So when is "not a tax" a tax? Answer: when the Supreme Court says so!
Supreme Court Health Care Decision - Live Coverage - Election 2012 - NYTimes.com: "On Sept. 20, 2009, President Obama insisted that the insurance mandate in his health care bill was not a tax. Today, the Supreme Court said it was. In the middle of the health care fight, Mr. Obama was eager to avoid the characterization of the mandate — and its financial penalties — as a tax on people. He had promised no tax increase for middle-class families and Republicans were poised to pounce. “No. That’s not true, George,” Mr. Obama said to George Stephanopoulos during an interview on ABCs “This Week” program. “The — for us to say that you’ve got to take a responsibility to get health insurance is absolutely not a tax increase.” In a contentious interview, Mr. Obama added: “What it’s saying is, is that we’re not going to have other people carrying your burdens for you anymore than the fact that right now everybody in America, just about, has to get auto insurance. Nobody considers that a tax increase.”But the court disagreed. They said the insurance mandate was, effectively, a tax on consumers of health care, and is therefore constitutional. “Our precedent demonstrates that Congress had the power to impose the exaction in Section 5000A under the taxing power, and that Section 5000A need not be read to do more than impose a tax,” the court wrote. “This is sufficient to sustain it.”"
It's a tax. End of story. Or is it? Some say it is the "largest tax increase in the history of the world."