DEFINITION of 'Accumulated Earnings Tax'

A tax imposed by the federal government upon companies with retained earnings deemed to be unreasonable and in excess of what is considered ordinary.

BREAKING DOWN 'Accumulated Earnings Tax'

The federal government produced this tax to deter investors from negatively influencing a company's decision to pay dividends. Essentially, this tax persuades companies to issue dividends, rather than retaining the earnings.

The premise behind this tax is that companies that retain earnings typically experience higher stock price appreciation. Although this is beneficial to stockholders, as capital gains taxes are lower than dividend taxes, it is detrimental to the government because tax revenues decrease. By adding an extra tax upon a firm's retained earnings, the taxman will either collect more taxes from the company or persuade them to issue dividends, thereby allowing the government to collect from the stockholders.

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RELATED FAQS
  1. How do you calculate retained earnings per share?

    Research the amount of retained earnings per share compared over time to understand whether or not a company uses its profits ... Read Answer >>
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    Understand what a company's statement of retained earnings represents and how it is related to a company's other financial ... Read Answer >>
  3. Which transactions affect the retained earnings statement?

    Retained earnings are the portion of a company's income that management retains for internal operations instead of paying ... Read Answer >>
  4. What does total stockholders equity represent?

    Understand the equation for total stockholders' equity and what it represents. Learn the components of stockholders' equity ... Read Answer >>
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