250 research outputs found

    The tax treatment of funded pensions

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    This report makes an international comparison of the tax treatment of funded pensions and finds that the expenditure-tax system is the best way of taxing pensions because it does not distort the decision whether to consume now or save and consume in the future, unlike the comprehensive income tax; rather it taxes pensions once: either when contributions are made or when benefits are withdrawn. Moreover, it is easy to administer and the tax burden does not vary arbitrarily with inflation. The report also finds that in the context of the design and implementation of a pension reform, it is important to take the cost of tax relief, measured by tax expenditures, into account. The report is structured as follows: Section 1 considers a number of different ways to tax pensions. Section 2 describes the tax treatment of pensions in a range of countries. Section 3 extends the analysis to compute a summary measure of the generosity of tax incentives. Section 4 considers the link between the taxation of pension funds and the tax treatment of the underlying assets in which they invest. Section 5 examines the deductibility of contributions. Sections 6 and 7 look at the importance of pension funds and associated tax incentives in the aggregate. Section 8 assesses the objectives for taxing pensions, the options, and the arguments while section 9 concludes.Economic Theory&Research,Banks&Banking Reform,Public Sector Economics,Pensions&Retirement Systems,Environmental Economics&Policies

    Cross-country comparisons of pensioners’ incomes

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    This report surveys a dozen international comparative studies of poverty, income distribution and the elderly in OECD countries. It updates a previous Department of Social Security report — Whiteford and Kennedy, 1995, based on data from the mid- to late-1980s — including information up to the mid-1990s. The report addresses a series of questions. What level are the incomes of the elderly relative to the population as a whole? How has this changed over the past two decades? How many of the old are poor? How many of the poor are old? Are the oldest of the old poorer than younger pensioners are? How do widows fare? What is the mix between public and private sources of income? Do the elderly poor remain poor? There is also a discussion of methodological issues. The results show that the incomes of the elderly are typically around 80 per cent of incomes of the populations as a whole. In most countries, this ratio has been increasing over the past two decades. Although there remain pockets of poverty among the elderly, most studies show that the old are represented proportionally or under-represented among the poor. The papers present conflicting pictures of the position of the United Kingdom. There is, however, no consistent evidence that pensioners in the United Kingdom are better or worse off than their counterparts overseas.pensions; retirement; old-age; income; income distribution; poverty;

    Changing tax for the self-employed

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    The government’s overhaul of the direct tax system, including the 1984 reforms to the Corporation Tax, the introduction of Independent Taxation and in 1993, the introduction of ‘pay and file’ for companies, has so far left the taxation of the self-employed relatively untouched. Despite many criticisms of the system, including more recently the Keith Committee report (1983) and the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons (1976), it is only now that the government has considered reforming the income tax system as it relates to the self-employed, with the publication of a consultative document, A Simpler System for Taxing the Self-Employed, (Inland Revenue, 1991a). At the heart of the proposals is reform of the ‘preceding year basis of assessment’ (PY basis), introduced by Winston Churchill in 1926, itself then billed as a ‘simplification’ of the system.

    The economic well-being of older people in international perspective: a critical review

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    This paper surveys a dozen international comparative studies of poverty, income distribution and older people in industrialized countries using data up to the mid-1990s. It addresses a series of questions. At what level are the incomes of the elderly relative to the population as a whole? How has this changed over the past two decades? How many of the old are poor? How many of the poor are old? Are the oldest of the old poorer than younger pensioners are? The results show that the incomes of older people are typically around 80 per cent of incomes of the whole population. This ratio has been increasing over the past two decades in most countries. Although there remain pockets of poverty among the elderly, the old are generally represented proportionally or under-represented among the poor.pension; retirement; income distribution

    Civil-service pension schemes around the world

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    There are separate pension schemes for civil servants (and often for other public-sector workers) in about half of the world’s countries, including some of the largest developing economies, such as Brazil, China and India. In the higher-income, OECD countries, spending on pensions for public-sector workers makes up one quarter of total pension spending. In less developed countries, this proportion is usually higher. Yet, very little has been written on the design and reform of civil-service pension plans, especially when compared with the voluminous literature on national pension programs. This paper provides the first, detailed cross-country comparison of the terms and conditions of national and public-sector pension schemes. Civil-service schemes are typically more generous than national pension programs. Analysis of current pension spending shows that pensions for public-sector workers are a bigger burden on the government budget in developing countries than they are in higher-income economies.pensions; civil service; retirement

