Posts Tagged ‘Taxation’

How to Use a Bank Tax to Make the Financial System Safer

Posted by Mark Roe, Harvard Law School, on Tuesday March 25, 2014 at 9:21 am
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Editor’s Note: Mark Roe is the David Berg Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, where he teaches bankruptcy and corporate law. This post is based on an op-ed by Professor Roe and Michael Tröge that was published today in The Financial Times, which can be found here.

A tax on the balance sheets of big banks—first proposed by US President Barack Obama in 2010 but later shelved—is back on the political agenda. Last month Dave Camp, Republican chairman of the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee, put forward a proposal for tax reform that included a 0.035 per cent levy on bank assets more than $500bn. This would hit large institutions such as Bank of America, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs.

The aim of the Republican plan is to find tax revenue that could be used to offset cuts in income taxes on individuals. Mr. Obama pitched his proposal as a way of raising money from US banks to help repay taxpayers who had to bail them out at the height of the crisis. Neither plan aims to make the financial system safer, and neither would. But with a few alterations, a balance-sheet tax could help strengthen the banks.

…continue reading: How to Use a Bank Tax to Make the Financial System Safer

Selected Issues for Boards of Directors in 2014

Posted by Alan L. Beller, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, on Saturday February 1, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: Alan L. Beller is a partner focusing on complex securities, corporate governance and corporate matters at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP. This post is based on a Cleary Gottlieb memorandum.

Over the past year, boards of directors continued to face increasing scrutiny from shareholders and regulators, and the consequences of failures became more serious in terms of regulatory enforcement, shareholder litigation and market reaction. We expect these trends to continue in 2014, and proactive board oversight and involvement will remain crucial in this challenging environment.

During 2013, activist investors publicly pressured all types of companies—large and small, high-flyers and laggards—to pursue strategies focused on short-term returns, even if inconsistent with directors’ preferred, sustainable long-term strategies. In addition, activists increasingly focused on governance issues, resulting in heightened shareholder scrutiny and attempts at participation in areas that historically have been management and board prerogatives. We expect increased activism in the coming year. We also expect boards to continue to have to grapple with oversight of complex issues related to executive compensation, shareholder litigation over significant transactions, risk management, tax strategies, proposed changes to audit rules, messaging to shareholders and the market, and board decision-making processes. And, as evidenced in recent headlines, in 2014 the issue of cybersecurity will demand the attention of many boards.

…continue reading: Selected Issues for Boards of Directors in 2014

Carried Interests: Current Developments

Editor’s Note: Joseph Bachelder is special counsel in the Tax, Employee Benefits & Private Clients practice group at McCarter & English, LLP. This post is based on an article by Mr. Bachelder which first appeared in the New York Law Journal.

The tax status of so-called “carried interests,” held by private equity fund sponsors (and benefitting, in particular, the individual managers of those sponsors) is the subject of this post. A decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit holding that a private equity fund was engaged in a trade or business for purposes of the withdrawal liability provisions of ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act) has caused considerable comment on the issue of whether a private equity fund might also be held to be in a trade or business (and not just a passive investor) for purposes of capital gains tax treatment on the sale of its portfolio companies. Proposed federal income tax legislation, beginning in 2007 and continuing into 2013, also has raised concern as to the status of capital gains tax treatment for holders of carried interests. The following post addresses both of these developments.

…continue reading: Carried Interests: Current Developments

Gender Quotas for Corporate Boards

Posted by June Rhee, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Thursday January 16, 2014 at 9:15 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Anne L. Alstott, Jacquin D. Bierman Professor in Taxation of Yale Law School.

Gender quotas for corporate boards of directors have attracted attention in Europe, where a number of countries have enacted mandatory or voluntary quotas. In the United States, some activists, scholars, and policy makers have advocated quotas as a way to shatter the glass ceiling for women in business and (possibly) to improve corporate decisionmaking.

The appeal of quotas is that they represent the kind of structural change that could alter business practices that exclude women from leadership roles. Social psychology has demonstrated that gender discrimination flourishes when institutions allow actors to give free reign to stereotypes and to unconscious biases. Effective anti-discrimination measures must inform actors about these biases and limit the effects of bias on hiring, promotion, and the distribution of rewards in the workplace and in society. Still, quotas may have a dark side: critics worry that quotas could damage women’s career prospects if new directors are seen as tokens. Critics also predict that quotas could harm corporate performance, if new female directors are untrained or inexperienced. Empirical claims on both sides await further study by scholars.

