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Does tax policy affect executive compensation? Evidence from postwar tax reforms

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  • Frydman, Carola
  • Molloy, Raven S.

Abstract

The trends in executive pay and labor income tax rates since the 1940s suggest a high elasticity of taxable income with respect to tax policy. By contrast, the level and structure of executive compensation have been largely unresponsive to tax incentives since the 1980s. However, the relative tax advantage of different forms of pay was small during this period. Using a sample of top executives in large firms from 1946 to 2005, we also find a small short run response of salaries, qualified stock options, and bonuses paid after retirement to changes in tax rates on labor income — even though tax rates were significantly higher and more heterogeneous across individuals in the first several decades following WWII. We explore several potential explanations for the conflicting impressions given by the long-run and short-run correlations between taxes and pay, including changes in social norms and concerns about pay equality.

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  • Frydman, Carola & Molloy, Raven S., 2011. "Does tax policy affect executive compensation? Evidence from postwar tax reforms," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(11), pages 1425-1437.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:95:y:2011:i:11:p:1425-1437
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jpubeco.2011.02.005
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    Cited by:

    1. Laurence Ales & Christopher Sleet, 2016. "Taxing Top CEO Incomes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(11), pages 3331-3366, November.
    2. Peter Krenn, 2017. "The Impact of Taxes on Competition for CEOs," European Accounting Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 26(3), pages 503-530, July.
    3. Paweł Doligalski & Abdoulaye Ndiaye & Nicolas Werquin, 2023. "Redistribution with Performance Pay," Journal of Political Economy Macroeconomics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 1(2), pages 371-402.
    4. Krenn, Peter, 2015. "The impact of taxes on competition for CEOs," arqus Discussion Papers in Quantitative Tax Research 190, arqus - Arbeitskreis Quantitative Steuerlehre.
    5. Dana C. Andersen & Ramón López, 2019. "Do Tax Cuts Encourage Rent Seeking By Top Corporate Executives? Theory And Evidence," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 37(2), pages 219-235, April.
    6. Bird, Andrew, 2018. "Taxation and executive compensation: Evidence from stock options," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 127(2), pages 285-302.
    7. Frydman, Carola & Molloy, Raven, 2012. "Pay Cuts for the Boss: Executive Compensation in the 1940s," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 72(1), pages 225-251, March.
    8. Carola Frydman & Dirk Jenter, 2010. "CEO Compensation," Annual Review of Financial Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 2(1), pages 75-102, December.
    9. Aspen Gorry & Kevin A. Hassett & R. Glenn Hubbard & Aparna Mathur, 2017. "The Response of Deferred Executive Compensation to Changes in Tax Rates," NBER Chapters, in: Personal Income Taxation and Household Behavior (TAPES), National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Bührle, Anna Theresa & Yen, Chia-Yi, 2023. "Too much "skin in the game" ruins the game: Evidence from managerial capital gains taxes," ZEW Discussion Papers 23-028, ZEW - Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research, revised 2023.
    11. H Peyton Young & Lucas Merrill Brown, 2016. "The Diffusion of a Social Innovation: Executive Stock Options from 1936," Economics Series Working Papers 777, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    12. Geir H. Bjertnæs, 2012. "Promotion rat race and public policy," Discussion Papers 686, Statistics Norway, Research Department.
    13. Goldman, Nathan C. & Ozel, Naim Bugra, 2023. "Executive compensation, individual-level tax rates, and insider trading profits," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(1).
    14. Frydman, Carola & Papanikolaou, Dimitris, 2018. "In search of ideas: Technological innovation and executive pay inequality," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 130(1), pages 1-24.
    15. Voßmerbäumer, Jan & Wagner, Franz W., 2013. "Steuerwirkungen betrieblicher Entgeltpolitik," arqus Discussion Papers in Quantitative Tax Research 144, arqus - Arbeitskreis Quantitative Steuerlehre.
    16. Geir Bjertnaes, 2012. "Promotion Rat Race and Public Policy," CESifo Working Paper Series 3781, CESifo.
    17. Maximilian von Ehrlich & Doina Radulescu, 2017. "The taxation of bonuses and its effect on executive compensation and risk‐taking: Evidence from the UK experience," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 26(3), pages 712-731, September.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Executive compensation; Tax policy; Elasticity of taxable income;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • G30 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - General
    • H24 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Personal Income and Other Nonbusiness Taxes and Subsidies
    • H32 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Firm
    • J33 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Compensation Packages; Payment Methods
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • N32 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-

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