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Effects of the Tax Reform Act of 1986 on Corporate Financial Policy and Organizational Form

  • Roger H. Gordon
  • Jeffrey K. MacKie-Mason

We examine the effects of the Tax Reform Act of 1986 on the financial decisions made by firms. We review the theory and empirical predictions of prior literature for corporate debt policy, for dividend and equity repurchase payouts to shareholders, and for the choice of organizational form. We then compare the predictions to post-1986 experience. The change in debt/value ratios has been substantially smaller than expected. Dividend payouts increased as predicted, but stock repurchases increased even more rapidly which was unexpected and is difficult to understand. Based on very scant data, it appears that some activities have shuffled among organizational forms; in particular, loss activities may have been moved into corporate form where they are deducted at a higher tax rate, while gain activities may have shifted towards noncorporate form, to be taxed at the lower personal rates. In addition, several interesting new issues are raised. One concerns previously neglected implications for the effective tax on retained earnings that follow from optimal trading strategies when long- and short-term capital gains are taxed at different rates. Also, new interest allocation rules for multinational corporations provide a substantial incentive for many firms to shift their borrowing abroad.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w3222.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 3222.

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Date of creation: Jan 1990
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Publication status: published as Slemrod, Joel (ed.) Do Taxes Matter?: The Impact of the Tax Reform Act of 1986. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1990.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:3222
Note: PE
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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. Myers, Stewart C. & Majluf, Nicholas S., 1984. "Corporate financing and investment decisions when firms have information that investors do not have," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(2), pages 187-221, June.
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  25. Alan J. Auerbach, 1983. "Real Determinants of Corporate Leverage," NBER Working Papers 1151, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  26. James M. Poterba & Lawrence H. Summers, 1984. "The Economic Effects of Dividend Taxation," Working papers 343, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  27. 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.
  28. DeAngelo, Harry & Masulis, Ronald W., 1980. "Optimal capital structure under corporate and personal taxation," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(1), pages 3-29, March.
  29. Rosanne Altshuler & Alan J. Auerbach, 1987. "The Significance of Tax Law Asymmetries: An Empirical Investigation," NBER Working Papers 2279, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  30. Roger H. Gordon, 1982. "Interest Rates, Inflation, and Corporate Financial Policy," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 13(2), pages 461-491.
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