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The Effects of Tax-Based Saving Incentives on Government Revenue and National Saving

  • Martin Feldstein

This paper shows that previous analyses of IRA-type plans have miscalculated their effect on tax revenue and therefore on national saving by ignoring their impact on corporate tax payments. Recognizing the important effect of IRA plans on corporate tax revenue changes previous conclusions about the revenue effects of IRA plans in fundamental ways. The revenue loss associated with IRAs is either much smaller than has generally been estimated or is actually a revenue gain, depending on the time horizon and key parameter values. In addition to analyzing the effects of traditional tax-deductible IRA plans, the paper presents an alternative nontaxable IRA (in which contributions are not deductible and no subsequent tax is levied on earnings or withdrawals) and shows that, for the most plausible parameter values, the net revenue effect is positive in every year. Although each individual participant eventually withdraws all of his own contributions and accumulated earnings from his IRA account, the net impact on the national capital stock of that individual's participation remains positive even after his death because of the favorable cumulative effects on tax revenue. This is true for traditional deductible IRA plans as well as for the nontaxable IRAs.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w4021.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 4021.

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Date of creation: Mar 1992
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Quarterly Journal of Economics, May 1995, pp.475-494.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4021
Note: PE
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  1. J. Bradford De Long & Lawrence H. Summers, . "Equipment Investment and Economic Growth," J. Bradford De Long's Working Papers _122, University of California at Berkeley, Economics Department.
  2. B. Douglas Bernheim & John B. Shoven, 1991. "National Saving and Economic Performance," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number bern91-2, May.
  3. Paul M. Romer, 1987. "Crazy Explanations for the Productivity Slowdown," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1987, Volume 2, pages 163-210 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Martin Feldstein & Philippe Bacchetta, 1989. "National Saving and International Investment," NBER Working Papers 3164, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Martin Feldstein, 1983. "Behavioral Simulation Methods in Tax Policy Analysis," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number feld83-2, May.
  6. Boskin, Michael J, 1978. "Taxation, Saving, and the Rate of Interest," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(2), pages S3-27, April.
  7. Venti, Steven F & Wise, David A, 1986. "Tax-Deferred Accounts, Constrained Choice and Estimation of Individual Saving," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 53(4), pages 579-601, August.
  8. Zvi Bodie & John B. Shoven & David A. Wise, 1988. "Pensions in the U.S. Economy," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number bodi88-1, May.
  9. Gale, William G & Scholz, John Karl, 1994. "IRAs and Household Saving," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(5), pages 1233-60, December.
  10. Summers, Lawrence H, 1981. "Capital Taxation and Accumulation in a Life Cycle Growth Model," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(4), pages 533-44, September.
  11. Jane G. Gravelle, 1991. "Do Individual Retirement Accounts Increase Savings?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 5(2), pages 133-148, Spring.
  12. Mankiw, N Gregory & Romer, David & Weil, David N, 1992. "A Contribution to the Empirics of Economic Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(2), pages 407-37, May.
  13. 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.
  14. David A. Wise, 1987. "Individual Retirement Accounts and Saving," NBER Chapters, in: Taxes and Capital Formation, pages 3-16 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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