Uncle Sam, in a desperate attempt to fix its $16 trillion-plus deficit, is leering over Americans’ retirement nest egg as its new bailout fund.
Capitol Hill politicians are assessing tax changes that could let the Internal Revenue Service lay claim to a portion of the $18 trillion sitting in 401(k) accounts and other tax breaks used by middle-class workers, including cutting the mortgage tax deduction.
A commission looking for ways to close the deficit, and, noting the extent of 401(k) tax breaks, recommends an examination of the system as one way to prevent government bankruptcy.Besides 401(k)s, other possibilities include the mortgage-interest deduction on second homes, as well as benefits from employer-provided health insurance, which are untaxed now.
Under current 401(k) rules, total employee/employer contributions can’t exceed $50,000. In the proposed rule change, employer/employee contributions would be limited to 20 percent of the employee’s compensation, with a maximum of $20,000, the so-called 20/20 proposal.
Another proposal being discussed in Congress says all tax deductions on 401(k)s and IRAs to be replaced with an 18 percent credit. The credit, according to a proposal that has been endorsed by economist William Gale, would be placed directly in a person’s retirement account.