If fixing the U.S. tax code requires starting with a blank slate, as Sen. Max Baucus suggested in a "Dear Colleague" letter last week, the American Society of Pension Professionals and Actuaries wants to make sure that the tax incentive for retirement savings doesn't get erased in the process.

The tax incentive for retirement savings is a deferral, not an exclusion, and should not be lumped in with all the other incentives in the tax code, said Brian Graff, ASPPA's executive director and CEO. Unlike other exclusions, such as the homeowners' deduction, revenues lost today will be gained later, when retirement income is taxed. But eliminating the tax incentive to save for retirement will effectively reduce that future amount as Americans set aside less for their retirements.

According to Graff, Employee Benefit Research Institute data show that more than 70 percent of low- to middle-income workers participated in employer-sponsored plans while fewer than 5 percent of those without employer plans contributed to an IRA. Reducing or eliminating the incentive would severely damage retirement security for working Americans, he said.

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