Why should REITs and MLPs have an Advantage?

Some companies need to reinvest a lot and some don’t. Thus the creation of tax-favored vehicles like REITs and MLPs. A high percentage of taxable income must be paid out, but it is not taxed at the corporate level.

With REITs and MLPs, they don’t need to reinvest much, so the structures work most of the time. But what if we changed corporate tax policy to mimic REITs and MLPs? Maybe end corporate income taxation, but require corporations to pay out what they don’t reinvest. They all become pass-through vehicles, but some with delay due to reinvestment. That would give growth companies a small advantage. Personal tax rates would likely have to rise, unless we are willing to cut federal spending.

Note that this would move tax policy for public companies closer to that of private equity. It’s not the same thing, but delaying taxation on reinvestment would promote growth. If we have to balance this out, a small rise in personal tax rates would do it, and more rise for the rich.

Personally, I would prefer a simpler system where everything gets taxed the same way, but this might not be a bad approximation of a good system. If the tax system is rigged to pass through income for free at the corporate level for some vehicles, then delaying taxation on reinvestment is not a horrible idea. After all, we do the same with IRAs of all sorts, where nothing is taxed until the assets are used for consumption.

About David Merkel 145 Articles

Affiliation: Finacorp Securities

David J. Merkel, CFA, FSA — From 2003-2007, I was a leading commentator at the excellent investment website RealMoney.com (http://www.RealMoney.com). Back in 2003, after several years of correspondence, James Cramer invited me to write for the site, and now I write for RealMoney on equity and bond portfolio management, macroeconomics, derivatives, quantitative strategies, insurance issues, corporate governance, etc. My specialty is looking at the interlinkages in the markets in order to understand individual markets better. I still contribute to RealMoney, but I have scaled it back because my work duties have gotten larger, and I began this blog to develop a distinct voice with a wider distribution. After one year of operation, I believe I have achieved that.

In 2008, I became the Chief Economist and Director of Research of Finacorp Securities. Until 2007, I was a senior investment analyst at Hovde Capital, responsible for analysis and valuation of investment opportunities for the FIP funds, particularly of companies in the insurance industry. I also managed the internal profit sharing and charitable endowment monies of the firm.

Prior to joining Hovde in 2003, I managed corporate bonds for Dwight Asset Management. In 1998, I joined the Mount Washington Investment Group as the Mortgage Bond and Asset Liability manager after working with Provident Mutual, AIG and Pacific Standard Life.

I hold bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Johns Hopkins University. In my spare time, I take care of our eight children with my wonderful wife Ruth.

Visit: The Aleph Blog

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