…continue reading: Gender Quotas for Corporate Boards

Tax Avoidance and Geographic Earnings Disclosure

Posted by R. Christopher Small, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Tuesday August 6, 2013 at 8:47 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Ole-Kristian Hope, Professor of Accounting at the University of Toronto; Mark (Shuai) Ma of the Department of Accounting at the University of Oklahoma; and Wayne Thomas, Professor of Accounting at the University of Oklahoma.

Multinational firms can avoid taxes through structured transactions among different jurisdictions (e.g., Rego 2003), such as reallocating taxable income from high-tax jurisdictions to low-tax ones (Collins et al. 1998). This type of income shifting significantly reduces tax revenues of governments in high-tax jurisdictions and potentially hinders domestic economic growth and other social benefits (e.g., GAO 2008; U.S. Senate 2006). Policy makers around the world, including the United States, European Union, and Canada, have either enacted or are considering regulations related to multinational firms’ cross-jurisdictional income shifting and tax avoidance behavior. However, relatively little is known about multinational corporate tax avoidance behavior (Hanlon and Heitzman 2010), though such knowledge provides a basis for making and enforcing related rules. Further, the relation between firms’ tax avoidance and financial disclosures is not well established. In our paper, Tax Avoidance and Geographic Earnings Disclosure, forthcoming in the Journal of Accounting and Economics, we investigate how geographic earnings disclosure in firms’ financial reports relates to multinational firms’ tax avoidance behavior.

…continue reading: Tax Avoidance and Geographic Earnings Disclosure

Innovation, Reallocation, and Growth

Posted by R. Christopher Small, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Tuesday June 25, 2013 at 9:24 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Daron Acemoglu, Professor of Economics at MIT; Ufuk Akcigit of the Department of Economics at the University of Pennsylvania; Nicholas Bloom, Professor of Economics at Stanford University; and William Kerr of the Entrepreneurial Management Unit at Harvard Business School.

In our paper, Innovation, Reallocation, and Growth, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we build a micro-founded model of firm innovation and growth, enabling us an examination of the forces jointly driving innovation, productivity growth and reallocation. In the second part of our paper, we estimate the parameters of the model using simulated method of moments on detailed U.S. Census Bureau micro data on employment, output, R&D, and patenting during the 1987-1997 period.

Our model builds on the endogenous technological change literature. Incumbents and entrants invest in R&D in order to improve over (one of) a continuum of products. Successful innovation adds to the number of product lines in which the firm has the best-practice technology (and “creatively” destroys the lead of another firm in this product line). Incumbents also increase their productivity for non-R&D related reasons (i.e., without investing in R&D). Because operating a product line entails a fixed cost, firms may also decide to exit some of the product lines in which they have the best-practice technology if this technology has sufficiently low productivity relative to the equilibrium wage. Finally, firms have heterogeneous (high and low) types affecting their innovative capacity—their productivity in innovation. This heterogeneity introduces a selection effect as the composition of firms is endogenous, which will be both important in our estimation and central for understanding the implications of different policies. We assume that firm type changes over time and that low-type is an absorbing state (i.e., high-type firms can transition to low-type but not vice versa), which is important for accommodating the possibility of firms that have grown large over time but are no longer innovative.

…continue reading: Innovation, Reallocation, and Growth

Corporate Governance, Incentives, and Tax Avoidance

Posted by R. Christopher Small, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Thursday June 20, 2013 at 9:08 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Christopher Armstrong and Jennifer Blouin, both of the Department of Accounting at the University of Pennsylvania; Alan Jagolinzer of the Division of Accounting at the University of Colorado; and David Larcker, Professor of Accounting at Stanford University.

There has been a recent surge in research that seeks to understand the sources of variation in tax avoidance (e.g., Shevlin and Shackelford, 2001; Shevlin, 2007; Hanlon and Heitzman, 2010). The benefits of tax avoidance can be economically large (e.g., Scholes et al., 2009) and tax avoidance can be a relatively inexpensive source of financing (e.g., Armstrong et al., 2012). However, aggressive tax avoidance may be accompanied by substantial observable (e.g., fines and legal fees) and unobservable (e.g., excess risk and loss of corporate reputation) costs. Although understanding the factors that influence managers’ tax avoidance decisions is an important research question that has broad public policy implications, relatively little is known about why some firms appear to be more tax aggressive than others.

In our paper, Corporate Governance, Incentives, and Tax Avoidance, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we examine whether variation in firms’ corporate governance mechanisms explains differences in their level of tax avoidance. We view tax avoidance as one of many investment opportunities that is available to managers. Similar to other investment decisions, managers have personal incentives to engage in a certain amount of tax avoidance that may not be in the best interest of shareholders, thereby giving rise to an agency problem. From the perspective of the firm’s shareholders, unresolved agency problems with respect to tax avoidance can manifest as either “too little” or “too much” tax avoidance. As with other agency problems, certain corporate governance mechanisms can mitigate agency problems with respect to tax avoidance.

