Who Gets Paid to Save?
Thanks to recent changes in the tax law, people can contribute more to their tax-deductible and non-tax-deductible savings plans, including 401(k) and Roth IRAs. But should they? The myriad interacting provisions of the tax code make it difficult to predict who will gain from government savings incentives and by how much. This study examines how new legislation affects the lifetime tax gains (or losses) of low, middle, and high lifetime earners if they contribute the maximum to 401(k) accounts, traditional IRA accounts, and Roth IRA accounts. The study finds that the new legislation changes little for low- and middle-income earners, who paid higher lifetime taxes under the old tax law if they participated fully in tax-deferred plans and would still do so under the new law. If a new tax credit created by the legislation were extended and indexed to inflation, low earners would break even, but middle earners would still lose. In contrast, participating in a Roth IRA provides a guaranteed and nontrivial lifetime tax saving; however, one need not contribute the maximum to receive the full benefit.