The US federal tax code contains a number
of provisions designed to encourage
individuals to save for retirement. These
provisions allow individuals to avoid or
defer taxes if they choose to set aside a
portion of their income for future consumption.
When all of these provisions are combined, they
are the second largest “tax expenditure” category
as defined by the Joint Committee on Taxation.
The exclusion of retirement savings from taxation
causes some economic distortions, which we will
discuss in this paper. However, unlike some other
tax expenditures, there is a strong economic rationale
for not taxing savings. Higher rates of investment
lead to higher rates of economic growth, and
it may be sound policy for the tax code to encourage
this behavior, even after considering the economic
costs. Excluding retirement income from
taxation may also make the tax system more efficient,
even though most other tax expenditures
The exclusion of employer-provided health insurance from taxation lowers federal tax revenue significantly. According to the Office of Management and Budget, the federal government missed out on over $170 billion in income tax revenue and another $108 billion in payroll tax revenue in fiscal year 2012 due to the exclusion.1 Over the next five fiscal years, the federal government would collect around $1 trillion in income tax revenue if employer-provided health benefits were taxed, plus another $600 billion payroll tax revenue. Given the large deficits that the federal government continues to accumulate, this exclusion is a tempting source of new revenue. But closing this loophole would also mean a significant tax increase on all working Americans that currently receive health insurance from their employer.
Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act) to create a safer working environment. The Act created two federal agencies: the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which establishes and enforces workplace safety and health standards, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), which researches the causes and remedies of occupational injuries and illnesses. OSHA is the fourth pillar of the US safety policy system, the others being the legal system, state workers’ compensation insurance programs, and the labor market.
Government regulators proposing restrictions on specific forms of consumer credit all too often ignore the reality of how and why consumers use credit. They also ignore lenders’ legitimate reasons for pricing their services as they do; consumers’ legitimate reasons for choosing the financing options they do; the risks consumers face when credit offerings are made unavailable to them; and the many consumers who use the particular forms of consumer credit responsibly and effectively.
The home mortgage interest deduction is the largest explicit tax deduction for households in the federal income tax code. Politicians have been reluctant to even consider removing this deduction, believing it to be one that provides significant benefits to middle-class taxpayers and encourages homeownership. These benefits are greatly over- stated: most taxpayers do not benefit from this deduction at all or receive a very small benefit. The only taxpayers who do receive a large benefit are those in the upper income brackets. Taxpayers and the entire economy would be better served by removing the mortgage interest deduction and lowering marginal tax rates to offset the change.
Regulatory impact analyses can serve as an important tool. They are designed to help policymakers consider a proposed regulation’s potential impact on the economy as a whole, not simply the interests of those lobbying for that regu- lation. When federal agencies conduct such analyses, how- ever, they often fail to comply with requirements enunciated in executive orders from presidents of both political parties over the past few decades. As a result, agency estimates of benefits are often fragmentary and unreliable, leading to ineffective regulation and wasting of public resources.
Fiscal policy at both the federal and state levels is on an unsustainable path. Entitlement reform in America—particularly Medicaid reform—is shifting from a question of whether cuts should be made, to how much must be cut? To better understand best practices in Medicaid reform, we explore five recent state-level Medicaid reforms and their ability to simultaneously reduce costs, maintain or increase access, and survive the politics of reform.
This paper examines the fiscal health of the states, focusing on two worrisome characteristics: an understatement of unfunded pension liabilities and ever-increasing expenditures, driven primarily by health care costs.
Mercatus PhD Fellow Vipin Veetil, along with Akshaya Vijayalakshmi and Srikanth Viswanathan, address Amartya Sen's criticism of cash-transfer programs such as education vouchers in the Wall Street Journal.
In 1964 James Buchanan famously asked “What Should Economists Do?” He argued that economists should focus their intellectual attention on exchange and the institutions within which exchange takes place. This paper reflects on Buchanan’s message and looks at the development of that argument, and its implications in the wake of post-socialist political economy on the one hand, and the post-financial crisis of 2008 on the other.