By Elise Viebeck - 01/28/15 01:51 PM EST
As many as 6 million people will have to pay a penalty under ObamaCare for going without health insurance in 2014, federal officials suggested in projections released Wednesday.
That means between 2 percent and 4 percent of all taxpayers lacked medical coverage for all or part of the year and do not qualify for an exemption under the individual mandate, according to the Treasury Department.
Wednesday's estimates are the clearest picture so far from the administration ahead of ObamaCare's first tax season. The percentages were provided by Mark Mazur, assistant secretary for tax policy at the Treasury Department.
Mazur and senior officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) emphasized that most people will not face ObamaCare-related hurdles when filing their returns.
About 75 percent of taxpayers — or 112.5 million people — received coverage all year through their jobs and will just need to attest to their coverage by checking a box, officials said on a call with reporters.
The administration estimates that between 3 and 5 percent of taxpayers — or 4.5 to 7.5 million people — will have received subsidies through the ObamaCare marketplaces, which creates the possibility that some people will owe the government money if they incorrectly predicted their income for the year. Some taxpayers might receive refunds instead.
Mazur did not provide an estimate of how many of the 4.5 million to 7.5 million people who have received federal subsidies will owe the IRS money. One official suggested that even if many of them do, it is unlikely to cancel out their total tax refund.
"The overwhelming number of people get a refund as it is," the official said. "We don't expect that the amount of settling up will exceed the refund for a very giant number of taxpayers."
Critics of the healthcare law blasted the administration for adding additional criteria to exclude some people from the mandate in 2013 and 2014.
Under current rules, people in a wide variety of circumstances may be exempt from the mandate, including those who have experienced domestic violence, the death of a close family member, the cancellation of their health insurance coverage or a natural disaster.
The CMS and the Treasury Department are hoping to fend off confusion before tax season ramps up, presenting consumers will new forms and boxes to check related to the healthcare law.
HealthCare.gov CEO Kevin Counihan announced a series of efforts to educate consumers, including collaborations with nonprofit groups and most major tax preparers.
"Our goal, fundamentally, is to get people insured," Counihan told reporters. "Our goal is not to get fee income [from penalties] or to make this difficult for folks."
This story was updated at 4:07 p.m.