Taxing Retirement Income: Nonqualified Annuities and Distributions from Qualified Accounts

47 Pages Posted: 20 Mar 2000 Last revised: 7 May 2000

See all articles by Jeffrey R. Brown

Jeffrey R. Brown

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - Department of Finance; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); University of Illinois College of Law; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - Institute of Government and Public Affairs (IGPA); University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - Department of Economics

Olivia S. Mitchell

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

James M. Poterba

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics

Mark J. Warshawsky

Towers Watson; Mercatus Center at George Mason University

Date Written: July 1999

Abstract

This paper explores the current tax treatment of non-qualified immediate annuities and distributions from tax-qualified retirement plans in the United States. First, we describe how immediate annuities held outside retirement accounts are taxed. We conclude that the current income tax treatment of annuities does not substantially alter the incentive to purchase an annuity rather than a taxable bond. We nevertheless find differences across different individuals in the effective tax burden on annuity contracts. Second, we examine an alternative method of taxing annuities that would avoid changing the fraction of the annuity payment that is included in taxable income as the annuitant ages, but would still raise the same expected present discounted value of revenues as the current income tax rule. We find that a shift to a constant inclusion ratio increases the utility of annuitants, and that this increase is greater for more risk averse individuals. Third, we examine how payouts from qualified accounts are taxed, focusing on both annuity payouts and minimum distribution requirements that constrain the feasible time path of nonannuitized payouts. We describe briefly the origins and workings of the minimum distribution rules and we also provide evidence on the fraction of retirement assets potentially affected by these rules.

Suggested Citation

Brown, Jeffrey R. and Mitchell, Olivia S. and Poterba, James M. and Warshawsky, Mark J., Taxing Retirement Income: Nonqualified Annuities and Distributions from Qualified Accounts (July 1999). NBER Working Paper No. w7268. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=199313

Jeffrey R. Brown (Contact Author)

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - Department of Finance ( email )

1206 South Sixth Street
Champaign, IL 61820
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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University of Illinois College of Law ( email )

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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - Institute of Government and Public Affairs (IGPA) ( email )

Urbana, IL 61801
United States

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - Department of Economics ( email )

410 David Kinley Hall
1407 W. Gregory
Urbana, IL 61801
United States

Olivia S. Mitchell

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104-6365
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

James M. Poterba

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics ( email )

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E52-350
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States
617-253-6673 (Phone)
617-253-1330 (Fax)

Mark J. Warshawsky

Towers Watson ( email )

Arlington, VA
United States

Mercatus Center at George Mason University

3434 Washington Blvd., 4th Floor
Arlington, VA 22201
United States

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