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Does It Pay, at the Margin, to Work and Save? -- Measuring Effective Marginal Taxes on Americans' Labor Supply and Saving

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  • Laurence J. Kotlikoff
  • David Rapson

Abstract

Building on Gokhale, Kotlikoff, and Sluchynsky's (2002) study of Americans' incentives to work full or part time, this paper uses ESPlanner, a life-cycle financial planning program, in conjunction with detailed modeling of transfer programs to determine a) total marginal net tax rates on current labor supply, b) total net marginal tax rates on life-cycle labor supply, c) total net marginal tax rates on saving, and d) the tax-arbitrage opportunities available from contributing to retirement accounts. In seeking to provide the most comprehensive analysis to date of fiscal incentives, the paper incorporates federal and state personal income taxes, the FICA payroll tax, federal and state corporate income taxes, federal and state sales and excise taxes, Social Security benefits, Medicare benefits, Medicaid benefits, Foods Stamps, welfare (TAFCD) benefits, and other transfer program benefits. The paper offers four main takeaways. First, thanks to the incredible complexity of the U.S. fiscal system, it's impossible for anyone to understand her incentive to work, save, or contribute to retirement accounts absent highly advanced computer technology and software. Second, the U.S. fiscal system provides most households with very strong reasons to limit their labor supply and saving. Third, the system offers very high-income young and middle aged households as well as most older households tremendous opportunities to arbitrage the tax system by contributing to retirement accounts. Fourth, the patterns by age and income of marginal net tax rates on earnings, marginal net tax rates on saving, and tax-arbitrage opportunities can be summarized with one word -- bizarre.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12533.

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Date of creation: Sep 2006
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12533

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  1. Feenberg, Daniel R. & Poterba, James M., 2004. "The Alternative Minimum Tax and Effective Marginal Tax Rates," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 57(2), pages 407-27, June Cita.
  2. Kristin J Forbes, 2002. "How Do Large Depreciations Affect Firm Performance?," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 49(Special i), pages 214-238.
  3. Jagadeesh Gokhale & Laurence J. Kotlikoff & Alexi Sluchynsky, 2002. "Does it pay to work?," Working Paper 0206, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
  4. Laurence J. Kotlikoff & Ben Marx & Pietro Rizza, 2006. "Americans' Dependency on Social Security," NBER Working Papers 12696, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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Cited by:
  1. Sausgruber, Rupert & Tyran, Jean-Robert, 2011. "Are we taxing ourselves?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(1), pages 164-176.
  2. Damon Jones, 2010. "Information, Preferences, and Public Benefit Participation: Experimental Evidence from the Advance EITC and 401(k) Savings," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(2), pages 147-63, April.
  3. Alexander Gelber & Matthew Weinzierl, 2012. "Equalizing Outcomes vs. Equalizing Opportunities: Optimal Taxation when Children's Abilities Depend on Parents' Resources," Harvard Business School Working Papers 13-014, Harvard Business School, revised Mar 2014.
  4. Maria I. Marika Santoro & Chao D. Wei, 2008. "The Impact of Progressive Dividend Taxation on Investment Decisions: Working Paper 2008-03," Working Papers 19630, Congressional Budget Office.
  5. Andrew Caplin & John Leahy, 2010. "Economic Theory and the World of Practice: A Celebration of the ( S, s ) Model," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 24(1), pages 183-202, Winter.
  6. Timothy J. Bartik, 2013. "Social Costs of Jobs Lost Due to Environmental Regulations," Upjohn Working Papers and Journal Articles 13-193, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
  7. Rupert Sausgruber & Jean-Robert Tyran, 2008. "Tax Salience, Voting, and Deliberation," Working Papers 2009-25, Faculty of Economics and Statistics, University of Innsbruck.
  8. Maria I. Marika Santoro & Chao D. Wei, 2008. "Taxation and Asset Pricing in a Production Economy: Working Paper 2008-10," Working Papers 20412, Congressional Budget Office.
  9. Benjamin B. Lockwood & Matthew C. Weinzierl, 2012. "De Gustibus non est Taxandum: Heterogeneity in Preferences and Optimal Redistribution," NBER Working Papers 17784, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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