    Pensions at a glance: public policies across OECD countries

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    Reforming pensions is one of the biggest challenges of the century. All OECD countries have to adjust to the ageing of their populations and re-balance retirement income provision to keep it adequate and ensure that the retirement income system is financially sustainable. Demographers have been warning us for some time that ageing is looming and that when it strikes populations and workforces will rapidly age. But many governments preferred to ignore the call for reform and cling to the hope of postponing solutions beyond the next election or claiming that rather painless remedies could be found. Immigration of younger workers, more women in work and higher productivity were put forward in the hope that more painful solutions could be avoided. All of these factors can certainly help to cope with ageing and especially with the financing of pensions but the increases necessary to compensate for ageing are so large that one cannot rely on them alone. Most OECD countries have realised this and have undertaken numerous reforms during past years. But pension reform is a difficult task. It involves long-term policy decisions under uncertain conditions and often the likely impact of these decisions on the well-being of pensioners is not spelt out clearly. More than most other areas, pension reform is a highly sensitive topic. Not only does it lead to heated ideological debates, but it makes people protest in the streets, and even forces governments to retreat from needed reforms. As people working on pension reforms around the world, we at the OECD Secretariat are asked time and again for the “right” solution to the problem. Which country does it the best way, which country is doing the worst job, which systems are the most generous, will it be possible to reform without increasing pensioner poverty, and will countries be able to pay for the promises they are making? There are no simple answers to these questions. National retirement-income systems are complex and pension benefits depend on a wide range of factors. Differences in retirement ages, benefit calculation methods and adjustment of paid-out pensions make it very difficult to compare pension policies across countries. Another problem is that life expectancies at retirement differ from one country to another, which means that some countries will have to pay pensions for a much longer period of retirement than others. As a result national debates are often full of misleading claims regarding the generosity and affordability of other countries’ pension arrangements. International comparisons to date have focussed mostly on the fiscal aspects of the ageing problem. But much less attention has been paid to the social sustainability of pension systems and the impact of reforms on the adequacy and distribution of pensioner incomes. But these aspects are also crucial if countries want to attain the dual objective of promising affordable pensions and preventing a resurgence of pensioner poverty. This report presents the first direct comparison of pension promises across OECD countries. It provides a novel framework to assess the future impact of today’s pension policies, including their economic and social objectives. It takes account of the detailed rules of pension systems but summarises them in measures that are easy to compare. Pension benefits are projected for workers at different levels of earnings, covering all mandatory sources of retirement income for private-sector workers, including minimum pensions, basic and means-tested schemes, earnings-related programmes and defined contribution schemes. Another novelty is the inclusion of the large effects of the personal income tax and social security contributions on living standards in work and in retirement: all indicators are presented gross and net of taxes and contributions. The framework can be used in different ways. As it is flexible to changing assumptions, the impact of policy reforms and economic developments on pension entitlements can be simulated. It can provide answers to questions such as what would happen if a country switched from wage to price indexation of pensions, or changed the benefit accrual rate. It can also inform on the impact of changes in economic growth, interest rates, wage growth or inflation on pensions of future retirees. The OECD will use the framework to monitor pension reforms in member countries by updating this report regularly. This report is the first in a biennial series which will be produced in co-operation with the European Commission. Public opinion on pensions is changing. People are realising that a shrinking number of young workers will have trouble paying for more and more pensioners. Time has come to open a frank debate among all members of society and address the question of how the cost of ageing should be distributed in each society. Our publication aims to contribute to this debate by shedding more light on the social and economic implications of pension reform.pensions; retirement; ageing

    The role of choice in the transition to a funded pension system

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    A critical question in the transition to a funded, private pension system is whether the new private element is presented as a mandate or choice to current and future workers. This report sets out the spectrum of available options and looks at policy in 13 reforming countries-Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay, Croatia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Poland, and the United Kingdom. It concludes that older workers are best excluded from reform because the economic benefits are small and the political resistance is likely to be large if they are included. However, a defined cut-off age is arbitrary for reasons of intergenerational equity and heterogeneity of portfolio composition and risk preferences within cohorts. A voluntary switch is preferred. The main objection is the resulting uncertainty over the numbers switching. Analysis of reforming countries shows, however, a consistent and rational pattern of switching. The paper concludes by discussing policy options for managing the switching process.Non Bank Financial Institutions,Banks&Banking Reform,Pensions&Retirement Systems,Environmental Economics&Policies,Economic Theory&Research

