Companies Return Cash To Investors As Washington Negotiates

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Some investors will receive additional stock dividends this month in advance of scheduled tax changes(Photo: File photo)
Some investors will receive additional stock dividends this month in advance of scheduled tax changes(Photo: File photo)

Earlier this week, Limited Brands of Columbus joined a growing list of firms which decided to give special stock dividends in advance of an end-of year scheduled increase in taxes. Many firms are trying to handicap the outcome of negotiations between the White House and Congress.

While politicians work on a possible tax and spending agreement to avoid abrupt changes, many companies are taking action. Limited Brands says it will return 900 million dollars in stock dividends before the end of the year. Fisher College of Business finance professor, Anil Makhija says other companies like Walmart, Oracle and Costco have also returned millions of dollars in stock dividends to investors. Makhija explains dividends paid this year are taxed at 15 percent. In 2013 investors face a possible 42 percent tax rate on stock dividends. So, Makhija says companies are rewarding investors by paying dividends while tax rates remain lower. Some companies are going a step further.

“And then there are many that have actually given out special dividends, dividends that they would not have given out at all.” Says Anil Makhija.

Makhaji says normally when firms give out special dividends it suggests the firm is performing so well it has extra cash to return to shareholders. But, he says early payouts and special dividends could give a different stock market signal this month.

“But if it is motivated by taxes and they’re simply giving away their future cash today, investors might actually interpret that as lock of growth opportunity and that’s probably not so good.” Makhija says.

Limited Brands says the looming tax increase in 2013 was one consideration in declaring a special dividend. Makhija says some firms will change their dividend policy if higher taxes go into effect next year.

Tom Borgerding
WOSU News

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