With new 'voluntary' exemptions created for long-term-care law, the key word is 'voluntary'


In January, understanding how misguided, poorly written and oversold taxpayers feel the state's long-term-care law is — and after a federal, class-action lawsuit had been filed and a cease-and-desist letter had come in from Idaho — the Washington state Legislature added more exemption categories from the fund that the law created and its accompanying payroll tax of 58 cents for every $100 earned. This was in addition to an 18-month delay.

Updates on the WA Cares Fund website explain that workers "who live out of state, military spouses, workers on non-immigrant visas, and veterans with a 70% or higher service-connected disability” can opt out, under a "voluntary" exemption they need to apply for at a later time. Those groups of people have no expectation of ever benefitting from the WA Cares Fund, even after paying into it, which was the reason for the new allowance. People who end up moving out of state in their retirement years and those who don't pay in for a full 10 years should also be preparing to give their money away to this program. There is no “get out of jail free” card for them.

Before this tweak to the law, only people who had a private long-term-care insurance plan purchased before Nov. 1, 2021, were able to apply to opt out. And as of mid-April, more than 477,000 people had. 

If you're in one of the new exemption categories, pay close attention to words like "can," "voluntary" and "are able." The exemption is not automatic, as "exempt" implies. So instead of breathing a sigh of relief that the state is going to allow you to keep more of your earnings, write it on your calendar to apply for exemption from the long-term-care law on Jan. 1, 2023. That's when the state says you'll be able to. (I'll stay on top of where to do that and give updates here.) 

Don't fall asleep at the state's restrictive wheel. I think supporters of the law hope you will. The WA Cares Fund needs as much money going into it as possible, as it's considered insolvent before it even begins. 

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