Talking Tax Reform: Simplifying Saving and Improving Financial Security through Universal Savings Accounts

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Presented by:

Will McBride

Chris Edwards

Chris Edwards

The Tax Foundation is hosting an online discussion with Will McBride and Chris Edwards on universal savings accounts, their track record in Canada and the United Kingdom, and how they could help Americans save more.

According to the Federal Reserve, the portion of Americans with emergency savings to cover at least three months of expenses dropped from 59 percent in 2021 to 54 percent in 2022 and 2023 as pandemic-era surges in saving receded. They are increasingly relying on credit card debt and other forms of debt, or retirement savings, to finance spending.

Current law provides at least 11 different types of tax-advantaged saving vehicles, each with volumes of complicated rules and limitations. For most of these accounts, only a fraction of eligible people actually participate. However, a simple solution exists and is tried and true in Canada and the UK.

Universal savings accounts, or tax-free savings accounts as they are called in Canada, are tax-advantaged savings accounts that allow individuals to deposit their money, invest in stocks and bonds, and withdraw their funds for any reason, without restrictions or penalties. The earnings are treated like a Roth 401(k) or individual retirement account, taxed once when the money is deposited and tax-free when withdrawn. The United Kingdom has a nearly identical savings account, named individual savings accounts.

Our conversation will explore who uses these accounts in Canada and the UK, their experience, and what the experts have found from the data. Drawing on this evidence, we will discuss the possibilities for universal savings accounts in the United States, how they might work, and their status in Congress.

The Tax Foundation just released a new paper modeling universal savings accounts and exploring the research on the current accounts in Canada and the UK.

Tune in on Tuesday, June 25th for an informative conversation on innovative policy from our friends up north and across the pond.

  • Will McBride, Vice President of Federal Tax Policy & Stephen J. Entin Fellow in Economics, Tax Foundation
  • Chris Edwards, Kilts Family Chair in Fiscal Studies, Cato Institute

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