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The Predictable SurpriseUnraveling the U.S. Retirement System$
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Sylvester J. Schieber

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199890958

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199890958.001.0001

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The Transition to a New Regulatory Regime

(p.146) 14 ERISA
The Predictable Surprise

Sylvester J. Schieber

Oxford University Press

This chapter looks at the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), a piece of legislation that dramatically refocused federal oversight of employer-sponsored pension plans. The overall intent of ERISA was to insure that pension coverage was made available to workers on a fair and equitable basis and that participants received their retirement benefits. ERISA includes four titles covering employee benefit rights, tax matters, periodic valuations of pension obligations and assets, and pension benefit insurance. While there were concerns about government over-regulation as ERISA was implemented, retirement plans seemed to flourish during the early years under the new regulatory regime. Between 1975 and 1987, the number of tax-qualified defined benefit plans and defined contribution plans rose. ERISA also made workers’ private pensions more secure at exactly the time many people were beginning to worry about the long-term outlook for Social Security. This chapter also considers the implications of moving from the current tax treatment of pensions toward a more comprehensive income tax treatment.

Keywords:   employer-sponsored pension plans, Employee Retirement Income Security Act, retirement benefits, insurance, retirement plans, defined benefit plans, defined contribution plans, Social Security, private pensions, income tax

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