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16.4 The Issuance of Cash and Stock Dividends

Learning Objectives

At the end of this section students should be able to meet the following objectives:

  1. Identify the various dates associated with a dividend distribution.
  2. Prepare journal entries to report a cash dividend declaration and payment to stockholders.
  3. Define the characteristics of a cumulative dividend.
  4. Explain a company’s rationale for issuing a stock dividend or stock split.
  5. Record the issuance of a stock dividend

Reporting Dividend Distributions

Question: As stated in an early section of this textbook, a vast majority of investors purchase capital stock for only two reasons: price appreciation and dividend payments. Cash dividends and long-term capital gains (gains on the sale of certain investments that have been held for over one year) are especially appealing to individual investors because they are taxed at a lower rate than most other types of income.

Dividends represent the profits of a business that are being passed along to the owners. Because the corporation is effectively giving away assets, dividends require formal approval by the board of directors. This action is known as a dividend declaration. The board considers current cash balances as well as the projected needs of the business before deciding on the amount, if any, of a dividend payment. How does a corporation report the declaration and distribution of a cash dividend?

 

Answer: Dividends provide a meaningful signal to investors about the financial health of a business. Some corporations even boast about having paid a constant or rising annual dividend for many years. Unfortunately, a number of businesses have been forced recently to reduce or even eliminate their dividend distributions as a result of general economic difficulties. Such decisions typically lead to a drop in the market price of a corporation’s stock because of the negative implications.

Other businesses stress rapid growth and rarely, if ever, pay a cash dividend. The board of directors prefers that all profits remain in the business to stimulate future growth. For example, Google Inc. reported net income of $4.2 billion (2008), $6.5 billion (2009), and $8.5 billion (2010) but paid no dividends in any of those years.

Chronologically, accounting for dividends involves several dates with approximately two to five weeks passing between each:

  • The date of declarationDate on which dividend payments are formally declared (approved) by the board of directors; it is the day on which a liability is recorded by the corporation.
  • The date of recordDate on which stock must be held for a shareholder to be entitled to the receipt of a dividend; the date of record is specified by the board of directors when the dividend is declared. (and the related ex-dividend date)
  • The date of paymentDate on which a cash dividend is distributed to those shareholders who held a corporation’s stock on the date of record; it is also known as the date of distribution. (also known as the date of distribution)

To illustrate, assume that the Hurley Corporation has one million shares of authorized common stock. Since incorporation several years ago, three hundred thousand shares have been issued to the public but twenty thousand were recently bought back as treasury stock. Thus, 280,000 shares are presently outstanding, in the hands of investors. In the current year, Hurley earned a reported net income of $780,000. After some deliberations, the board of directors votes to distribute a $1.00 cash dividend to the owner of each share of common stock.

The day on which Hurley’s board of directors formally decides on the payment of this dividend is known as the date of declaration. Legally, this action creates a liability for the company that must be recognized through the journal entry shown in Figure 16.9 "$1.00 per Share Dividend Declared by Board of Directors, 280,000 Shares Outstanding". Dividends are only paid on shares that are outstanding so the liability balance is $280,000.

Figure 16.9 $1.00 per Share Dividend Declared by Board of Directors, 280,000 Shares Outstanding

As discussed previously, dividend distributions reduce the amount reported as retained earnings but have no impact on net income.

When the dividend is declared by the board, the date of record is also set. Only the shareholders who own the stock on that day qualify for receipt. The ex-dividend date is the first day on which an investor is not entitled to the dividend. Because receipt of the dividend has been lost, the market price of the stock typically drops by approximately the amount of the dividend on the ex-dividend date (although myriad other market factors influence the movement of stock prices).

No journal entry is recorded by a corporation on either the date of record or the ex-dividend date because they do not represent an event or transaction. Those dates simply allow Hurley to identify the owners to whom the dividend will be paid.

On the date of payment, the corporation mails checks to the appropriate recipients. That is a simple event to record as shown in Figure 16.10 "Payment of $1.00 per Share Cash Dividend".

Figure 16.10 Payment of $1.00 per Share Cash Dividend

Cumulative Preferred Stock

Question: Assume that Wington Company issues 1,000 shares of $100 par value preferred stock to an investor on January 1, Year One. The preferred stock certificate specifies an annual dividend rate of 8 percent. Thus, dividend payment to the owner is supposed to be $8 per share each year ($100 × 8 percent).

At the end of Year One, Wington faces a cash shortage and the board of directors chooses not to pay this dividend. Have the owners of the preferred shares lost the right to the Year One dividend? Must a corporation report a liability if a preferred stock dividend is not paid at the appointed time?

 

Answer: Preferred stock dividends are often identified on the stock certificate as cumulativeFeature attached to most types of preferred stock so that any dividend payments that are omitted must still be paid before the holders of common stock receive any dividends.. This term indicates that any obligation for unpaid dividends on these shares must be met before dividends can be distributed to the owners of common stock. Cumulative dividends are referred to as “in arrears” when past due.