…continue reading: Corporate Governance, Incentives, and Tax Avoidance

Manager-Shareholder Alignment, Shareholder Dividend Tax Policy, and Corporate Tax Avoidance

Posted by R. Christopher Small, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Monday May 27, 2013 at 9:57 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Dan Amiram of the Accounting Division at Columbia University, Andrew Bauer of the Department of Accountancy at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Mary Margaret Frank of the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia.

In our paper, Manager-Shareholder Alignment, Shareholder Dividend Tax Policy, and Corporate Tax Avoidance, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we move away from equity compensation as a measure of manager-shareholder alignment and exploit a unique setting exogenous to the firm to assess the effect of manager-shareholder alignment on corporate tax avoidance. Our setting capitalizes on variation in the value to shareholders from corporate tax avoidance, which is driven by a country’s shareholder dividend tax policy. Firms in the United States, such as the ones examined in the prior literature, are subject to a classical tax system. Corporate earnings are taxed at the firm level and then again at the shareholder level when they are distributed as a dividend (i.e., double taxation). Therefore, corporate tax avoidance increases after-tax cash flows creating either more private benefits for managers or higher after-tax cash flows to shareholders. Other countries around the world employ an imputation tax system. In contrast to a classical system, an imputation system imposes taxes on corporate earnings at the firm level, but these corporate taxes paid are credited against the shareholders’ taxes when earnings are distributed as dividends. This credit causes the total tax paid on earnings to be equal to the shareholders’ tax (i.e., single taxation), so corporate tax avoidance increases after-tax cash flows available for managers’ private benefits but does not increase the after-tax cash flows to shareholders. Because corporate tax avoidance is costly, it actually reduces the after-tax cash flows to shareholders under an imputation system and makes them worse off.

…continue reading: Manager-Shareholder Alignment, Shareholder Dividend Tax Policy, and Corporate Tax Avoidance

Taxing Bigness

Posted by June Rhee, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Wednesday February 6, 2013 at 9:50 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Steven A. Bank, Vice Dean and Professor of Law at UCLA School of Law.

The graduated corporate rate structure was publicly promoted as a tax on “bigness” when President Franklin D. Roosevelt first introduced it in 1935. In proposing the graduated rates, Roosevelt explained “[t]he advantages and the protections conferred upon corporations by Government increase in value as the size of the corporation increases . . . it seems only equitable, therefore, to adjust our tax system in accordance with economic capacity, advantage and fact. The smaller corporations should not carry burdens beyond their powers; the vast concentrations of capital should be ready to carry burdens commensurate with their powers and their advantages.” Given the relatively modest graduation in the original rates, however, this move is often portrayed as largely a political ploy rather than a serious tax measure. Paul Conkin noted that the 1935 tax bill in which the graduated rates were imposed “neither soaked the rich, penalized bigness, nor significantly helped balance the budget.” Even at the time its opponents called it a “legislative absurdity” enacted on the “whim” of the President. The conventional wisdom is that the graduated corporate income tax structure was designed to appeal to populist voters as part of the “rhetoric and psychological warfare” of New Deal-era politics, but was not designed to actually change the economics of operating businesses through large corporations. At best, it has been characterized as “an aid to small business.”

…continue reading: Taxing Bigness

Recent Developments in Executive Compensation Litigation

Posted by Richard J. Sandler, Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, on Tuesday February 5, 2013 at 10:01 am
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Editor’s Note: Richard J. Sandler is a partner at Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP and co-head of the firm’s global corporate governance group. This post is based on a Davis Polk client memorandum; the full publication, including footnotes, is available here.

I. Introduction

In the current environment and in the wake of Dodd-Frank (and, before that, TARP) mandated rules requiring shareholder advisory votes on executive compensation, shareholder-plaintiffs have more aggressively challenged executive compensation decisions. In recent months, an active plaintiffs’ bar has filed a series of cases, which generally fall into three broad categories:

  • “say-on-pay” litigation;
  • litigation relating to annual proxy disclosure, particularly with respect to equity compensation plans and say-on-pay proposals; and
  • litigation relating to Section 162(m) of the Internal Revenue Code.

While most of these challenges have failed on substantive or procedural grounds or both, some have been more successful, and the plaintiffs’ strategies continue to evolve. Notably, even unsuccessful claims can result in costly disruptions and/or reputational harm, especially where injunctions against annual shareholder meetings are threatened.

In this memorandum, we:

…continue reading: Recent Developments in Executive Compensation Litigation

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