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How Much Do Taxes Discourage Incorporation

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  • Jeffrey K. MacKie-Mason
  • Roger H. Gordon

Abstract

One of the most basic distortions created by the double taxation of corporate income is the disincentive to incorporate. In this paper, we investigate the extent to which the aggregate allocation of assets and taxable income in the U.S. between corporate vs. noncorporate forms of organization during the period 1959-86 has responded to the size of the tax distortion discouraging firms from incorporating. In theory, profitable firms should shift out of the corporate sector when the tax distortion to incorporating is larger, and conversely for firms with tax losses. Our empirical results provide strong support for these theoretical forecasts, and hold consistently across a wide variety of specifications and measures of the tax variables. Measured effects are small, however, throwing doubt on the economic importance of tax-induced changes in organizational form.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 3781.

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Date of creation: Jul 1991
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Publication status: published as Journal of Finance, vol.50, no.2, June 1997.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:3781

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  1. Miller, Merton H, 1977. "Debt and Taxes," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 32(2), pages 261-75, May.
  2. Rosanne Altshuler & Alan J. Auerbach, 1987. "The Significance of Tax Law Asymmetries: An Empirical Investigation," NBER Working Papers 2279, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Martin Feldstein & James M. Poterba & Louis Dicks-Mireaux, 1981. "The Effective Tax Rate and the Pretax Rate of Return," NBER Working Papers 0740, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Kotlikoff, Laurence J. & Summers, Lawrence H., 1987. "Tax incidence," Handbook of Public Economics, in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 16, pages 1043-1092 Elsevier.
  5. Myron S. Scholes & Mark A. Wolfson, 1989. "The Effects of Changes in Tax Laws on Corporate Reorganization Activity," NBER Working Papers 3095, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Gordon, Roger H. & MacKie-Mason, Jeffrey K., 1994. "Tax distortions to the choice of organizational form," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(2), pages 279-306, October.
  7. Roger H. Gordon & David F. Bradford, 1980. "Taxation and the stock market valuation of capital gains and dividends : Theory and emphirical results," NBER Chapters, in: Econometric Studies in Public Finance, pages 109-136 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Gentry, William M., 1994. "Taxes, financial decisions and organizational form : Evidence from publicly traded partnerships," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(2), pages 223-244, February.
  9. Jane G. Gravelle & Laurence J. Kotlikoff, 1987. "The Incidence and Efficiency Costs of Corporate Taxation when Corporate and Noncorporate Firms Produce the Same Good," NBER Working Papers 2462, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Poterba, James M., 1989. "Tax reform and the market for tax-exempt debt," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(3), pages 537-562, August.
  11. Kevin J. Murphy, 1986. "Incentives, Learning, and Compensation: A Theoretical and Empirical Investigation of Managerial Labor Contracts," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 17(1), pages 59-76, Spring.
  12. Kochin, Levis A & Parks, Richard W, 1988. " Was the Tax-Exempt Bond Market Inefficient or Were Future Expected Tax Rates Negative?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 43(4), pages 913-31, September.
  13. Alan J. Auerbach, 1983. "Corporate Taxation in the United States," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 14(2), pages 451-514.
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