SSGA Retirement Policy Leader Expects Retirement Tax Reform

State Street Global Advisors is just the latest firm to tell PLANADVISER that serious policy conversations going on behind closed doors in Washington very much include retirement tax reform. 

By John Manganaro | April 24, 2017
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Melissa Kahn is the managing director of retirement policy for the defined contribution (DC) team at State Street Global Advisors, and in that role she spends a lot of time meeting with Congressional and executive-branch policymakers and staff.  

Her role primarily involves lobbying, she tells PLANADVISER, but it also includes developing and communicating the team's strategic business positions as they relate to the retirement market. Prior to joining SSGA, Kahn was an independent consultant providing strategic planning, policy analysis and advocacy work on a variety of issues, including retirement, long-term care, Social Security, and global employee benefits, to financial institutions and large plan sponsor clients in the U.S.

Even with that background, Kahn admits there is a real measure of uncertainty that has injected itself into the retirement planning marketplace—and indeed the financial services realm in general. However, she remains markedly optimistic that retirement policy will be addressed in a positive way by the new Republican majority and President Donald Trump. Probably the most likely path for this to occur will be as part of broader tax reform, she says.

Kahn feels that at this stage there are a variety of approaches on the table, with a clear forerunner yet to emerge. In fact this week may finally bring greater clarity, she speculates, given that President Trump has promised to introduce his own tax reform proposals on or around April 26.

Personally, she hopes and expects to see retirement-related tax reforms that would help small businesses establish and maintain retirement plans. “I have personally had conversations on this topic and the idea of providing five-year tax credits to help small businesses establish plans," she says. "One idea that seems to have some traction would be requiring all employers to offer a retirement plan, but not requiring contributions, especially for small businesses.  Even though we wouldn’t require employer contributions, if small employers make contributions, they could get additional tax credits. This is the kind of give-and-take discussion we are hearing.”

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