How Did the 2003 Dividend Tax Cut Affect Stock Prices?
We test the hypothesis that the 2003 dividend tax cut boosted U.S. stock prices and thus lowered the cost of equity. Using an event-study methodology, we attempt to identify an aggregate stock market effect by comparing the behavior of U.S. common stock prices to that of European stocks and real estate investment trusts. We also examine the relative cross-sectional response of prices on high-dividend versus low-dividend paying stocks. We do not find any imprint of the dividend tax cut news on the value of the aggregate U.S. stock market. On the other hand, high-dividend stocks outperformed low-dividend stocks by a few percentage points over the event windows, suggesting that the tax cut did induce asset reallocation within equity portfolios. Finally, the positive abnormal returns on non-dividend paying U.S. stocks in 2003 do not appear to be tied to tax-cut news.