Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin said Friday that the administration would support tax-free retirement savings plans for low- income workers.
Addressing a congressionally chartered summit on retirement savings, Mr. Rubin said it would be pointless to create additional tax-free savings options for upper-income employees because they could use these vehicles as tax shelters.
"We must not enact any proposal-including tax changes-that threaten the fiscal discipline we have worked so hard for over the last five years," Mr. Rubin said.
Instead, new programs should be geared to lower-income workers who are not yet saving much for retirement, Mr. Rubin said, but he did not explain how these programs should work.
The Treasury secretary's remarks wrapped up the two-day summit in which 239 delegates heard speeches from President Clinton and House Speaker Newt Gingrich before breaking into smaller groups behind closed doors Thursday to debate ways to boost savings rates. Results of those discussions were presented Friday and included:
Simplify rules governing retirement accounts and savings plans. This could include eliminating the cap on annual contributions to tax-free individual retirement accounts. "Savings vehicles in many cases are not friendly and are too complex," said Barbara Smith, who led one of nine breakout groups on retirement savings.
Make it harder for employees to cash out retirement plans when they switch jobs.
Encourage financial companies to conduct marketing campaigns to persuade low-income workers to save. "There is an untapped market, and it would make good business sense to market in low-income areas," said Sylvester R. Houston, leader of another discussion group.
Restructure the tax code to encourage savings and discourage consumption. This could include exempting all investment gains from taxes.
Permit the widespread use of payroll deductions to fund investments in a variety of retirement vehicles and allow penalty-free transfers among various types of retirement accounts.
Target educational efforts on schoolchildren. This could include special savings accounts for elementary school students and pitches by celebrities.