A fisherian analysis of individual retirement accounts

William A. Kelly, James A. Miles

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Abstract

This paper has employed a Fisherian analysis of intertemporal choice to evaluate the use of IRA's. The analysis shows that with perfect capital markets assumptions, the presence of IRA's will generate no other effect on savings than would a simple tax rabate. Further, it shows that if the tax revenue loss due to IRA's is not accompanied by an expenditure reduction, but is financed with taxes or borrowing, rational households will still employ IRA's, but their effect on intertemporal choice will be nil. The analysis also shows that IRA's do act as a savings incentive to the extent that there are market imperfections, specifically to the degree that transactions costs are important. However, empirical evidence from the literature does not lend firm support to this possibility. The conclusion is that a market imperfection is not a firm basis on which to construct savings incentives. Finally, one can note that the same analysis applies to any tax-based savings incentive that is designed to operate by lowering the tax on interest income. The reason for this finding is that the provision of tax sheltered interest income, along with the deductibility of interest on borrowing, creates general tax arbitrage opportunities for households and that tax arbitrage opportunities do not, in general, generate greater savings in an intertemporal choice model. It follows that significant restriction or elimination of the deductibility of interest on borrowing is a prerequisite for IRA's and other tax based savings incentives to produce their intended effect.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalAtlantic Economic Journal
Volume15
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1 1987

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All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)

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