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Health and Retirement Savings Incentives Top Tax Benefits for Americans

Americans rate the tax incentives for employer-sponsored retirement savings and health insurance coverage as the most important tax benefits compared to other popular deductions and incentives, according to new polling data.

The polling data was released by the American Benefits Council as part of its 50th Anniversary Symposium on the Future of Benefits.

When asked to rank from a list of benefits in the current tax code which ones are the most important to maintain over the next 10 years, 27% of poll respondents selected as their top pick the tax deferral on contributions to employer-sponsored retirement savings, such as a 401(k), with 61% selecting the incentive as either their first, second or third choice.

Tax-free employer-sponsored health insurance coverage to encourage companies to provide insurance to employees came in at a close second, with 26% of respondents ranking the incentive as their top pick, and 58% ranking it as the first, second or third choice.

These two incentives ranked ahead of the mortgage interest deduction, a lower tax rate on investment capital gains and the deduction for charitable contributions.

Americans also prefer compensation packages that emphasize more, higher-quality benefits over more take-home pay, according to the polling data. When asked whether they would prefer a compensation package that provides more take home pay in exchange for less generous benefits or more generous benefits in exchange for less take home pay, respondents by a nearly two-to-one margin chose the more generous benefits package.

According to the findings, 60% of respondents chose the more generous benefits/less take-home pay option, compared to 34% of respondents who chose the more take-home pay/less generous benefits option.

Perhaps not surprisingly and underscoring the above findings, health insurance and retirement savings benefits overall ranked as the top two most important benefits in the next 10 years among those employed. This time, however, employer-provided health insurance coverage edged out employer-provided pension or retirement savings, such as a 401(k), by a narrow margin of 35% to 31%.

When ranking by first, second and third choices, retirement savings incentives topped health insurance coverage by a split of 72% to 60%. These two incentives far surpassed paid vacation, paid medical and family leave, financial and retirement planning program, life insurance and disability coverage, education assistance, and health wellness programs, all of which received percentages in the single digits.

Interestingly, a majority of working Americans trust the individual market more for opportunities to save for retirement, compared to their employer. When asked who you trust the most for opportunities to save for retirement, 56% of respondents chose the individual financial services market, while 27% chose their employer. Not surprisingly, the federal and state governments were the least trusted, registering 9% and 5%, respectively.

Public Opinion Strategies conducted the survey of 800 registered voters for ABC from Nov. 5 to Nov. 9, 2017.