Thus, if the dividend on the preferred shares of Wington is cumulative, the $8 per share is in arrears at the end of Year One. In the future, this (and any other) missed dividend will have to be paid before any distribution to the owners of common stock can be considered. Conversely, if a preferred stock is noncumulative, a missed dividend is simply lost to those owners. It has no impact on the future allocation of dividends between preferred and common shares.

The existence of a cumulative preferred stock dividend in arrears is information that must be disclosed through a note to the financial statements. However, the balance is not reported as a liability. Only dividends that have been formally declared by the board of directors are recorded through a journal entry.

Test Yourself

Question:

The Hansbrough Company has 20,000 shares outstanding of $100 par value preferred stock with a 6 percent annual dividend rate. This company also has five million shares of $1 par value common stock outstanding. No dividends at all were paid in either Year One or Year Two. Near the end of Year Three, a cash dividend of $400,000 is scheduled to be distributed. If the preferred stock dividend is cumulative, how is this dividend allocated?

  1. Preferred—$ 60,000, Common—$340,000
  2. Preferred—$120,000, Common—$180,000
  3. Preferred—$240,000, Common—$160,000
  4. Preferred—$360,000, Common—$ 40,000

Answer:

The correct answer is choice d: Preferred—$360,000, Common—$ 40,000.

Explanation:

Owners of the preferred stock are entitled to $6 per year ($100 par value × 6 percent) or $120,000 ($6 × 20,000 shares outstanding). Because the preferred stock dividend is cumulative, dividends for Years One and Two are settled first. After those distributions, another $120,000 is paid for Year Three. A total of $360,000 is conveyed to the preferred stockholders. The remaining $40,000 dividend ($400,000 less $360,000) goes to the residual ownership, the holders of the common stock.

Test Yourself

Question:

The Singler Company has 20,000 shares outstanding of $100 par value preferred stock with a 6 percent annual dividend rate. The company also has five million shares of $1 par value common stock outstanding. No dividends at all were paid in either Year One or Year Two. Near the end of Year Three, a cash dividend of $400,000 is scheduled to be distributed. If the preferred stock dividend is noncumulative, how is this dividend distributed?

  1. Preferred—$60,000, Common—$340,000
  2. Preferred—$120,000, Common—$280,000
  3. Preferred—$240,000, Common—$160,000
  4. Preferred—$360,000, Common—$ 40,000

Answer:

The correct answer is choice b: Preferred—$120,000, Common—$280,000.

Explanation:

The preferred stock dividend is noncumulative. Thus, the amounts that were missed during Years One and Two do not carry over into the future. Owners of the preferred stock are only entitled to receive a dividend distribution for the current period ($120,000 or $100 par value × 6 percent × 20,000 shares). The owners of the common stock receive the remainder of the dividend ($280,000 or $400,000 less $120,000).

Distribution of Stock Dividends

Question: A corporate press release issued by Ross Stores Inc. on November 17, 2011, informed the public that “its Board of Directors has approved a two-for-one stock splitA division of each share of outstanding stock to increase the number of those shares; it is a method of reducing the market price of the stock; the process is carried out in hopes that a lower price will generate more market activity in the stock and, therefore, a faster rise in price. to be paid in the form of a 100% stock dividendA dividend distributed to shareholders by issuing additional shares of stock rather than cash; it increases the number of shares outstanding but each owners interest in the company stays the same; as with a stock split, it reduces the price of the stock in hopes of stimulating market interest. on December 15, 2011 to stockholders of record as of November 29, 2011.”

Obviously, as shown by this press release, a corporation can distribute additional shares of its stock to shareholders instead of paying only cash dividends. These shares are issued as a stock dividend or a stock split. Although slightly different in a legal sense, most companies (such as Ross Stores) use the terms “stock dividend” and “stock split” interchangeably.As can be seen in this press release, the terms “stock dividend” and “stock split” have come to be virtually interchangeable to the public. However, minor legal differences do exist that actually impact reporting. Par value is changed to create a stock split but not for a stock dividend. Interestingly, stock splits have no reportable impact on financial statements but stock dividends do. Therefore, only stock dividends will be described in this textbook. No assets are distributed in either scenario—just more shares of the company’s own stock. Are stockholders better off when they receive additional shares of a company’s stock in the form of a stock dividend?

 

Answer: When a stock dividend (or stock split) is issued, the number of shares held by every investor increases but their percentage of the ownership stays the same. Their interest in the corporation remains proportionally unchanged. They have gained nothing.

To illustrate, assume that the Red Company reports net assets of $5 million. Janis Samples owns one thousand of the ten thousand shares of this company’s outstanding common stock. Thus, she holds a 10 percent interest (1,000 shares/10,000 shares) in a business with net assets of $5 million.

The board of directors then declares and distributes a 4 percent stock dividend. For each one hundred shares that a stockholder possesses, Red Company issues an additional 4 shares (4 percent times one hundred). Therefore, four hundred new shares of Red’s common stock are conveyed to the ownership as a whole (4 percent times ten thousand). This distribution raises the number of outstanding shares to 10,400. However, a stock dividend has no actual impact on the corporation. There are simply more shares outstanding. Nothing else has changed.

