays are 6 - 7:30 p.m. and Saturdays are 10 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.

The Oak Creek campus will be offered Thursdays and Saturdays Feb. 7 through April 2 in room 120 of the A building. Thursday sessions will be held 4 - 7 p.m. and Saturdays will be 9 a.m. to noon.

If your family income is $60,000 or less, you can find tax filing services at http://www.myfreetaxes.com.

H&R Block offers help online as well at http://www.hrblock.com/.

Liberty Tax Services locations are offering $50 if you process your taxes with them.

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