This paper aims to explore the potential use of a dividend capture strategy by individual investors. This strategy arises from the 2003 tax law changes which lowered tax rates on dividends received, while leaving the short‐term tax rates on capital losses unchanged. In addition, leverage can be used in combination with an aggressive call‐writing strategy to receive a multiple of the tax‐advantaged dividend yield without a corresponding increase in risk.
In addition to illustrating how the dividend capture strategy works, a new method of comparing returns between strategies is developed. This method does not rely on a particular risk‐return model, such as is used by the Sharpe ratio or Jensen's alpha methodologies. Finally, a formula is derived which computes the borrowing (margin loan) rate that makes the aggressive call‐writing strategy profitable.
The 2003 changes in US tax laws provide individuals with an opportunity to apply dividend capture techniques similar to those which have been available to corporations for many years. However, corporations use dividend capture techniques to lower risk, while individuals require risk exposure to keep the possibility for capital gains. Thus, a method is developed for capturing an enhanced tax refund on the drop in stock price caused by the stock going ex‐dividend without giving up the potential for capital gain. A byproduct of this method is a straightforward means to measure risk‐adjusted returns for the covered call strategy. The aggressive call‐writing strategy described in this paper is found to offer enhanced returns without an increase in risk for those in the top individual tax brackets.
The specific level of additional risk‐adjusted returns available depends on the tax rates and interest (margin loan) rates facing the investor.
Following the 2003 tax law changes, individuals can receive returns on stocks higher than implied by the statutory tax rate on dividends by employing a dividend capture strategy which involves writing call options on dividend‐paying stocks. This paper also demonstrates that the risk exposure necessary to obtain full capital gains potential can be maintained with an aggressive strategy. This strategy inherently provides a method to judge the extent of improvement without having to rely on questionable assumptions of any specific asset‐pricing model.
The paper provides an alternative to conventional covered call‐writing strategies which reduce exposure to capital gains. Individual investors and their advisors will find a method to maintain exposure to market risk and therefore the full potential for capital gains, while receiving preferential tax treatment on dividends received. Researchers will find a method to directly compute risk‐adjusted return for covered call‐writing strategies without having to rely on assumptions made in the asset‐pricing models underlying the Sharpe ratio and Jensen's alpha.
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