IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

Alternative Tax Rules and Personal Savings Incentives: Microeconomic Data and Behavioral Simulations

Listed author(s):
  • Martin Feldstein
  • Daniel Feenberg

This study examines the potential effects on personal savings of alternative types of tax rules. The analysis makes use of two extensive samples of information on individual savings and financial income: the 1972 Consumer Expenditure Survey and a stratified random sample of 26,000 individual tax returns for that year. The first type of tax rule that we consider would permit all tax-payers to make tax deductible contributions to individual savings accounts. The interest and dividends earned in these accounts would also accumulate untaxed. A potential problem with any such plan is that Individuals could in principle obtain tax deductions without doing any additional saving merely by transferring pre-existing assets into the special accounts. The evidence that we have examined indicates that this Is not likely to be important in practice since most taxpayers currently have little or no financial assets with which to make such transfers. For example, a plan permitting contributions of 10 percent of wages up to $2000 a year would exhaust all the pre-existing assets of 75 per-cent of households in just 2 years. Our evidence also shows that a ceiling on annual contributions of 10 percent of wages still leaves an increased saving incentive for more than 80 percent of households since fewer than 20 percent of households currently save as much as 10 percent a year. Specific simulations of a variety of such proposals show that even when income and substitution effects balance for a representative taxpayer (implying no change in his consumption) aggregate saving would rise considerably. The second type of tax rule that we examine would increase the current $200 interest and dividend exclusion. In 1972, among families with incomes of $20,000 to $30,000, 55 percent had more than $200 of interest and dividends; for those with incomes of at least $30,000, 82 percent had more than $200 of interest and dividends. For such families, the$200exclusion provides no incentive for additional saving. Our analysis considers four ways of strengthening the saving incentive while limiting the reduction in tax revenue:(1) a limit of $1000 on the interest and dividend exclusion; (2) a 51) percent exclusion of interest and dividends up to a $1000 limit; (3) exclusion of interest and dividends in excess of 5 percent of income over$10,000with an exclusion limit of $1000;and (4)exclusion of 20 percent of interest and dividend income without any limit. The revenue effects of all of these options were found to be quite small. But even with quite modest elasticities of current consumer spending with respect to the relative prices of present and future consumption, these plans could increase saving by significantly more than the reduction in tax revenue.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 0681.

in new window

Date of creation: May 1981
Publication status: published as Feldstein, Martin. "Alternative Tax Rules and Personal Savings Incentives: Microeconomic Data and Behavioral Simulations." Behavioral Simulation Methods in Tax Policy Analysis, edited by Martin Feldstein. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, (1983), pp. 173-209.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:0681
Note: PE
Contact details of provider: Postal:
National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.

Phone: 617-868-3900
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

in new window

  1. Green, Jerry R & Sheshinski, Eytan, 1978. "Optimal Capital-Gains Taxation under Limited Information," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(6), pages 1143-1158, December.
  2. M. S. Feldstein & S. C. Tsiang, 1968. "The Interest Rate, Taxation, and the Personal Savings Incentive," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 82(3), pages 419-434.
  3. Feldstein, Martin & Horioka, Charles, 1980. "Domestic Saving and International Capital Flows," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 90(358), pages 314-329, June.
  4. Boskin, Michael J, 1978. "Taxation, Saving, and the Rate of Interest," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(2), pages 3-27, April.
  5. Feldstein, Martin S, 1970. "Inflation, Specification Bias, and the Impact of Interest Rates," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 78(6), pages 1325-1339, Nov.-Dec..
  6. Lawrence H. Summers, 1978. "Tax Policy in a Life Cycle Model," NBER Working Papers 0302, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Mirrlees, J. A., 1976. "Optimal tax theory : A synthesis," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(4), pages 327-358, November.
  8. Charles Becker & Don Fullerton, 1980. "Income Tax Incentives to Promote Saving," NBER Working Papers 0487, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Michael J. Boskin, 1978. "Taxation, Saving, and the Rate of Interest," NBER Chapters,in: Research in Taxation, pages 3-27 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:0681. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.