Obamacare gets the IRS into the domestic abuse evaluation business

The typical U.S. state offers at least two courthouses for people claiming domestic violence: criminal and family courts (see “The Domestic Violence Parallel Track”). There is also a federal domestic violence bureaucracy, set up for the Violence Against Women Act, e.g., to grant Green Cards based on claims of domestic violence. While doing taxes this year my accountant’s Obamacare section (a full page of questions out of a 29-page questionnaire) asks “If you received advance premium tax credit or enrolled in coverage through the Marketplace, are married, and are filing separately from your spouse, are you a victim of domestic abuse or spousal abandonment?”

The IRS’s FAQ on this corner of Obamacare explains that victimhood is a self-certified matter, but subject to ultimate evaluation by an IRS employee:

To certify that you are a victim of domestic abuse or spousal abandonment and qualify for relief from the joint return filing requirement, you should check the box at the top of Form 8962, Premium Tax Credit (PTC), which you will use to claim the credit. You should not attach documentation of the abuse or abandonment to your tax return, but should keep any documentation you may have with your tax return records. For examples of what documentation to keep, see Publication 974, Premium Tax Credit (PTC) [this is a 74-page PDF]. Taxpayers may claim this relief from the joint filing requirement for no more than three consecutive years. For more information on this relief, see the instructions to Form 8962, Premium Tax Credit (PTC).

Domestic abuse includes physical, psychological, sexual, or emotional abuse, including efforts to control, isolate, humiliate, and intimidate, or to undermine the victim’s ability to reason independently. All the facts and circumstances are considered in determining whether an individual is abused, including the effects of alcohol or drug abuse by the victim’s spouse. Depending on the facts and circumstances, abuse of the victim’s child or other family member living in the household may constitute abuse of the victim.

What does the 74-page Publication 974 say? Taxpayers can keep a “Doctor’s report or letter” or “A statement from someone who was aware of, or who witnessed, the abuse or the results of the abuse”.

What else bulks up this 29-page questionnaire?

  • There is a special form for people who got federal “mortgage assistance payments.”
  • There are different tax procedures for people who use Coverdell Education Savings Accounts or 529 accounts to pay for educational expenses (Form 1099-Q)
  • There are different tax rates for people who install a long list of “alternative energy equipment” or “energy efficiency improvements”.
  • There are procedures for pulling money out of retirement accounts to pay for education.
  • There are procedures for pulling money out of retirement accounts to pay for “a principal residence.”
  • There are procedures for dealing with the purchase of a plug-in electric vehicle.
  • There are different tax rates and/or reporting procedures for money spent on health care via a health savings account.
  • There are different tax rates and/or reporting procedures for money spent on health care via a medical savings account. (how is this different from a health savings account?)
  • The IRS needs to know about distributions from long-term care insurance.
  • There are different procedures and/or reporting procedures for people who owe more than $1 million in total mortgages.

Readers: What complexities did my accountants miss with their questionnaire?

Happy Tax Day!


  1. Neal

    April 15, 2017 @ 2:21 pm


    Would it be better for the IRS to force abuse victims to file jointly?

  2. Smartest Woman on the Internet

    April 15, 2017 @ 4:26 pm


    this is a 74-page PDF

    Writing IRS tax publications and instructions must be a very, very secure job.

    I always did my state and federal income tax return myself by hand until last year after buying a rental property and started using TurboTax – it’s wonderfully thorough and simple! I’m done in 15 minutes!

  3. bobbybobbob

    April 15, 2017 @ 9:31 pm


    Seems like expenses for metacarpal fractures should qualify. You could break your hand in domestic abuse.

  4. Windy

    April 16, 2017 @ 2:42 am


    Best answer is to abolish government completely!

  5. the other Donald

    April 16, 2017 @ 8:55 am


    Maybe the IRS should just buy TurboTax and embed all the rules in advance. What could go wrong?

  6. Gordon Macdonald

    April 16, 2017 @ 10:56 am


    “Maybe the IRS should just buy TurboTax and embed all the rules in advance. What could go wrong?”
    Because then it would be a three-day download over a fast connection?

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