Yes, the IRS Can Use Liens and Incarceration to Enforce ObamaCare’s Individual Mandate

Here’s a poor, unsuccessful letter I sent to the editor of the Washington Post:

A recent article [“Could the health-care law work without the individual mandate?”, Mar. 28, A8] claims the IRS “will be barred from using … collection tools such as placing liens or threatening incarceration” to enforce compliance with the requirement that Americans obtain health insurance. Not so.

Suppose the IRS assesses me a $1,000 penalty for failing to obtain health insurance. It is true that the law prohibits the IRS from using liens or incarceration to collect that $1,000. But, money being fungible, the IRS may simply deem my first $1,000 of income-tax withholding to be payment of that penalty. As a result, I would owe an additional $1,000 in income tax at the end of the year, and the IRS could come after me with every tool at its disposal, including liens and incarceration.