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

Listed author(s):
  • Ruud A. de Mooij
  • Shafik Hebous

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.

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File URL: http://www.cesifo-group.de/DocDL/cesifo1_wp6312.pdf
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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 6312.

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Date of creation: 2017
Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_6312
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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. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Shafik Hebous & Martin Ruf, 2015. "Evaluating the Effects of ACE Systems on Multinational Debt Financing and Investment," CESifo Working Paper Series 5360, CESifo Group Munich.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Benjamin M. Friedman, 1986. "Increasing Indebtedness and Financial Stability in the United States," NBER Working Papers 2072, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. 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.
  10. 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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