J Mark Iwry

J. Mark Iwry

Nonresident Senior Fellow – Economic Studies, Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center

Mark Iwry is a nonresident senior fellow in Economic Studies. He also is a visiting scholar at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He served from 2009 to January 2017 as senior advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury and concurrently as Treasury’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Retirement and Health Policy, with legislative, policymaking, rulemaking, and other regulatory responsibilities with respect to pensions, retirement, savings, health care (including legislative and regulatory implementation of the Affordable Care Act), other employee benefits, and related tax policy. He previously was a co-founder and principal of the Retirement Security Project (2003-09), research professor at Georgetown University, and the Treasury Department’s Benefits Tax Counsel (1995-2001).  He also was a partner in the law firm of Covington & Burling and Of Counsel to the law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell, providing advice and assistance to major corporations, financial institutions, trade associations, small businesses, and non-profits. He is co-editor of three books—”Wealth After Work: Innovative Reforms to Expand Retirement Security” (Brookings 2021), “Automatic: Changing the Way America Saves” (Brookings 2009), and “Aging Gracefully: Ideas to Improve Retirement Security in America” (Century Foundation 2006)—and has testified before Congress on 27 occasions. He has provided policy and legislative advice to numerous federal and state legislators (Democrats and Republicans) and five Presidential campaigns. He has been recognized as one of the world’s “30 top financial players” (Smart Money magazine), “Investment News20” (20 individuals expected to have a major influence on the financial services industry), number three among the “100 most influential people in 401(k)” (401(k) Wire), etc., and has received awards for achievement, leadership, and innovation from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, the Insured Retirement Institute, the American Payroll Association, InvestmentNews, the Retirement Income Industry Association, the Pension Rights Center, the Small Business Council of America, the American Society of Pension Professionals and Actuaries (ASPPA), the Georgetown University Center for Retirement Initiatives, the U.S. Treasury Department, and the IRS.

Mr. Iwry co-authored President Obama’s “auto IRA” legislative proposal to expand retirement savings coverage to some 40 million additional households through automatic enrollment in IRAs. He played a central role in initiating and designing the nationwide initiative to encourage states to adopt auto IRAs and other retirement savings programs for private-sector citizens, the direct deposit of tax refunds into IRAs, the small business startup tax credit for new retirement plans, and the rollback of the FSA “use it or lose it” rule.  He also led the government’s efforts to promote lifetime retirement income (including the “QLAC” longevity annuity and annuities embedded in 401(k) plan default target date funds), and was a principal architect of the Saver’s Credit to expand 401(k) and IRA coverage (claimed annually on 10 million tax returns), the “myRA”, and the “SIMPLE” IRA plan (covering 3 to 4 million workers). In the 1990s, he formulated and directed Treasury’s strategy to define, approve, and promote 401(k) automatic enrollment as well as automatic rollovers and payroll deduction IRAs, and later was instrumental in developing the Pension Protection Act of 2006 autoenrollment provisions. He also was extensively involved in the development of key provisions of the 2022 SECURE 2.0 retirement legislation. He has periodically served as an expert witness in federal court litigation relating to retirement plans, has served as a senior policy advisor to AARP, and serves on boards of advisors for or otherwise advises the American Benefits Institute, the Board of Advisors of the Pension Research Council at the Wharton School, the Council of Scholar Advisors of the Georgetown University Center for Retirement Initiatives, the Panel of Outside Scholars of the Boston College Center for Retirement Research, the CUNA Mutual Safety Net Independent Advisory Board, the Aspen Leadership Forum Advisory Board, and the Board of Advisors of the Brookings Institution’s Retirement Policy Project. Iwry also serves as an adviser or consultant to corporate plan sponsors and providers, trade associations, fintechs, other investment firms, and other financial institutions. He is an honors graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, and has a Masters in Public Policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School.

On a lighter note, his observations on taxation and the tax system are quoted more frequently than nearly any other individual in the anthology “As Certain As Death: Quotations About Taxes” (ed., J. Yablon, Tax Analysts 2015), where they appear along with (better) quotes from more eminent authorities including Adam Smith, Voltaire, Franklin, Jefferson, de Tocqueville, the Old Testament, and Dave Barry.

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