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Capital Gains Tax Rules, Tax Loss Trading and Turn-of-the-Year Returns

  • James M. Poterba
  • Scott J. Weisbenner

This paper investigates the effect of specific features of the U.S. capital gains tax on turn-of-the-year stock returns. It focuses on two tax changes. The first, enacted in 1969, reduced the fraction of long-term losses that were deductible from Adjusted Gross Income from 100 percent to 50 percent. The second, part of the Tax Reform Act of 1976, raised the required holding period for long-term gains and losses from six months to one year. This paper describes how each of these tax changes should have affected incentives for year-end capital loss realization and the potential magnitude of the turn of the year effect in stock returns. We present evidence that is consistent with the hypothesis that detailed provisions of the capital gains tax, such as the short-term holding period, affect the link between past capital losses and turn-of-the-year stock returns. These findings provide support for the role of tax-loss trading in contributing to turn-of-the-year return patterns.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w6616.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 6616.

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Date of creation: Jun 1998
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Publication status: published as Poterba, James M. and Scott J. Weisbenner. "Capital Gains Tax Rules, Tax-Loss Trading, And Turn-Of-The-Year Returns," Journal of Finance, 2001, v56(1,Feb), 353-368.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6616
Note: AP PE
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  1. Josef Lakonishok & Andrei Shleifer & Richard Thaler & Robert Vishny, 1991. "Window Dressing by Pension Fund Managers," NBER Working Papers 3617, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Rozeff, Michael S. & Kinney, William Jr., 1976. "Capital market seasonality: The case of stock returns," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(4), pages 379-402, October.
  3. Lakonishok, Josef & Smidt, Seymour, 1986. " Volume for Winners and Losers: Taxation and Other Motives for Stock Trading," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 41(4), pages 951-74, September.
  4. Ritter, Jay R, 1988. " The Buying and Selling Behavior of Individual Investors at the Turn of the Year," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 43(3), pages 701-17, July.
  5. Jones, Charles P & Pearce, Douglas K & Wilson, Jack W, 1987. " Can Tax-Loss Selling Explain the January Effect? A Note," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 42(2), pages 453-61, June.
  6. Reinganum, Marc R., 1983. "The anomalous stock market behavior of small firms in January : Empirical tests for tax-loss selling effects," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 89-104, June.
  7. Keim, Donald B., 1983. "Size-related anomalies and stock return seasonality : Further empirical evidence," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 13-32, June.
  8. James M. Poterba, 1986. "How Burdensome are Capital Gains Taxes?," NBER Working Papers 1871, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Dyl, Edward A. & Maberly, Edwin D., 1992. "Odd-Lot Transactions around the Turn of the Year and the January Effect," Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 27(04), pages 591-604, December.
  10. Sias, Richard W & Starks, Laura T, 1997. " Institutions and Individuals at the Turn-of-the-Year," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 52(4), pages 1543-62, September.
  11. Michaely, Roni & Vila, Jean-Luc, 1996. "Trading Volume with Private Valuation: Evidence from the Ex-dividend Day," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 9(2), pages 471-509.
  12. Branch, Ben, 1977. "A Tax Loss Trading Rule," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 50(2), pages 198-207, April.
  13. Constantinides, George M. & Ingersoll, Jonathan Jr., 1984. "Optimal bond trading with personal taxes," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(3), pages 299-335, September.
  14. Joel M. Dickson & John B. Shoven, 1995. "Taxation and Mutual Funds: An Investor Perspective," NBER Chapters, in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 9, pages 151-180 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. De Bondt, Werner F M & Thaler, Richard, 1985. " Does the Stock Market Overreact?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 40(3), pages 793-805, July.
  16. Alan J. Auerbach & Leonard E. Burman & Jonathan Siegel, 1998. "Capital Gains Taxation and Tax Avoidance: New Evidence from Panel Data," NBER Working Papers 6399, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. De Bondt, Werner F M & Thaler, Richard H, 1987. " Further Evidence on Investor Overreaction and Stock Market Seasonalit y," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 42(3), pages 557-81, July.
  18. Keim, Donald B., 1989. "Trading patterns, bid-ask spreads, and estimated security returns : The case of common stocks at calendar turning points," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 75-97, November.
  19. Reinganum, Marc R & Shapiro, Alan C, 1987. "Taxes and Stock Return Seasonality: Evidence from the London Stock Exchange," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 60(2), pages 281-95, April.
  20. Dyl, Edward A, 1977. "Capital Gains Taxation and Year-End Stock Market Behavior," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 32(1), pages 165-75, March.
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