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U.S. watchdog gives IRS high marks on Obamacare eligibility data

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Internal Revenue Service has provided nearly accurate information on eligibility data for consumers who sought subsidized health coverage through Obamacare's private insurance exchanges, a federal watchdog said on Tuesday.

A report released by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration said data on consumer income and family size that the IRS sent to healthcare exchanges last October was accurate in 99.97 percent of cases.

The data was used to determine whether insurance applicants were eligible to purchase coverage through the exchanges during an initial six-month open enrollment period, which ended in March.

The report also said the agency's accuracy rate stood at 100 percent when it came to calculating federal tax credits that help cover insurance premiums for families earning up to 400 percent of the federal poverty line, or $95,400 per year for a family of four.

A federal healthcare exchange was set up under Obamacare to serve consumers in 36 states that chose not to establish their own marketplaces. The remaining 14 states and the District of Columbia operate their own exchanges.

Investigators looked at IRS activity in October, a period when the federal exchange was stymied by technical glitches that overwhelmed the website, HealthCare.gov, for weeks.

The inspector general's report described the audit as part of ongoing oversight of the IRS role in President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, under which 8 million Americans have obtained private health coverage for 2014.

The findings could be good news for the IRS, long a target for opposition to Obamacare among Republican lawmakers in Congress who have questioned its ability to tackle eligibility questions accurately.

It said the agency received 101,018 requests for income and family size verification from health insurance exchanges from Oct. 1 to Oct. 4, 2013 and provided accurate responses on 100,985.

The IRS incorrectly told exchange officials that it could not provide tax information for individuals in 33 cases because it could not match the applicants' names to IRS records.

It accurately calculated the maximum monthly tax credits for 120,824 requests received between Oct. 1 and Oct. 14, the report said.

As of March, the IRS had received more than 27 million requests for data about income and family size and 11 million requests involving tax credits.

(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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