IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/tow/wpaper/2014-05.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Can Removing the Tax Cap Save Social Security?

Author

Listed:
  • Shantanu Bagchi

    () (Department of Economics, Towson University)

Abstract

The maximum amount of earnings in a calendar year that can be taxed by U.S. Social Security is currently set at $118,500. In this paper, I examine if removing this cap can solve Social Security's future budgetary problems. Using a calibrated general-equilibrium life-cycle consumption model, I show that under a realistic longevity improvement, removing this cap leads to Social Security benefits declining by less than 3%, compared to almost 15% when the cap is held fixed at its current level. Households for whom the cap expires respond by working and saving less, which reduces labor supply, capital stock, and output, and also reverses some of the initial expansion in Social Security's revenues. Elimination of the cap also makes Social Security more progressive, which has positive insurance effects for households with unfavorable earnings histories, but the higher marginal tax rates impose larger distortions on households that are no longer subject to the cap, which reduces overall welfare.

Suggested Citation

  • Shantanu Bagchi, 2014. "Can Removing the Tax Cap Save Social Security?," Working Papers 2014-05, Towson University, Department of Economics, revised May 2016.
  • Handle: RePEc:tow:wpaper:2014-05
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://webapps.towson.edu/cbe/economics/workingpapers/2014-05.pdf
    File Function: First version, 2014
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Stokey, Nancy L & Rebelo, Sergio, 1995. "Growth Effects of Flat-Rate Taxes," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(3), pages 519-550, June.
    2. Dushi, Irena & Webb, Anthony, 2004. "Household annuitization decisions: simulations and empirical analyses," Journal of Pension Economics and Finance, Cambridge University Press, vol. 3(02), pages 109-143, July.
    3. Jonathan Heathcote & Fabrizio Perri & Giovanni L. Violante, 2010. "Unequal We Stand: An Empirical Analysis of Economic Inequality in the United States: 1967-2006," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 13(1), pages 15-51, January.
    4. Christopher D Carroll, 1997. "Why Do the Rich Save So Much?," Economics Working Paper Archive 388, The Johns Hopkins University,Department of Economics.
    5. Hansen, G D, 1993. "The Cyclical and Secular Behaviour of the Labour Input: Comparing Efficiency Units and Hours Worked," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 8(1), pages 71-80, Jan.-Marc.
    6. Roozbeh Hosseini & Lei (Nick) Guo & Frank Caliendo, 2013. "Social Security is NOT a Substitute for Annuities," 2013 Meeting Papers 680, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    7. Bullard, James & Feigenbaum, James, 2007. "A leisurely reading of the life-cycle consumption data," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(8), pages 2305-2320, November.
    8. Pashchenko, Svetlana, 2013. "Accounting for non-annuitization," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 98(C), pages 53-67.
    9. Juan Carlos Conesa & Carlos Garriga, 2009. "Optimal response to a transitory demographic shock in Social Security financing," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Jan, pages 33-48.
    10. Olivia S. Mitchell, 1999. "New Evidence on the Money's Worth of Individual Annuities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(5), pages 1299-1318, December.
    11. David Altig, 2001. "Simulating Fundamental Tax Reform in the United States," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(3), pages 574-595, June.
    12. Imrohoroglu, Selahattin & Kitao, Sagiri, 2009. "Labor supply elasticity and social security reform," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(7-8), pages 867-878, August.
    13. Juan C. Conesa & Carlos Garriga, 2008. "Optimal Fiscal Policy In The Design Of Social Security Reforms," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 49(1), pages 291-318, February.
    14. Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas & Jonathan A. Parker, 2002. "Consumption Over the Life Cycle," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(1), pages 47-89, January.
    15. Cassio M. Turra & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2004. "The Impact of Health Status and Out-of-Pocket Medical Expenditures on Annuity Valuation," Working Papers wp086, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
    16. Feigenbaum, James, 2008. "Information shocks and precautionary saving," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 32(12), pages 3917-3938, December.
    17. Nagatani, Keizo, 1972. "Life Cycle Saving: Theory and Fact," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 62(3), pages 344-353, June.
    18. Zhao, Kai, 2014. "Social security and the rise in health spending," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 21-37.
    19. Bagchi, Shantanu, 2016. "Is The Social Security Crisis Really As Bad As We Think?," Macroeconomic Dynamics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 20(03), pages 737-776, April.
    20. Imrohoroglu, Ayse & Imrohoroglu, Selahattin & Joines, Douglas H, 1995. "A Life Cycle Analysis of Social Security," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 6(1), pages 83-114, June.
    21. Shinichi Nishiyama & Kent Smetters, 2007. "Does Social Security Privatization Produce Efficiency Gains?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(4), pages 1677-1719.
    22. Skinner, Jonathan, 1988. "Risky income, life cycle consumption, and precautionary savings," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(2), pages 237-255, September.
    23. HUANG, HE & IMROHOROG[caron]LU, SELAHATTIN & SARGENT, THOMAS J., 1997. "Two Computations To Fund Social Security," Macroeconomic Dynamics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 1(01), pages 7-44, January.
    24. Hubbard, R Glenn & Judd, Kenneth L, 1987. "Social Security and Individual Welfare: Precautionary Saving, Borrowing Constraints, and the Payroll Tax," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(4), pages 630-646, September.
    25. Huggett, Mark, 1996. "Wealth distribution in life-cycle economies," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(3), pages 469-494, December.
    26. Shinichi Nishiyama & Kent Smetters, 2005. "Does Social Security Privatization Produce Efficiency Gains? Working Paper 2005-04," Working Papers 16442, Congressional Budget Office.
    27. Feigenbaum, James, 2008. "Can mortality risk explain the consumption hump?," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 844-872, September.
    28. Mark Huggett & Gustavo Ventura, 1999. "On the Distributional Effects of Social Security Reform," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 2(3), pages 498-531, July.
    29. Lee Lockwood, 2012. "Bequest Motives and the Annuity Puzzle," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 15(2), pages 226-243, April.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Can Removing the Tax Cap Save Social Security?
      by Christian Zimmermann in NEP-DGE blog on 2014-09-29 02:23:00

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Social Security; tax cap; mortality risk; labor income risk; incomplete markets; general equilibrium.;

    JEL classification:

    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • H55 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Social Security and Public Pensions

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:tow:wpaper:2014-05. 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: (Juergen Jung). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/detowus.html .

    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 CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc 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 RePEc Author Service 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.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.