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Implicit Social Security Tax Rates over the Life Cycle

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  • Gopi Shah Goda

    ()
    (Stanford University)

Abstract

The U.S. Social Security benefit structure implicitly creates disincentives towards working long careers. Workers near retirement often gain little additional benefit from continued work because of Social Securitythe benefit formula. This paper develops a framework to examine these disincentives and applies it to a set of stylized workers, as well as to actual earnings records of primary and secondary earners. While the conventional wisdom is that net Social Security tax rates fall with age due to the discounting of future benefits for interest and mortality, this paper shows that the overwhelming pattern of implicit Social Security tax rates is increasing. The distinction comes mainly from incorporating two features of the system: only the highest 35 years of indexed earnings count towards Social Security benefits,and the benefit calculation does not distinguish between low-income earners who work long careers and high-income earners who work short careers. In addition, married couples face different incentives than single workers. Marriage reduces primary earners’ implicit tax rates, but raises the implicit tax rates faced by secondary earners. Because both older workers and secondary earners tend to have high labor supply elasticities, raising revenue from these workers has efficiency considerations.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research in its series Discussion Papers with number 06-021.

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Date of creation: Feb 2007
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Handle: RePEc:sip:dpaper:06-021

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Related research

Keywords: social security; disincentive; benefits; tax rate;

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References

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  1. Feldstein, Martin & Samwick, Andrew A., 1992. "Social Security Rules and Marginal Tax Rates," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 45(1), pages 1-22, March.
  2. Leora Friedberg, 1999. "The Labor Supply Effects of the Social Security Earnings Test," NBER Working Papers 7200, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Robert Fenge & Silke Uebelmesser & Martin Werding, 2002. "Second-best Properties of Implicit Social Security Taxes: Theory and Empirical Evidence," CESifo Working Paper Series 743, CESifo Group Munich.
  4. Sören Blomquist & Luca Micheletto, 2008. "Age-related Optimal Income Taxation," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 110(1), pages 45-71, 03.
  5. Erosa, Andres & Gervais, Martin, 2002. "Optimal Taxation in Life-Cycle Economies," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 105(2), pages 338-369, August.
  6. Jean-Marie Lozachmeur, 2006. "Optimal Age-Specific Income Taxation," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 8(4), pages 697-711, October.
  7. Courtney Coile & Jonathan Gruber, 2000. "Social Security and Retirement," NBER Working Papers 7830, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Boskin, Michael J. & Sheshinski, Eytan, 1983. "Optimal tax treatment of the family: Married couples," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(3), pages 281-297, April.
  9. Butrica, Barbara A. & Johnson, Richard W. & Smith, Karen E. & Steuerle, C. Eugene, 2006. "The Implicit Tax on Work at Older Ages," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 59(2), pages 211-34, June.
  10. Cushing, Matthew J., 2005. "Net Marginal Social Security Tax Rates over the Life Cycle," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 58(2), pages 227-45, June.
  11. Barbara A. Butrica & Karen E. Smith & C. Eugene Steuerle, 2006. "Working for a Good Retirement," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_463, Levy Economics Institute.
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Cited by:
  1. Gopi Shah Goda & John B. Shoven & Sita Nataraj Slavov, 2007. "Social Security and the Timing of Divorce," NBER Working Papers 13382, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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