Return on equity (III): a tax-efficient split up

double taxation of dividends
In the US, and most often, elsewhere, dividend payments to shareholders must be made from income on which domestic taxes have already been paid. Recipients pay income tax again on any dividend income they receive.
(In contrast, the IRS regards interest payments on bonds as an expense. So these payments are made from pre-tax income, and serve to lower the firm’s tax bill. No wonder some companies leverage themselves too much.)
For a mature, low growth, business that throws off cash and doesn’t have many good ways to reinvest the money, stock buy backs and dividend payments are the two common methods of returning these funds to shareholders. Personally, I think stock buy backs are almost always a scam. At the very least, they’re not a very dependable source of funds for income oriented investors. And double taxation means that a sizable chunk of the money available for distribution–just over a third, in the US–is lost to the taxman.
There has to be a better way!
For many firms, there is. It’s called a Real Estate Investment Trust ( REIT), and it’s becoming an increasingly popular corporate solution to the mature business problem.
Briefly, a REIT is a special form of corporation, somewhat akin to a mutual fund. It accepts restrictions on the kinds of activity it can take part in, and agrees to distribute virtually all the income it generates to shareholders. In return, it is exempt from corporate income tax.
Details on Monday.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: