IRS's Koskinen to enforce ObamaCare's employer mandate during final days

IRS commissioner John Koskinen’s last day on the job is Thursday, but he appears to have decided to bestow one final gift on the business community on his way out.

This year, the IRS will strictly enforce the ObamaCare employer mandate for the first time since its inception, the agency confirmed to The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, suddenly handing out penalties to companies with 50 employees or more that fail to provide affordable insurance to full-time employees and dependents. The letters also date back to 2015, which mean companies could be on the hook for years’ worth of financial consequences.

The IRS was supposed to begin enforcing the mandate in 2014, but instead issued the guidance last week. The move comes months after Republicans failed to pass multiple bills to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and the highly unpopular employer requirement.

The IRS did not immediately return FOX Business’ request for comment.

The impact on U.S. businesses could be particularly harsh. According to a study from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) conducted in 2014, penalty payments by employers were projected to total $139 billion over the 2015–2024 period.

However, not everyone in the business community is concerned. Small Business Majority founder & CEO John Arensmeyer told FOX Business in a statement that the vast majority of small businesses won’t be affected by the IRS’s decision to enforce the provision.

“Ninety-six percent of small businesses have fewer than 50 employees, and firms with fewer than 50 employees are … not required to offer health insurance under the Affordable Care Act anyway,” he said. “What's more, 96% of firms with 50 or more employees already offered health insurance to their employees before the ACA existed."

Last month, Trump named assistant secretary for tax policy at the U.S. Treasury Department, David Kautter, as interim IRS chief, which will take effect after Koskinen’s term expires. Before joining the administration, Mr. Kautter worked for RSM, a leading provider of audit, tax and consulting services, as the leader of the firm’s Washington National Tax group. He also served as the managing director of American University’s Kogod Tax Center. Mr. Kautter held multiple positions at professional services and accounting firm Ernst & Young, most recently as the chief operating executive for the firm's national tax practices.

Koskinen was nominated as IRS commissioner by then-President Barack Obama in 2013. In a press briefing with reporters on Tuesday, Koskinen criticized lawmakers for threatening to reduce the agency's funding.

“I’m hopeful that in the future the IRS and Congress can have a more rational and reasonable discussion of the resources the agency needs to meet its very critical responsibilities,” he said.