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The Tax Benefit of Income Smoothing


  • Rydqvist, Kristian
  • Schwartz, Steven
  • Spizman, Joshua


A worker can contribute pre-tax dollars to a private pension plan. Under a progressive tax, this feature reduces income taxes. Ippolito (1986} argues that an individual in 1979 can reduce lifetime taxes by 20%. We re-examine his analysis using the complete time-series of US income tax history and find that the tax benefit of income smoothing is much smaller.

Suggested Citation

  • Rydqvist, Kristian & Schwartz, Steven & Spizman, Joshua, 2011. "The Tax Benefit of Income Smoothing," CEPR Discussion Papers 8425, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:8425

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Richard E. Slitor, 1948. "The Measurement of Progressivity and Built-In Flexibility," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 62(2), pages 309-313.
    2. Daniel Feenberg & Jonathan Skinner, 1989. "Sources of IRA Saving," NBER Chapters,in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 3, pages 25-46 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Christopher Ragan, 1994. "Progressive Income Taxes and the Substitution Effect of RRSPs," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 27(1), pages 43-57, February.
    4. Nishiyama, Shinichi, 2011. "The budgetary and welfare effects of tax-deferred retirement saving accounts," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(11), pages 1561-1578.
    5. Stephens, Melvin Jr & Ward-Batts, Jennifer, 2004. "The impact of separate taxation on the intra-household allocation of assets: evidence from the UK," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(9-10), pages 1989-2007, August.
    6. Milligan, Kevin, 2003. "How do contribution limits affect contributions to tax-preferred savings accounts?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(2), pages 253-281, February.
    7. Jennifer Huang, 2008. "Taxable and Tax-Deferred Investing: A Tax-Arbitrage Approach," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 21(5), pages 2173-2207, September.
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    More about this item


    income tax history; private pensions; tax progressivity;

    JEL classification:

    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • G11 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Portfolio Choice; Investment Decisions
    • G18 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Government Policy and Regulation
    • G23 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Non-bank Financial Institutions; Financial Instruments; Institutional Investors
    • H24 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Personal Income and Other Nonbusiness Taxes and Subsidies

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