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Section 529 college savings plans are tax-favored investment vehicles, which saw tremendous growth after the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001…
Section 529 college savings plans are tax-favored investment vehicles, which saw tremendous growth after the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 expanded 529 plan benefits to include tax-free distributions for qualified higher education expenses. However, regulators, the press, and fund advisors criticized the Section 529 college savings plan industry for inadequate and nonuniform disclosures of investor information, such as historical returns, fees, taxes, and underlying investments. We investigate consumers’ investment choices after a disclosure regime change in 2003 and find that after enhanced disclosures became widely available, investors selected fewer plans offered exclusively through brokers, increasingly chose portfolios based on past investment performance, but remained unresponsive to state tax benefit disclosures. We also analyze the plans’ performance and find evidence that 529 investors are constrained to invest in portfolios with high, return-eroding fees. Nearly 20 percent of the portfolios have a statistically significant negative alpha, the measure of risk-adjusted excess return, while less than 1 percent have a statistically significant positive alpha.
We investigate the interaction of debt covenants and tax accounting on the adoption of Financial Interpretation No. 48 (FIN 48). We examine how firms respond to the…
We investigate the interaction of debt covenants and tax accounting on the adoption of Financial Interpretation No. 48 (FIN 48). We examine how firms respond to the potential tightening of covenant slack upon FIN 48 adoption and whether these actions are penalized by creditors and anticipated by equity markets. We find that upon FIN 48 adoption, the majority of sample corporate borrowers increase their tax reserves and reduce equity. Firms close to debt covenant violation were even more likely to increase tax reserves upon FIN 48 adoption; however, the size of the adjustment was relatively smaller, suggesting that the FIN 48 standards limited, but did not eliminate, firms use of discretion in reporting uncertain tax positions to avoid costly covenant violations. For firms near net worth debt covenant violation, the act of decreasing equity upon FIN 48 adoption imposes real economic costs, as the average cost of debt increased by 43 basis points. Finally, we extend prior research on the market response to FIN 48 by showing how the market response to FIN 48 adoption is a function of debt covenant slack and tax aggressiveness. Specifically, the cumulative abnormal return at the FIN 48 exposure draft release date is negative only for tax aggressive firms that are close to debt covenant violation.