    Pensions at a glance: public policies across OECD countries

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    This second edition of Pensions at a Glance updates all the important indicators of retirement-income systems developed for the first edition. The values of all pension system parameters reflect the situation in the year 2004. The general approach adopted is a “microeconomic” one, looking at prospective individual entitlements under all 30 of OECD member countries’ pension regimes. The report starts by showing the different schemes that together make up national retirement income provision, including a summary of the parameters and rules of pension systems. This is followed by eight main indicators of pension income that are calculated using the OECD pension models. This issue also contains two special analyses on pension reforms and private pensions, which use the OECD pension models to explore more deeply the central issues of pension policy in national debates. Finally, the report provides detailed background information on each of the 30 countries’ retirement-income arrangements. For workers at average earnings, the average for the OECD countries of the gross replacement rate, i.e. the ratio between pension benefit and pre-retirement earnings, from mandatory pensions is 58.7%. But taxes play an important role in old-age support. Pensioners often do not pay social security contributions and, as personal income taxes are progressive and pension entitlements are usually lower than earnings before retirement, they usually pay less taxes. For average earners, the net replacement rate across OECD countries is nearly 70% on average, some 11 percentage points higher than the average gross replacement rate. For low earners, the average net replacement rate across OECD countries is 83%. But there are regional differences: the Nordic countries offer a 95% net replacement rate to workers on half average earnings while the Anglophone OECD countries pay 76% of previous net earnings. What matters for governments, however, is not only the replacement rate but the value of the overall pension promise. This is measured by the indicator of pension wealth which takes life expectancy and the indexation of pensions in payment into account. Using this indicator, the pension promise is most expensive in Luxembourg. On average, each male pensioner will receive the equivalent of USD 920 000 and each female retiree over USD 1 million. The Netherlands and Greece rank second and third on this measure. The most modest pension systems are those of Belgium, Ireland, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States where pension wealth is around two-thirds of the average for OECD countries. The lowest ranking is occupied by Mexico where men and women are promised a pension equivalent to USD 34 000 and 32 000, respectively. Nearly all the 30 OECD countries have made at least some changes to their pension systems since 1990. As a result, the average pension promise in the 16 countries - whose reforms are studied in this report - was cut by 22%. For women, the reduction was 25%. Only in two of the 16 countries – Hungary and the United Kingdom – were there increased pension promises on average. How will these changes affect different individuals? Some countries – such as France, Portugal and the United Kingdom – are moving towards greater targeting of public pensions on low earners thus bolstering the safety-net. Others – such as Poland and the Slovak Republic – have moved to tighten the link between pension entitlements and earnings, which may put low-earners at a higher risk of poverty. In Germany, Japan, Mexico, Poland and the Slovak Republic, for example, the net pension entitlement for a full-career worker with half average earnings was around 41% of average earnings before reform, slightly below the average for the OECD as a whole. The reforms will cut this to just 32.5%. In contrast, Finland, France, Hungary, Korea, New Zealand and the United Kingdom have protected low-income workers from cuts in benefit in their pension reforms. The intense reform activity in OECD countries means that today’s workers will have to do more on their own to prepare for tomorrow’s retirement. In some countries, the savings effort necessary to reach the OECD average replacement rate is substantial, even if workers save throughout their entire career. If young workers miss out on the first 10 or 15 years of their career because of other demands on their budget, reaching a sufficient pension level will become even more difficult. This report illustrates how important it is that workers start saving early and contribute regularly.pensions; retirement; pension reform

    Regulating private pension funds’ structure, performance and investments: cross-country evidence

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    A number of countries have introduced individual, privately managed defined-contribution accounts, where the value of the pension benefit will depend on accumulated contributions and investment returns. These schemes expose workers’ future pension benefits to a number of different risks. To try to mitigate these risks, reforming governments have often strictly regulated the pension fund management industry’s structure, performance, and asset allocation. Structural regulations often force workers to choose only one manager and one fund. So, workers are unable to diversify investments across funds, exposing them to aberrant behaviour by fund managers, and preventing portfolio adjustments according to the individual’s age, household characteristics, career profile and attitude to risk. Strict asset-allocation rules and relative performance criteria mean that pension funds often invest and perform almost identically, removing any substantive choice for workers over the allocation of their pension fund’s assets and the portfolio’s risk and returns. Concentration in the pension fund management industry is found to be higher in the new pension systems of Latin America and Eastern Europe than in most OECD countries. Concentration might be because the new pension markets are smaller than in countries with more established funded pension systems, but it could also be because of restrictions on industry structure. In Latin America, asset allocation and performance is nearly identical across pension funds. So-called ‘herding’ behaviour is almost a defining characteristics of these pension regimes. Again, this reflects, at least in part, asset allocation restrictions and strict performance regulation. There is also evidence that pension funds have often under-performed simple portfolios composed of market indices of stocks and bonds. All the rules imposed in the new systems of Latin American and Eastern Europe seem to be more stringent than in the OECD, with one exception: portfolio limits. Some OECD countries have a tighter investment regime than countries such as Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Peru and Poland. But OECD countries tend to have fewer barriers to entry and impose fewer constraints on performance than Latin American and Eastern European countries
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