Allan Sloan made good points in his Oct. 28 Deals column, "The Washington math that would whack 401(k) funds for 49 million Americans" [Economy & Business]. However, current tax breaks for retirement savings mainly subsidize the top half of the income distribution, leaving almost half the workforce out of the system. Part of the federal tax subsidy for 401(k)s should be rechanneled into a tax credit that all workers get (say, $1,000 a year).
Fewer than 5 percent of workers in the lowest fifth of the income distribution receive any tax benefit from 401(k)s, and their average tax savings in 2016 was $20. In contrast, 82 percent of the highest-paid quintile received tax benefits, with an average benefit of $4,750. About 48 percent of the middle fifth received a tax benefit, with an average savings of $580. The result of this tax policy? About half the American population has put aside virtually nothing for retirement, while wealthy people are being paid to save money they would have saved anyway. It's clear that retirement-savings tax breaks could be better targeted.
Karl Polzer, Falls Church