A ticking time bomb for stock investors employing a dividend strategy is an expected tripling of the dividend tax at the start of 2013 unless the president and Congress reverse course, which is considered highly unlikely in an election year.
At a time when short-term bonds are yielding a quarter of a percent, and frustrated savers have precious few high-yielding alternatives (excluding chancy Greek 1-year bonds that yield 1,000% but carry a high risk of default in a matter of days), many investors have chosen to earn income through dividends on stocks.
But two scholars at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, are warning in an opinion article in Wednesday’s Real Clear Markets that Washington is about to tax, and thereby make more scarce, the fuel that drives investment in the economy.
Alex Brill, who served as a tax policy advisor on President Barack Obama’s Fiscal Commission and Alan Viard, formerly a senior economist at the Dallas Fed, write that “higher dividend taxation will impede the investment that fuels long-run growth, depress stock prices, and weaken incentives for good corporate governance.”
The two AEI scholars note that the expiration of the 2003 tax cut at the end of this year will drive the top rate from 15% to 39.6%. But combined with the start of a new 3.8% tax on wealthy Americans to fund the administration’s health care law and other provisions phasing out deductions for high-income taxpayers, “the top all-in dividend tax rate will be 44.6%.”
While the tax rates on ordinary income and capital gains will see increases of nearly 25% and 60%, respectively, the dividend tax hike will rise by just under 300%, and this tax change will have the effect of penalizing investment, particularly stock-financed investment, the authors say.