The term bonus issue also called as stock dividend means an extra dividend paid to shareholders in a company from additional profits. When large fund gets accumulated out of profits of a company much beyond its expectations and needs, the company’s directors may decide to share out a part of it among the existent shareholders of company in the form of bonus. Bonus can be paid in two forms either in cash or in form of shares. The company pays cash bonus when it gains large amount of profits as well as cash to pay dividend. But many a times, it happens that a company is not in a position to pay bonus in cash though it has enough amounts of profits because of poor cash position or because of its unfavorable effects on the working capital of the company. In such a situation, the company pays a bonus to its shareholders in the form of shares; a free share thus issued is known as a bonus share.
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A bonus share is a free share of stock given to current/existing shareholders in a company, based upon the number of shares that the shareholder already owns at the time of announcement of the bonus. The important point here is, that the issue of bonus shares only increases the total number of shares issued and owned, but it does affect the value of the company at all.
Certain classes of shares only are allowed to bonus issues and it depends on the constitutional documents of respected company.
Bonus share is free share in fixed ratio to the shareholders. For example ABC ltd. issues bonus share in 1:1 ratio where the dividend is 20% and Rs.10.00 as face value dividend/share this means that the company will be giving Rs. 2 of dividend per share and with bonus share it goes double i.e. Rs. 4 as one free share is given to shareholder based upon the number of shares he/she already has.
Sometimes a company may change the number of shares in issue by capitalizing its reserve. In other words, it can convert the right of the shareholders because each individual will hold the same proportion of the outstanding shares as before. Main reason for issuance is the price of the existing share has become unwieldy.
Advantages of issue of bonus shares:
To the company:
Conservation of Cash:
In issuing bonus shares, cash outflow is not at all involved. The company can retain earnings as well as satisfy the desire of the shareholders to receive dividend.
Keeps the EPS at a reasonable level:
Company may face problems having high earning per share both from employees and consumers. Employees may feel that they are underpaid. While consumers may feel that they are being charged too high for the company’s products.
Issue of bonus shares increases the number of shares and reduces the earning per share.
Increases the marketability of company’s shares:
Issue of bonus shares reduces the market price per share.
Enhances prestige of the company:
By issuing bonus shares, the company increases its credit standing and its borrowing capacity. It reflects financial strength of the company.
It helps in financing its projects:
By issuing bonus shares, the expansion and other projects of a company can be easily financed. The company need not depend on outside agencies for finances.
To the Shareholders:
When a shareholder receives dividend in cash, it adds to his total income and is taxed at usual income tax rates.
Indication of higher future profits:
Issue of bonus shares is generally an indication of higher future profits.
Increase in future dividend:
The shareholder will get more dividends in the future even if the company continues to offer existing cash dividend per share.
High psychological value:
Issue of bonus shares is usually perceived positively by the market.
Limitations of Bonus Issues:
For the company:
After the issue of the bonus shares the shareholders’ expectation of increment in the existing rate of dividend per share continues. It becomes really a challenging task for the company to retain the existing rate of dividend per share.
Issue of bonus shares prevents new investors from becoming the shareholders of the company.
Some shareholders may prefer cash dividend to stock dividend, such shareholders may feel disappointed (no doubt they can very well sell their bonus shares and get their money).
Dividend Tax Policy in India:
Before 1997 in India, dividends were taxed in hands of the shareholders. They used to disclose the dividend income under the head ‘Income from Other Sources’ and then used to pay tax on dividend at a rate that depended on their individual tax bracket.
After 1997, Government of India introduced the dividend distribution tax, according to which, when company announces dividends, it also pays the dividend distribution tax directly to the Government of India. Therefore, shareholders do not have to pay any tax they receive.
The Finance Act, 1997 introduced the dividend distribution tax for the first time in India and under this system, companies used to pay dividend distribution tax directly at the rate of 10%. Here, this act benefited to those shareholders who fell in the higher than 10% tax bracket.
The 2002-03 Budget reverted back to the earlier system for one year where dividends were again taxed in hands of shareholders. However, the 2003-04 Budget reintroduced the dividend distribution tax rate in India but at a higher rate of 12.5% plus surcharges. And currently the effective dividend distribution tax rate in India is 16.609%.
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