Targeting Risk Lovers? Taxation of Private Pension Savings, Risk Preferences, and Gender

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Bo Larsson

Abstract

Many countries need to stimulate savings, and especially voluntary pension planning, to meet the demands of an ageing population. This is especially true for the female population as women are expected to live longer while simultaneously having accumulated lower pension wealth. Sweden has been a front-runner in introducing tax-deferred designated pension accounts to stimulate private pension saving, along with self-directed individual public pension accounts. However, a particular feature of these tax-deferred designated pension accounts was that savings were taxed through a presumptive return. In this Article, we show that with heterogeneous risk preferences, this tax policy makes designated pensions unattractive for risk-averse individuals. Using data on self-directed choices and designated pension savings, we empirically confirm our result. In particular, we show that as women are on average more risk averse compared to men, this tax policy had negative effects for women. This Article thus sheds light on the importance of accounting for risk preferences in policymaking addressed towards stimulating adequate pension planning. The Article additionally sheds light on the overall negative consequences of a presumptive tax design such as, e.g., the Dutch “Box-III” tax system.

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