A closer look at paths to tax reform that can address Federal deficits though, reveal that while tax burdens in the aggregate may be higher in the future, marginal tax rates will not necessarily be higher. In fact, most tax reform proposals, from the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles to the recent proposals from Representative Camp, actually pair together a widening of the tax base and an elimination of many deductions with a lowering of the tax brackets! In addition, proposals to shore up Social Security and Medicare often involve simply raising the associated payroll taxes that currently fund them... tax increases that would result in a higher tax burden on workers, but no increase in the taxation of future IRA withdrawals. And the US remains one of the only countries that does not have a Value-Added Tax (VAT), which could also increase the national tax burden without raising marginal tax rates.
In the end, the simple reality is that there are many paths to higher tax burdens in the future that don't necessarily involve higher marginal tax rates on IRA withdrawals. Which means ultimately, advisors should be very cautious about doing Roth conversions - especially conversions at rates that are 33% or higher - and the best possible thing to do with a pre-tax IRA may simply be to continue to hold it, and wait for tax burdens to increase... because when paired with a compression of tax brackets that leads to lower marginal tax rates, not converting to a Roth could actually be one of the best long-run tax savings strategies around!