In its final regulations, the IRS states that parents will be made to pay the penalty (called a “shared responsibility payment”) if they can claim an uninsured child or spouse as a dependent, regardless of whether they actually claim them or not.
“The proposed regulations clarify that a taxpayer is liable for the shared responsibility payment imposed with respect to any individual for a month in a taxable year for which the taxpayer may claim a personal exemption deduction for the individual (that is, the dependent) for that taxable year,” the regulations state.
“Whether the taxpayer actually claims the individual as a dependent for the taxable year does not affect the taxpayer’s liability for the shared responsibility payment for the individual.”
In other words, if a child goes without government-defined health insurance coverage for any month of the year, their parent must pay a fine to the government, regardless of whether they claim the child as a dependent or not.
The only thing that matters to the IRS is whether the parent could claim the uninsured child as a dependent.
The same rule applies to an uninsured spouse if the couple files a single tax return. If they file a joint return, both parents are liable for the fine.
The IRS calls this arrangement a “shared responsibility family,” and it includes adopted children.