Tax Reforms and the Capital Structure of Banks
Goethe University Frankfurt - House of Finance
May 13, 2013
The paper studies the link between corporate income tax reforms and domestic bank entities' financing decisions. We use a dataset of corporate income tax (CIT) reforms and estimate the effect of tax rate changes on leverage, dividend policies and earnings management of banks using BankScope (Orbis) data. Our results suggest that taxation influences all three variables in the first three years after the reform. Leverage increases with the CIT rate. The reason is that the statutory CIT rate determines the value of the debt tax shield. A higher tax rate increases incentives to use debt finance when interest payments are deductible from the CIT base. Also, dividend pay-outs increase after an increase of CIT rates. This could indicate that banks actively manage their pay-out policies around tax reforms and adjust their capital structure with changes in dividends. Furthermore, banks increase loss loan reserves in anticipation of a tax rate cuts since losses become less valuable with lower CIT rates. In the context of the current regulatory reform in the financial sector which focuses strongly on improving equity ratios of banks, our results suggest that future tax policies should focus on eliminating the favorable treatment of debt in general and for banks in particular. The reason is that this distortion at least partly undermines the regulatory objectives of increasing (regulatory) capital.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 32
Keywords: Corporate income tax, tax reform, debt-equity bias, leverage, banks
JEL Classification: G21, H25, H32
Date posted: May 17, 2013