I really like Professor Damodaran’s blog on economics.
Today he discuss on the latest stock buy back trends and a shift away from giving dividends.
So, what has caused this movement away from dividends in the last two decades? It cannot be that dividends are taxed more heavily than capital gains: Note that dividends have been taxed at much higher rates than capital gains going back to the early decades of the last century. In fact, in 1979, the highest marginal tax rate on dividends was 70%, while it was only 28% on capital gains. The changes in the tax laws in the last three decades have reduced the tax disadvantage of dividends - in fact, they have both been taxed at 15% since 2003 - and cannot therefore be a rationale for the surge in buybacks. It also cannot be attributed to companies thinking that their stock prices were too low, since these buyback surge occurred during the bull markets of the 1990s and 2004-2007, not during down markets.