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The Economic Effects of Dividend Taxation

  • James M. Poterba
  • Lawrence H. Summers

This paper tests several competing hypotheses about the economic effects of dividend taxation. It employs British data on security returns, dividend payout rates, and corporate investment, because unlike the United States, Britain has experienced several major dividend tax reforms in the last three decades. These tax changes provide an ideal natural experiment for analyzing the effects of dividend taxes. We compare three different views of how dividend taxes affect decisions by firms and their shareholders. We reject the"tax capitalization" view that dividend taxes are non-distortionary lump sum taxes on the owners of corporate capital. We also reject the hypothes is that firms pay dividends because marginal investors are effectively untaxed. We find that the traditional view that dividend taxes constitute a "double-tax" on corporate capital income is most consistent with our empirical evidence. Our results suggest that dividend taxes reduce corporate investment and exacerbate distortions in the intersectoral and intertemporal allocation of capital.

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Paper provided by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics in its series Working papers with number 343.

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Date of creation: May 1984
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Handle: RePEc:mit:worpap:343
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  1. Feldstein, Martin & Dicks-Mireaux, Louis & Poterba, James, 1983. "The effective tax rate and the pretax rate of return," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(2), pages 129-158, July.
  2. Merton H. Miller & Franco Modigliani, 1961. "Dividend Policy, Growth, and the Valuation of Shares," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 34, pages 411.
  3. Auerbach, Alan J, 1983. "Taxation, Corporate Financial Policy and the Cost of Capital," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 21(3), pages 905-40, September.
  4. Auerbach, Alan J, 1979. "Wealth Maximization and the Cost of Capital," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 93(3), pages 433-46, August.
  5. Lewellen, Wilbur G, et al, 1978. "Some Direct Evidence on the Dividend Clientele Phenomenon," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 33(5), pages 1385-99, December.
  6. King, M A, 1971. "Corporate Taxation and Dividend Behaviour-A Comment," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 38(115), pages 377-80, July.
  7. Alan J. Auerbach, 1981. "Stockholder Tax Rates and Firm Attributes," NBER Working Papers 0817, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Roger H. Gordon & David F. Bradford, 1980. "Taxation and the stock market valuation of capital gains and dividends : Theory and emphirical results," NBER Chapters, in: Econometric Studies in Public Finance, pages 109-136 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. James M. Poterba & Lawrence H. Summers, 1985. "New Evidence that Taxes Affect the Valuation of Dividends," NBER Working Papers 1288, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Miller, Merton H, 1977. "Debt and Taxes," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 32(2), pages 261-75, May.
  11. Tobin, James, 1969. "A General Equilibrium Approach to Monetary Theory," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 1(1), pages 15-29, February.
  12. Fumio Hayashi, 1981. "Tobin's Marginal q and Average a : A Neoclassical Interpretation," Discussion Papers 457, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  13. Feldstein, Martin S, 1970. "Corporate Taxation and Dividend Behaviour," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 37(1), pages 57-72, January.
  14. Stiglitz, Joseph E., 1983. "Some aspects of the taxation of capital gains," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(2), pages 257-294, July.
  15. Long, John Jr., 1978. "The market valuation of cash dividends : A case to consider," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(2-3), pages 235-264.
  16. 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.
  17. Jerry R. Green, 1980. "Taxation and the Ex-Dividend Day Behavior of Common Stock Prices," NBER Working Papers 0496, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Fullerton, Don, et al, 1981. "Corporate Tax Integration in the United States: A General Equilibrium Approach," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(4), pages 677-91, September.
  19. Daniel R. Feenberg, 1980. "Does the Investment Interest Limitation Explain the Existence of Dividends?," NBER Working Papers 0530, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. Fama, Eugene F, et al, 1969. "The Adjustment of Stock Prices to New Information," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 10(1), pages 1-21, February.
  21. Feldstein, Martin S, 1978. "The Welfare Cost of Capital Income Taxation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(2), pages S29-51, April.
  22. Constantinides, George M, 1983. "Capital Market Equilibrium with Personal Tax," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 51(3), pages 611-36, May.
  23. Miller, Merton H. & Scholes, Myron S., 1978. "Dividends and taxes," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(4), pages 333-364, December.
  24. 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.
  25. Miller, Merton H & Rock, Kevin, 1985. " Dividend Policy under Asymmetric Information," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 40(4), pages 1031-51, September.
  26. Elton, Edwin & Gruber, Martin & Rentzler, Joel, 1983. "A simple examination of the empirical relationship between dividend yields and deviations from the CAPM," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 7(1), pages 135-146, March.
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