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Why Do Companies Pay Dividends?

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  • Feldstein, Martin
  • Green, Jerry

Abstract

This paper presents a simple model of market equilibrium to explain why firms that maximize the value of their shares pay dividends even though the funds could instead be retained and subsequently distributed to shareholders in a way that would allow them to be taxed more favorably as capital gains. The two principal ingredients of our explanation are: (1) the conflicting preferences of shareholders in different tax brackets and (2) the shareholders' desire for portfolio diversification, we show that companies will pay a positive fraction of earnings in dividends. We also provide some comparative static analysis of dividend behavior with respect to tax parameters and to the conditions determining the riskiness of the securities.

Suggested Citation

  • Feldstein, Martin & Green, Jerry, 1983. "Why Do Companies Pay Dividends?," Scholarly Articles 3204679, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:hrv:faseco:3204679
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Bradford, David F., 1981. "The incidence and allocation effects of a tax on corporate distributions," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(1), pages 1-22, February.
    2. Martin Feldstein & Jerry Green & Eytan Sheshinski, 1979. "Corporate Financial Policy and Taxation in a Growing Economy," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 93(3), pages 411-432.
    3. Feldstein, Martin S & Slemrod, Joel, 1980. "Personal Taxation, Portfolio Choice, and the Effect of the Corporation Income Tax," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 88(5), pages 854-866, October.
    4. M. S. Feldstein, 1970. "Corporate Taxation and Dividend Behaviour," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 37(1), pages 57-72.
    5. Alan J. Auerbach, 1979. "Wealth Maximization and the Cost of Capital," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 93(3), pages 433-446.
    6. Sudipto Bhattacharya, 1979. "Imperfect Information, Dividend Policy, and "The Bird in the Hand" Fallacy," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 10(1), pages 259-270, Spring.
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