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A Tax-Based Test of the Dividend Signaling Hypothesis

  • B. Douglas Bernheim
  • Adam Wantz

We propose and implement a new test of the dividend signaling hypothesis that is designed to discriminate between dividend signaling and other theories that would account for the apparent existence of a dividend preference. Our test refines the use of data on stock price responses to dividend announcements. In particular, we study the effect of dividend taxation on the bang-for-the-buck, which we define as the share price response per dollar of dividends. Most dividend signaling models imply that an increase in dividend taxation should increase the bang-for-the-buck. In contrast, other dividend preference theories imply that an increase in dividend taxation should decrease the bang-for-the-buck. Since there have recently been considerable variation in the tax treatment of dividends, we are able to study dividend announcement effects under different tax regimes. Our central finding is that there is a strong positive relationship between dividend tax rates and the bang-for-the-buck. This result supports the dividend signaling hypothesis, and is consistent with alternatives. The paper also provides corroborating evidence based on the relationship between the bang-for-the-buck and bond ratings.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 4244.

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Date of creation: Dec 1992
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Publication status: published as American Economic Review 85(3), june 1995, 532-551.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4244
Note: PE CF
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  1. Kane, Alex & Lee, Young Ki & Marcus, Alan, 1984. " Earnings and Dividend Announcements: Is There a Corroboration Effect?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 39(4), pages 1091-99, September.
  2. Hakansson, Nils H, 1982. " To Pay or Not to Pay Dividend," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 37(2), pages 415-28, May.
  3. Poterba, James M. & Summers, Lawrence H., 1983. "Dividend taxes, corporate investment, and `Q'," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(2), pages 135-167, November.
  4. Miller, Merton H & Rock, Kevin, 1985. " Dividend Policy under Asymmetric Information," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 40(4), pages 1031-51, September.
  5. Pettit, R Richardson, 1972. "Dividend Announcements, Security Performance, and Capital Market Efficiency," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 27(5), pages 993-1007, December.
  6. B. Douglas Berhheim, 1991. "Tax Policy and the Dividend Puzzle," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 22(4), pages 455-476, Winter.
  7. Asquith, Paul & Mullins, David W, Jr, 1983. "The Impact of Initiating Dividend Payments on Shareholders' Wealth," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 56(1), pages 77-96, January.
  8. Ambarish, Ramasastry & John, Kose & Williams, Joseph, 1987. " Efficient Signalling with Dividends and Investments," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 42(2), pages 321-43, June.
  9. Balcer, Yves & Judd, Kenneth L, 1987. " Effects of Capital Gains Taxation on Life-Cycle Investment and Portfolio Management," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 42(3), pages 743-58, July.
  10. Ofer, Aharon R & Siegel, Daniel R, 1987. " Corporate Financial Policy, Information, and Market Expectations: An Empirical Investigation of Dividends," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 42(4), pages 889-911, September.
  11. Nils H. Hakansson., 1982. "To Pay or Not to Pay Dividends," Research Program in Finance Working Papers 124, University of California at Berkeley.
  12. Jeffrey MacKie-Mason, 1988. "Do Taxes Affect Corporate Financing Decisions?," NBER Working Papers 2632, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Watts, Ross, 1973. "The Information Content of Dividends," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 46(2), pages 191-211, April.
  14. Brown, Stephen J. & Warner, Jerold B., 1985. "Using daily stock returns : The case of event studies," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(1), pages 3-31, March.
  15. Jensen, Michael C. & Meckling, William H., 1976. "Theory of the firm: Managerial behavior, agency costs and ownership structure," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(4), pages 305-360, October.
  16. Shefrin, Hersh M. & Statman, Meir, 1984. "Explaining investor preference for cash dividends," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(2), pages 253-282, June.
  17. Brickley, James A., 1983. "Shareholder wealth, information signaling and the specially designated dividend : An empirical study," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(2), pages 187-209, August.
  18. Charest, Guy, 1978. "Dividend information, stock returns and market efficiency-II," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(2-3), pages 297-330.
  19. Laub, P Michael, 1976. "On the Informational Content of Dividends," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 49(1), pages 73-80, January.
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