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 FACT SHEET: Addressing the Needs of Victims of Domestic Abuse under the Affordable Care Act



“Treasury is committed to addressing the needs of domestic abuse victims and recognizes the importance of helping them claim the premium tax credit.  Our proposed rules will provide victims with the options necessary to access the benefits of the Affordable Care Act,” said Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy Mark J. Mazur.




Domestic abuse is a serious concern and the Treasury Department is committed to helping domestic abuse victims access affordable, quality health coverage.  Generally, individuals who are legally married are required to file joint income tax returns to claim the premium tax credit (PTC), an important aspect of the health care law that helps make coverage more affordable for millions of families.  For victims of domestic abuse, however, getting in contact with a spouse for purposes of filing a joint return may pose serious risk of further injury and trauma, or may even be prohibited by a restraining order.  In order to address this issue, Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) are highlighting existing ways for victims of domestic abuse to access the PTC and will provide additional alternatives, as outlined below.  Treasury and the IRS are also reviewing ways to allow married people facing similar difficulties, for reasons other than being a victim of domestic violence, to access the PTC.




Head of Household: Current rules allow certain married individuals with children who live apart from their spouse to file as a “head of household.” [1] This rule makes it possible for some victims of domestic abuse to claim the PTC without filing a joint return.  Generally, married individuals may claim this filing status if they:

·         File a separate return;

·         Lived for more than half the year with a child for whom they may claim an exemption;

·         Did not live with their spouse during the last six months of the tax year; and

·         Paid more than half the cost of keeping up their home for the tax year.


Rule for 2014 and Expected Proposed Regulations: Since the option to file as “head of household” is not available to some individuals who are unable to file a joint return to claim the PTC, Treasury indicated in prior guidance that it would propose additional regulations addressing domestic abuse and other circumstances that would create obstacles to filing a joint return.  Treasury also requested comments on how to structure a rule to address such situations.  In response to feedback from individuals, advocates, members of Congress, and others, we expect to release proposed regulations later this spring.  


That said, we understand that individuals need to know whether they will qualify for the premium tax credit for 2014 so that they can enroll in coverage.  Accordingly, today the Treasury Department and the IRS are releasing guidance providing that a married individual who is living apart from his or her spouse, and who is unable to file a joint return as a result of domestic abuse, will be permitted to claim a premium tax credit for 2014 while filing a tax return with a filing status of married filing separately. 


We urge uninsured victims of domestic abuse for whom it is infeasible to file a joint return to apply for coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace. It is our understanding that the Department of Health and Human Services will clarify in educational materials how individuals who qualify for this rule can obtain an eligibility determination for advance payments of the premium tax credit.  In addition, while open enrollment ends on March 31, 2014,   we understand that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has clarified that a Marketplace may establish a special enrollment period for such individuals so they will have sufficient time to select a qualified health plan through the Marketplace, and that HHS has established such a special enrollment period with respect to the Federally-facilitated Marketplace.


[1] For more information, see “Head of Household” in IRS Publication 501, “Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information,” available at

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