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The Efficiency Gains from Social Security Benefit - Tax Linkage

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  • Alan J. Auerbach
  • Laurence J. Kotlikoff

Abstract

This paper examines the efficiency gains from linking marginal Social Security benefits to marginal Social Security payroll taxes. In the U.S. the current combined employer-employee OASI payroll tax rate is 10.4 percent. Recent estimates suggest that the average marginal income tax rate is roughly 27 percent (Barro and Sahaskul (1983)). If marginal OASI payroll taxes provided no marginal Social Security benefits or were incorrectly perceived to provide nomarginal benefits, the effective marginal federal government taxation of labor supply would average roughly 38 percent. Since the efficiency costs of distortionary taxation rise as roughly the square of the tax rate, the Social Security payroll tax may be more than doubling the dead weight loss of labor income taxation.The findings of this paper suggest that there may be very significant efficiency gains available from tightening the connection between marginal Social Security taxes paid and marginal Social Security benefits received. Indeed,the simulated efficiency gains are very large in comparison with those obtained from analyses of the gains from structural tax reform. Restructuring Social Security to greatly enhance marginal benefit-tax linkage may be infeasible, at least in the short run. However, simply providing annual Social Security reports indicating how a worker's projected benefits are affected by his or her tax contributions could provide substantial increases in economic efficiency. Such efficiency gains are potentially as large as increasing GNP by 1 percent this year and every year in the future.

Suggested Citation

  • Alan J. Auerbach & Laurence J. Kotlikoff, 1985. "The Efficiency Gains from Social Security Benefit - Tax Linkage," NBER Working Papers 1645, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:1645
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Roger H. Gordon, 1983. "Social Security And Labor Supply Incentives," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 1(3), pages 16-22, April.
    2. Roger H. Gordon & Alan S. Blinder, 1980. "Market wages, reservation wages, and retirement decisions," NBER Chapters,in: Econometric Studies in Public Finance, pages 277-308 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Anthony Pellechio & Gordon Goodfellow, 1983. "Individual Gains and Losses from Social Security before and after the 1983 Amendments," Cato Journal, Cato Journal, Cato Institute, vol. 3(2), pages 417-442, Fall.
    4. Barro, Robert J & Sahasakul, Chaipat, 1983. "Measuring the Average Marginal Tax Rate from the Individual Income Tax," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 56(4), pages 419-452, October.
    5. Alan J. Auerbach & Laurence J. Kotlikoff, 1984. "Simulating Alternative Social Security Responses to the Demographic Transition," NBER Working Papers 1308, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Kotlikoff, Laurence J & Summers, Lawrence H, 1981. "The Role of Intergenerational Transfers in Aggregate Capital Accumulation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(4), pages 706-732, August.
    7. Alan S. Blinder & Roger H. Gordon & Donald E. Wise, 1980. "Reconsidering the Work Disincentive Effects of Social Security," NBER Working Papers 0562, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Michael J. Boskin & Douglas J. Puffert, 1987. "Social Security and the American Family," NBER Working Papers 2117, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Boskin, Michael J. & Kotlikoff, Lawrence J. & Puffert, Douglas J. & Shoven, John B., 1986. "Social Security: A Financial Appraisal Across and Within Generations," CEPR Publications 244432, Stanford University, Center for Economic Policy Research.
    3. Michael J. Boskin & Douglas J. Puffert, 1987. "Social Security and the American Family," NBER Chapters,in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 1, pages 139-159 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. de Bartolome, Charles A. M., 1995. "Which tax rate do people use: Average or marginal?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(1), pages 79-96, January.

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