Income and saving responses to tax incentives for private retirement savings

Authors: Marc Chan, Todd Morris, Cain Polidano & Ha Vu

Many governments offer tax concessions for retirement contributions. In this paper, we show that income responses are crucial for understanding their effectiveness in raising retirement savings and alleviating the fiscal pressures of population aging. Using tax register data, we study large changes in caps on tax-favoured contributions to individual retirement accounts in Australia. We find that higher caps increase retirement contributions considerably, with around two-thirds of this response financed by increases in earned income. The resulting gain in income tax revenue offsets the fiscal loss from tax concessions, highlighting the importance of taking income and labour supply responses into account.

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‘Don’t play if you can’t win’: exploring household disengagement with the pension system through financial diaries data

Author: Antonia Settle

Household disengagement in retirement planning is an important policy issue across the OECD. In contrast to conventional behavioural economics framing, this paper draws on the literature on political alienation and insider/outsider theory to explore links between distributional outcomes and household engagement with Australia’s defined contribution pension system. The paper argues that support for the system is much weaker than assumed in the empirical literature, which tends to ignore concerns about equity even as they arise in empirical research, because distributional issues don’t sit comfortably in the prevailing behavioural framework. Supported by preliminary data on the government’s COVID related early withdrawal scheme, the paper uses primary survey data collected in a financial diaries study to construct objective and subjective measures of attitudes, engagement and distributional outcomes for individual households in the pension system. The analysis finds widely held concerns about fairness and a positive correlation between disengagement and poor distributional outcomes within the pension system.

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Did the Australian JobKeeper program save jobs by subsidizing temporary layoffs?

Authors: Jeff Borland & Jennifer Hunt

We analyze the JobKeeper lump-sum wage subsidy introduced by the Australian government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, paying particular attention to the role of temporary layoffs in saving jobs. Although temporary layoffs were widely used, we find that recalls of workers on temporary layoff played only a small role in the early recovery. Of approximately 300,000 temporarily laid off, only about 100,000 were recalled in the initial months of recovery. In this time total employment grew by 440,000, reversing one-half of losses from the first months of the pandemic. This suggests either that temporary layoffs were very long, or that many workers on temporary layoffs were never recalled.

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Redistributive effect and the progressivity of taxes and benefits: evidence for the UK, 1977-2018

Authors: Nicolas Hérault & Stephen P. Jenkins

We apply the Kakwani approach to decomposing redistributive effect into average rate, progressivity, and reranking components using yearly UK data covering 1977–2018. We examine cash and in-kind benefits, and direct and indirect taxes. In addition, we highlight an empirical implementation issue – the definition of the reference (‘pre-fisc’) distribution. Drawing on an innovative counterfactual approach, our empirical analysis shows that trends in the redistributive effect of cash benefits are largely associated with cyclical changes in average benefit rates. In contrast, trends in the redistributive effects of direct and indirect taxes are mostly associated with changes in progressivity. For in-kind benefits, changes in the average benefit rate and progressivity each played the major roles at different times.

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