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Internal Finance and Investment: Evidence from the Undistributed Profits Tax of 1936-1937

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  • Charles W. Calomiris
  • R. Glenn Hubbard

Abstract

Recent theoretical approaches have linked shifts in firms' internal funds and investment spending, holding constant underlying investment opportunities. An important impediment to convincing tests of these models is the lack of firm-level data on the relative costs of internal and external funds. We use a tax experiment, the Surtax on Undistributed Profits (SUP) in the 1930s, to identify firms' relative cost of internal and external funds and analyze its effect on firms' investment decisions. Finns' responses to the surtax on retained earnings permit estimation of shadow price differentials between internal and external finance, and measurement of the link between access to capital markets and investment. Almost one-fourth of the 273 publicly-traded manufacturing firms in our sample retained in excess of 40 percent of their earnings in spite of the surtax, paying the highest marginal rates of surtax. The investment spending of these firms was sensitive to shifts in cash flow, holding constant investment opportunities (measured by the ratio of market-to-book value). No sensitivity of investment to internal funds could be detected for firms with higher dividend payout and lower surtax liability. In addition, many firms with high marginal rates of surtax were in the growth industries of the day. The sensitivity of investment spending to internal funds for firms with high marginal surtax rates appears mainly to reflect information-related capital-market frictions as opposed to the waste of corporate cash flows by entrenched managers.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 4288.

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Date of creation: Mar 1993
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Publication status: published as Journal of Business, vol. 68, no. 4, pp. 443-482, (October 1995).
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4288

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  1. Charles W. Calomiris & R. Glenn Hubbard, 1988. "Firm Heterogeneity, Internal Finance, and `Credit Rationing'," NBER Working Papers 2497, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Steven M. Fazzari & R. Glenn Hubbard & BRUCE C. PETERSEN, 1988. "Financing Constraints and Corporate Investment," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 19(1), pages 141-206.
  3. Lawrence H. Summers, 1981. "Taxation and Corporate Investment: A q-Theory Approach," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 12(1), pages 67-140.
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Cited by:
  1. Christian Keuschnigg & Evelyn Ribi, 2013. "Profit taxes and financing constraints," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer, vol. 20(5), pages 808-826, October.
  2. Jackie Krafft, 2006. "Business history and the organization of industry," Post-Print hal-00211780, HAL.
  3. Gambacorta, Leonardo & Mistrulli, Paolo Emilio, 2004. "Does bank capital affect lending behavior?," Journal of Financial Intermediation, Elsevier, vol. 13(4), pages 436-457, October.
  4. John R. Graham & Sonali Hazarika & Krishnamoorthy Narasimhan, 2011. "Financial Distress in the Great Depression," NBER Working Papers 17388, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Christian Keuschnigg & Evelyn Ribi, 2010. "Business Taxation, Corporate Finance and Economic Performance," University of St. Gallen Department of Economics working paper series 2010 2010-04, Department of Economics, University of St. Gallen.

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