The Shrinking Tax Preference for Pension Savings: An Analysis of Income Tax Changes, 1985-2007

Gary Burtless Eric Toder

WP#2010-3

Abstract

The value of the tax preference for pensions depends on the marginal tax schedule and on the tax treatment of income from assets held outside a pension account. We examine the change over time in the value of pension investing, accounting for changes in the tax schedule and in the treatment of equity and bond income. We find that changes in U.S. tax law, especially the treatment of equity income, have led to sizeable changes in the value of the pension tax preference. On balance the value of the pension tax preference to worker-savers is modestly lower than it was in the mid-1980s and substantially lower than it was in the late 1980s.