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The Affordable Care Act’s Multiple Taxes –

By Cassey B Mulligan

Under the Affordable Care Act, only a small minority of workers is expected to get subsidized coverage. So economists concluded that aggregate labor market effects of the new law would be minimal.

I would agree if the implicit income tax were the only new tax on labor market activity in the new law. But there’s more: The Affordable Care Act also contains a new implicit tax on employment that affects far more people than its implicit income tax does.

Income taxes and employment taxes are not the same, because the income tax is based on income and the employment tax is based on employment. Two households with the same family structure (in number and age of family members) and annual income who live in the same county will not necessarily get the same assistance from the Affordable Care Act. The household that is employed more months of the year is likely to get less assistance (and maybe no assistance) from the new law, because the law requires that, during the months that they are employed, full-time workers get health coverage from their employer before they turn to the new health insurance marketplaces for federal government subsidies.

To put it another way, even if the health insurance subsidies in the Affordable Care Act had been a specific dollar amount that was not phased out with household income, the law would still act as a tax on employment because most workers could not get the assistance during the months they were at work.

This new implicit employment tax will apply to tens of millions of workers who are offered health insurance on their job and to millions of non-employed persons who are considering a position that offers coverage.

… Once we consider that the new law has an employer penalty, too, the labor market will be receiving three blows from the new law: the implicit employment tax, the employer penalty and the implicit income tax. Regardless of how few economists acknowledge the new employment tax, it should be no surprise when the labor market cannot grow under such conditions.

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