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Securities Transaction Taxes: An Overview of Costs, Benefits and Unresolved Questions

G. William Schwert and Paul J. Seguin
Financial Analysts Journal
Vol. 49, No. 5 (Sep. - Oct., 1993), pp. 27-35
Published by: CFA Institute
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4479680
Page Count: 9
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Securities Transaction Taxes: An Overview of Costs, Benefits and Unresolved Questions
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Abstract

Many major developed countries, including Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom, have some form of tax on securities transactions. The Clinton administration recently considered imposing fees of from 14¢ on transactions in futures contracts. Past budgets have considered fees of from 6¢ to 15¢. Proponents of a securities transaction tax in the U.S. argue that it would tap into a significant source of revenues and would, in addition, act to reduce "excess" volatility in securities markets by discouraging speculative and "noise" trading. Some have argued that it would also increase investors' expected holding periods, hence encourage corporate managers to build for the long term. Opponents argue that any benefits from such a tax would be overwhelmed by its costs. They point out that a tax on transactions would increase the cost of capital, reduce market liquidity and bring down security values. Furthermore, as the tax would change the relative costs of holding and issuing different classes of securities, it might be expected to change capital structures and investment portfolios, too. At its worst, a securities transaction tax could drive trading in some securities to overseas markets not burdened by taxation. The economic and societal distortions resulting from taxation and avoidance would likely be large.

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