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Why do firms hold so much cash? A tax-based explanation

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Listed:
  • Fritz Foley, C.
  • Hartzell, Jay C.
  • Titman, Sheridan
  • Twite, Garry

Abstract

U.S. corporations hold significant amounts of cash on their balance sheets, and these cash holdings have been justified in the existing empirical literature by transaction costs and precautionary motives. An additional explanation, considered in this study, is that U.S. multinational firms hold cash in their foreign subsidiaries because of the tax costs associated with repatriating foreign income. Consistent with this hypothesis, firms that face higher repatriation tax burdens hold higher levels of cash, hold this cash abroad, and hold this cash in affiliates that trigger high tax costs when repatriating earnings. Estimates indicate that a one standard deviation increase in the tax burden from repatriating foreign income is associated with a 7.9% increase in the ratio of cash to net assets. In addition, certain firms, specifically those that are less financially constrained domestically and those that are more technology intensive, exhibit a higher sensitivity of affiliate cash holdings to repatriation tax burdens.
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Suggested Citation

  • Fritz Foley, C. & Hartzell, Jay C. & Titman, Sheridan & Twite, Garry, 2007. "Why do firms hold so much cash? A tax-based explanation," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 86(3), pages 579-607, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jfinec:v:86:y:2007:i:3:p:579-607
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F23 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - Multinational Firms; International Business
    • F3 - International Economics - - International Finance
    • G32 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Financing Policy; Financial Risk and Risk Management; Capital and Ownership Structure; Value of Firms; Goodwill
    • G35 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Payout Policy
    • H25 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Business Taxes and Subsidies

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