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Implicit Taxes on Work from Social Security and Medicare

  • Gopi Shah Goda
  • John B. Shoven
  • Sita Nataraj Slavov

Implicit taxes are present in many government programs and can create substantial work disincentives. The implicit tax created by Social Security is the payroll tax used to fund the retirement portion of Social Security minus the present value of the incremental retirement benefits associated with the earnings. While the payroll tax is always 10.6%, the implicit tax varies over a worker’s career because additional earnings translate nonlinearly into additional retirement benefits. We show that workers at the start of their careers experience lower implicit tax rates, as the increase in benefits from additional work is relatively large. However, workers who are closer to retirement earn little or no additional benefit from additional work. The main implicit tax in Medicare lies in the Medicare as Secondary Payer (MSP) policy, which requires Medicare to be a secondary payer for Medicare-eligible workers whose employers offer a health plan and have 20 or more employees. Thus, affected workers effectively forgo the Medicare benefits that they would have received if they had not been working. We investigate a combination of policies that can reduce average implicit tax rates on older workers by as much as 45%.

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File URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/10.1086/658381
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File URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/full/10.1086/658381
Download Restriction: Access to the online full text or PDF requires a subscription.

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Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal Tax Policy and the Economy.

Volume (Year): 25 (2011)
Issue (Month): 1 ()
Pages: 69 - 88

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Handle: RePEc:ucp:tpolec:doi:10.1086/658381
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/TPE/

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  1. Gopi Shah Goda & John B. Shoven & Sita Nataraj Slavov, 2007. "A Tax on Work for the Elderly: Medicare as a Secondary Payer," NBER Working Papers 13383, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Jonathan Gruber & Kosali Simon, 2007. "Crowd-Out Ten Years Later: Have Recent Public Insurance Expansions Crowded Out Private Health Insurance?," NBER Working Papers 12858, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. John Laitner & Daniel Silverman, 2006. "Consumption, Retirement, and Social Security: Evaluating the Efficiency of Reform with a Life-Cycle Model," Working Papers wp142, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
  4. Gopi Shah Goda & John B. Shoven & Sita Nataraj Slavov, 2009. "Removing the Disincentives in Social Security for Long Careers," NBER Chapters, in: Social Security Policy in a Changing Environment, pages 21-38 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. 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.
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