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Have the tax benefits of debt been overestimated?

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  • Blouin, Jennifer
  • Core, John E.
  • Guay, Wayne
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    Abstract

    We re-examine the claim that many corporations are underleveraged in that they fail to take full advantage of debt tax shields. We show prior results suggesting underleverage stems from biased estimates of tax benefits from interest deductions. We develop improved estimates of marginal tax rates using a non-parametric procedure that produces more accurate estimates of the distribution of future taxable income. We show that additional debt would provide firms with much smaller tax benefits than previously thought, and when expected distress costs and difficult-to-measure non-debt tax shields are also considered, it appears plausible that most firms have tax-efficient capital structures.

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    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/B6VBX-500SK20-1/2/56d75ad162dc715e8b9f349c877f98fc
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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Financial Economics.

    Volume (Year): 98 (2010)
    Issue (Month): 2 (November)
    Pages: 195-213

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:jfinec:v:98:y:2010:i:2:p:195-213

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    Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505576

    Related research

    Keywords: Debt Capital structure Marginal tax rates Taxes;

    References

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    1. Brooks, LeRoy D & Buckmaster, Dale A, 1976. "Further Evidence on the Time Series Properties of Accounting Income," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 31(5), pages 1359-73, December.
    2. John R. Graham & Michael L. Lemmon & James S. Schallheim, 1998. "Debt, Leases, Taxes, and the Endogeneity of Corporate Tax Status," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 53(1), pages 131-162, 02.
    3. Brown, Lawrence D., 1993. "Earnings forecasting research: its implications for capital markets research," International Journal of Forecasting, Elsevier, vol. 9(3), pages 295-320, November.
    4. John Y. Campbell & Jens Hilscher & Jan Szilagyi, 2006. "In Search of Distress Risk," NBER Working Papers 12362, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Carlos A. Molina, 2005. "Are Firms Underleveraged? An Examination of the Effect of Leverage on Default Probabilities," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 60(3), pages 1427-1459, 06.
    6. Dechow, Patricia M. & Sloan, Richard G., 1997. "Returns to contrarian investment strategies: Tests of naive expectations hypotheses," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(1), pages 3-27, January.
    7. John R. Graham, 2000. "How Big Are the Tax Benefits of Debt?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 55(5), pages 1901-1941, October.
    8. Fama, Eugene F. & French, Kenneth R., 1997. "Industry costs of equity," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(2), pages 153-193, February.
    9. Gregor Andrade & Steven N. Kaplan, 1997. "How Costly is Financial (not Economic) Distress? Evidence from Highly Leveraged Transactions that Became Distressed," NBER Working Papers 6145, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Graham, John R., 1996. "Debt and the marginal tax rate," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(1), pages 41-73, May.
    11. Brown, Philip, 1993. "Comments on 'Earnings forecasting research: its implications for capital markets research' by L. Brown," International Journal of Forecasting, Elsevier, vol. 9(3), pages 331-335, November.
    12. Heitor Almeida & Thomas Philippon, 2007. "The Risk-Adjusted Cost of Financial Distress," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 62(6), pages 2557-2586, December.
    13. Brown, Lawrence D., 1993. "Reply to commentaries on "Earnings forecasting research: its implications for capital markets research"," International Journal of Forecasting, Elsevier, vol. 9(3), pages 343-344, November.
    14. Graham, John R., 1996. "Proxies for the corporate marginal tax rate," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(2), pages 187-221, October.
    15. Fama, Eugene F & MacBeth, James D, 1973. "Risk, Return, and Equilibrium: Empirical Tests," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(3), pages 607-36, May-June.
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    Cited by:
    1. Feld, Lars P. & Heckemeyer, Jost H. & Overesch, Michael, 2013. "Capital structure choice and company taxation: A meta-study," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 37(8), pages 2850-2866.
    2. Farrell, Kathleen & Unlu, Emre & Yu, Jin, 2014. "Stock repurchases as an earnings management mechanism: The impact of financing constraints," Journal of Corporate Finance, Elsevier, vol. 25(C), pages 1-15.
    3. Xu, Jin, 2012. "Profitability and capital structure: Evidence from import penetration," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 106(2), pages 427-446.
    4. Lin, Leming & Flannery, Mark J., 2013. "Do personal taxes affect capital structure? Evidence from the 2003 tax cut," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 109(2), pages 549-565.
    5. Keller, Sara & Schanz, Deborah, 2013. "Measuring tax attractiveness across countries," arqus Discussion Papers in Quantitative Tax Research 143, arqus - Arbeitskreis Quantitative Steuerlehre.
    6. An, Heng & Huang, Zhaodan & Zhang, Ting, 2013. "What determines corporate pension fund risk-taking strategy?," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 37(2), pages 597-613.

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