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Curbing Corporate Debt Bias: Do Limitations to Interest Deductibility Work?

Author

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  • Ruud A. de Mooij
  • Shafik Hebous

Abstract

Tax provisions favoring corporate debt over equity finance ("debt bias") are widely recognized as a risk to financial stability. This paper explores whether and how thin-capitalization rules, which restrict interest deductibility beyond a certain amount, affect corporate debt ratios and mitigate financial stability risk. We find that rules targeted at related party borrowing (the majority of today’s rules) have no significant impact on debt bias—which relates to third-party borrowing. Also, these rules have no effect on broader indicators of firm financial distress. Rules applying to all debt, in contrast, turn out to be effective: the presence of such a rule reduces the debt-asset ratio in an average company by 5 percentage points; and they reduce the probability for a firm to be in financial distress by 5 percent. Debt ratios are found to be more responsive to thin capitalization rules in industries characterized by a high share of tangible assets.

Suggested Citation

  • Ruud A. de Mooij & Shafik Hebous, 2017. "Curbing Corporate Debt Bias: Do Limitations to Interest Deductibility Work?," CESifo Working Paper Series 6312, CESifo Group Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_6312
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    File URL: http://www.cesifo-group.de/DocDL/cesifo1_wp6312.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Javier Bianchi, 2011. "Overborrowing and Systemic Externalities in the Business Cycle," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(7), pages 3400-3426, December.
    2. Huizinga, Harry & Laeven, Luc & Nicodeme, Gaetan, 2008. "Capital structure and international debt shifting," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(1), pages 80-118, April.
    3. repec:eee:pubeco:v:156:y:2017:i:c:p:131-149 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Jennifer Blouin & Harry Huizinga & Luc Laeven & Gaëtan Nicodème, 2013. "Thin capitalization rules and multinational firm capital structure," Working Papers 1323, Oxford University Centre for Business Taxation.
    5. Hebous, Shafik & Ruf, Martin, 2018. "Evaluating the Effects of ACE Systems on Multinational Debt Financing and Investment," Working Paper Series 6827, Victoria University of Wellington, Chair in Public Finance.
    6. Mihir A. Desai & Dhammika Dharmapala, 2015. "Interest Deductions in a Multijurisdictional World," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 68(3), pages 653-680, September.
    7. Hebous, Shafik & Ruf, Martin, 2017. "Evaluating the effects of ACE systems on multinational debt financing and investment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 156(C), pages 131-149.
    8. Douglas Sutherland & Peter Hoeller, 2012. "Debt and Macroeconomic Stability: An Overview of the Literature and Some Empirics," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 1006, OECD Publishing.
    9. Edward I. Altman, 1968. "Financial Ratios, Discriminant Analysis And The Prediction Of Corporate Bankruptcy," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 23(4), pages 589-609, September.
    10. Benjamin M. Friedman, 1986. "Increasing Indebtedness and Financial Stability in the United States," NBER Working Papers 2072, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Ben S. Bernanke & John Y. Campbell, 1988. "Is There a Corporate Debt Crisis?," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 19(1), pages 83-140.
    12. Benjamin M. Friedman, 1986. "Increasing indebtedness and financial stability in the United States," Proceedings - Economic Policy Symposium - Jackson Hole, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, pages 27-61.
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    1. repec:wsi:jicepx:v:08:y:2017:i:03:n:s179399331750017x is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    Keywords

    corporate tax; capital structure; debt bias; thin capitalization rule;

    JEL classification:

    • G32 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Financing Policy; Financial Risk and Risk Management; Capital and Ownership Structure; Value of Firms; Goodwill
    • H25 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Business Taxes and Subsidies

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