Non-take-up of tax-favored savings plans: Evidence from Dutch employees

Since the early nineties, the Dutch tax system allows for a tax-favored form of risk free savings through employer-sponsored savings plans (ESSPs). Under some conditions and up to a certain amount, thecontributions to this plan are tax-deductible, and the returns as well as the withdrawals are tax-free. This makes these plans extremely attractive, with real after-tax returns by far exceeding the returns to other financial assets such as risk free saving accounts or stocks and bonds. According to standard economic theory, those who have access to this type of savings should participate in them and hold the maximum tax favored amount, provided they have enough financial wealth that they can allocate to their own choice. In this paper, we analyze data on participation and amounts held in ESSPs for employees who have access to the asset, investigating therelationship with background characteristics and other forms of savings. We find that people who are likely to face binding liquidity constraints less often buy ESSPs and, if they buy them, more often use them as a substitute for other savings. The results also provide evidence of financial decision-making that is not driven bystandard economic arguments, confirming theoretical and empirical findings in the recent behavioral and psychological literature on savings.

Netspar, Network for Studies on Pensions, Aging and Retirement, is a thinktank and knowledge network. Netspar is dedicated to promoting a wider understanding of the economic and social implications of pensions, aging and retirement in the Netherlands and Europe.

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