Health Insurance Matters: Tax Season

Heath Insurance Matters / Harry P. Thal

It seems that the April 15 tax filing deadline this year for most people will be April 17 this year. A great opportunity for procrastinators to procrastinate for a few more days, putting off their computing returns till the weekend. As we have known since childhood, the regular tax return filing deadline is April 15. However, due to April 15 being on a Sunday and the Washington D.C. Emancipation Day holiday being observed on April 16 instead of April 15, 2018, Tax Day is on the following Tuesday.

We get phone calls from health insurance clients wanting to know how much they have spent in 2017 on their (semi) deductible health insurance. I say “semi” because health insurance premiums paid by an individual are tax-deductible, but the portion of health insurance paid by employers is not tax-deductible. To deduct health insurance that has not been paid pre-tax, the taxpayer must itemize premiums as medical expenses on Schedule A. Taking health insurance as an itemized medical expense deduction only works when combined with other medical expense deductions to reach a specified percentage, which changes based on the yearly tax code, of the taxpayer’s income. In my humble opinion, unless you have had very high out-of-pocket medical expenses, chances are that you will not reach the needed percentage of income to make the endeavor worth it.

The best resource for how much you have paid in insurance premiums is your own check register. If you are on Medicare, you may be having the Medicare Part B (Medical) benefits deducted from your Social Security check before you receive the payment into your bank account. This is an expense. The best resource to learning what you have paid in is a really great and super secure website: www.mysocialsecurity.gov. It takes a little bit of doing to set this up, as there are a series of security questions used that only you can answer. Once you are in, you will have access to most of your records, such as earnings (since you were a child), If you receive benefits or have Medicare, you can use your my Social Security online account to:

• Get your benefit verification letter;
• Check your benefit and payment information and your earnings record;
• Change your address and phone number;
• Start or change direct deposit of your benefit payment;
• Get a replacement Medicare card; and
• Get a replacement SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S for tax season.

If you do not receive benefits, you can:

• Get your Social Security Statement, to review:
• Estimates of your future retirement, disability, and survivor’s benefits;
• Your earnings once a year to verify the amounts we posted are correct; and
• The estimated Social Security and Medicare taxes you’ve paid.
• Get a benefit verification letter stating that:
• You never received Social Security benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Medicare; or
• You received benefits in the past, but do not currently receive them (The letter will include the date your benefits stopped and how much you received that year.); or
• You applied for benefits but haven’t received an answer yet.

This is an extremely useful website which may assist you in not only your income tax preparation, but for other interests as well. Another useful tool is another website, www.mymedicare.gov which will be very helpful to people receiving Medicare benefits. It advises you of your opportunity to receive healthy checkups, as well as see the billing and other account activities.
If you have any questions, please seek advise from a qualified tax professional. I am not; I’m just a neighbor trying to help my fellow neighbors.
Harry P. Thal, MA, is a licensed insurance broker in California (0621106) and 24 other states. His offices are in Kernville. He is a member of the Society of Certified Senior Advisors and Past-President of the Kern Association of Health Underwriters. He may be reached at 760-376-2100, e-mail harrythal@aol.com or visit him on the web at www.harrythal.com.