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When she reported her marital status change to them she was told that we would have to file a Joint Tax return for 2020 or else she would have to pay back some (?) amount of money that was provided by ACA for her insurance, even though she was only married for 4+ months of 2020.

Since you were married on Dec 31, the IRS considers you to be married for the entire year. That means that you do have to use one of the Married filing statuses - MFJ or MFS. People filing MFS are not even eligible for a Premium Tax Credit (PTC), so it's unlikely that filing MFS will be advantageous to either of you, unless you live in Ohio, or if one of you is using an income based repayment plan for student loans. And even then, MFS may not be advantageous to you jointly.

The Ambetter people made it sound very onerous and complicated if she did not comply.

Does anyone know if this sounds right and/or is correct following the marital status change. We probably will do a joint filing in any case, but I want to see what the options are.

Well, when you file, you will need to "comply" by including the information on her insurance and the PTC in your tax return, or you will likely get questions from the IRS, since her SS number is associated with a PTC. I will say, it may be somewhat onerous and complicated to "comply" because you will need to include Form 8962, which can be a confusing form. I would suggest reading IRS Pub 974 The current edition is for use with 2019 returns, but it contains a section on "Alternative Calculation for Year of Marriage" that may help with your situation. I am not aware of any changes that would have made changes to that calculation for 2020, but it would be a good idea to check the 2020 version when it comes out.

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