Janis Samples receives forty of these newly issued shares (4 percent times one thousand) so that her holdings have grown to 1,040 shares. After this stock dividend, she still owns 10 percent of the outstanding stock of Red Company (1,040/10,400), and the company still reports net assets of $5 million. The investor’s financial position has not improved. She has gained nothing as a result of the stock dividend.

Not surprisingly, investors make no journal entry in accounting for the receipt of a stock dividend. No change has taken place except for the number of shares held.

However, the corporation does make a journal entry to record the issuance of a stock dividend although distribution creates no impact on either assets or liabilities. The retained earnings balance is decreased by the fair value of the shares issued while contributed capital (common stock and capital in excess of par value) is also increased by this same amount. Fair value is used here because the company could have issued those new shares for that amount of cash and then paid the money out as a dividend. Issuing a stock dividend creates the same overall impact.

One exception to this method of reporting is applied. According to U.S. GAAP, if a stock dividend is especially large (in excess of 20–25 percent of the outstanding shares), the change in retained earnings and contributed capital is recorded at par value rather than fair value.A stock dividend of between 20 and 25 percent can be recorded at either fair value or par value. When the number of shares issued becomes this large, fair value is no longer viewed as a reliable indicator of the financial effect of the distribution.

Test Yourself

Question:

The Hazelton Corporation has 600,000 shares outstanding of $2 per share par value common stock that was issued for $5 per share but currently trades on a stock market for $9 per share. The board of directors opts to issue a 3 percent stock dividend. What will be the reported reduction in retained earnings as a result of this action?

  1. Zero
  2. $36,000
  3. $126,000
  4. $162,000

Answer:

The correct answer is choice d: $162,000.

Explanation:

As a small stock dividend (under 20–25 percent of the outstanding shares), retained earnings is decreased by the fair value of the shares issued while contributed capital goes up by the same amount. Hazelton issues 18,000 new shares (3 percent of 600,000) with a fair value of $9 each or $162,000 in total (18,000 × $9). The par value is only $36,000 (18,000 × $2) with the difference recorded as capital in excess of par value. The journal entry to record this stock dividend is as follows.

Figure 16.11

Test Yourself

Question:

The Pitino Corporation has 600,000 shares outstanding of $2 per share par value common stock that was issued for $5 per share but currently trades for $9 per share. The board of directors opts to issue a 60 percent stock dividend. What will be the reported reduction in retained earnings?

  1. $360,000
  2. $720,000
  3. $2,520,000
  4. $3,240,000

Answer:

The correct answer is choice b: $720,000.

Explanation:

As a large stock dividend (over 20–25 percent of the outstanding shares), retained earnings is decreased by the par value of the shares issued while contributed capital goes up by the same amount. Pitino issues 360,000 new shares (60 percent of 600,000) with a par value of $2 each or $720,000 in total (360,000 × $2). The journal entry to record this stock dividend is as follows.

Figure 16.12

Why Issue a Stock Dividend?

Question: If no changes occur in the makeup of a corporation as the result of a stock dividend, why does a board of directors choose to issue one?

 

Answer: The primary purpose served by a stock dividend (or a stock split) is a reduction in the market price of the corporation’s capital stock. When the price of a share rises to a relatively high level, fewer investors are willing to make purchases. At some point, market interest wanes. This reduction in demand will likely have a negative impact on the stock price. A growing business might find that a previously escalating trend in its market value has hit a plateau when the price of each share rises too high.

By issuing a large quantity of new shares (sometimes two to five times as many shares as were outstanding), the price falls, often precipitously. For example, an investor who held one hundred shares at a market price of $120 per share (total value of $12,000) might now own two hundred shares selling at $60 per share or three hundred shares selling at $40 per share (but with the same total market value of $12,000). The stockholder’s investment remains unchanged but, hopefully, the stock is now more attractive to potential investors at the lower price so that the level of active trading increases.

Stock dividends also provide owners with the possibility of other benefits. For example, cash dividend payments usually drop after a stock dividend but not always in proportion to the change in the number of outstanding shares. An owner might hold one hundred shares of common stock in a corporation that has paid $1 per share as an annual cash dividend over the past few years (a total of $100 per year). After a 2-for-1 stock dividend, this individual now owns two hundred shares. The board of directors might then choose to reduce the annual cash dividend to only $0.60 per share so that future payments go up to $120 per year (two hundred shares × $0.60 each). Such a benefit, though, is not guaranteed. The investors can merely hope that additional cash dividends will be received.

Key Takeaway

Many corporations distribute cash dividends after a formal declaration is passed by the board of directors. Journal entries are required on both the date of declaration and the date of payment. The date of record and the ex-dividend date are important in identifying the owners entitled to receive the dividend but no transaction occurs. Hence, no recording is made on either of those dates. Preferred stock dividends are often cumulative so that any dividends in arrears must be paid before a common stock distribution can be made. Dividends in arrears are not recorded as liabilities until declared although note disclosure is needed. Stock dividends and stock splits are issued to reduce the market price of capital stock and keep potential investors interested in the possibility of acquiring ownership. A stock dividend is recorded as a reduction in retained earnings and an increase in contributed capital. However, stock dividends have no direct impact on the financial condition of either the company or its stockholders.