Wal-Mart Changes Dividend Date As 'Fiscal Cliff' Approaches

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of Bentonville has changed when it will pay its near-40-cent fourth-quarter dividend, moving the date to Dec. 27 from Jan. 2. Why?

Bloomberg speculates:

Wal-Mart is changing the date that its fourth-quarter dividend will be paid, an action that the world's biggest retailer may be taking to avoid a higher tax rate on the dividend if there's no agreement on the fiscal cliff.

Simultaneous tax increases and government spending cuts, known collectively as the "fiscal cliff," are set to take effect Jan. 1 unless Congress and President Barack Obama reach a deal first.

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If Obama and Congress can't come to an agreement, and perhaps even if they can, dividends will be taxed like everyday income again. And the top marginal income tax rate will climb back to 39.6 percent from 35 percent, where it has stood since 2003.

Bloomberg says that when all is said and done, the tax hike triple what it is today. Hence, the earlier dividend.