How Does Removing the Tax Benefits of Debt Affect Firms?

Almost all countries have historically allowed businesses to write off interest expenses against taxable income. Critics argue that the tax-favored status of debt has created a corporate debt pile-up, thereby exacerbating economic downturns. This argument, which gained more attention after the 2008 global financial crisis, implicitly assumes that the tax incentives have led to a large increase in the use of debt. However, despite extensive efforts by researchers, it is an open question whether the tax incentives are indeed a primary determinant of corporate debt policy. This is mainly because isolating the impact of interest deductions from other tax effects … Read more

Listing Gaps, Merger Waves, and the Privatization of U.S. Equity Finance

The number of U.S. listed companies declined by almost half between 1996 and 2012, from 8,090 to 4,102, and had risen only slightly, to 4,336, by year-end 2017. However, the real market valuation of these listed companies tripled over the same period, from $10.2 trillion in 1996 to $32.1 trillion in 2017[1], implying that the average market valuation of a U.S. listed firm has increased six-fold over the past two decades. In other words, the U.S. public stock market has become populated exclusively by behemoths. Over the same period, the U.S. has experienced historically high levels of merger … Read more