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Liquidating Dividend


A liquidating dividend, in the financial world, refers to the return of capital to shareholders when a corporation is partially or completely liquidated. This type of dividend is not derived from the firm’s profits but from its capital base. It is often a sign that a company is shutting down or selling off its assets.


Liquidating Dividend in phonetics is: /ˈlɪkwɪdeɪtɪŋ ˈdɪvɪˌdɛnd/

Key Takeaways

  1. Liquidating Dividends are essentially return of capital: Liquidating dividends are unique because they are typically a return on capital rather than a return on profit. They are paid out when a company decides to shut down and distribute its assets to its shareholders. These dividends are treated as a return on capital, rather than as income, which can influence their tax treatment.
  2. Tax implications: Liquidating dividends can result in different tax implications compared to regular dividends. Regular dividends are typically taxed as income, while liquidating dividends are usually taxed as capital gains. This means that if a shareholder receives a liquidating dividend, usually the tax rate applied will be lower than if they received an income dividend.
  3. Company’s financial state: If a company is paying liquidating dividends, it often means that the company is at the end of its life, going out of business, or otherwise liquidating its assets. This is not always the case as it may also represent a restructuring. However, it’s crucial for an investor to understand the reasons behind the liquidating dividend to assess the company’s financial state.


A liquidating dividend is an important business/finance term as it signifies a return of capital to investors. It occurs when a company is either about to close down, significantly downsize its operations or restructure its financial model. Instead of retaining its earnings for reinvestment, the firm decides to distribute this capital back to shareholders. This is of particular interest to investors because it is usually larger than a typical dividend payment and is often a sign of a company’s financial trouble or a significant shift in its strategy. Moreover, for tax purposes, liquidating dividends are typically viewed as a return on capital, rather than income, and can therefore have different tax implications for shareholders. Thus, understanding what a liquidating dividend is, provides crucial insight for shareholders about the company’s financial health and future prospects.


Liquidating dividends serve a special purpose in the financial world, primarily during the dissolution of a business entity. A company pays liquidating dividends out of its capital base or the amount of money that investors initially invested in the firm, not from the profit earnings. This is usually a sign that a company is nearing the end of its life cycle or is going through a substantial restructuring or dissolution process. The primary purpose of liquidating dividends is to return the capital investors had initially put into the business. It is the firm’s way of returning a portion or the total investment of the shareholders when the decision has been made to shrink the business or completely wind down its operations. Consequently, for investors, the payment of a liquidating dividend often signals the conclusion of their investment in the business.


1. “Lehman Brothers”: Once a global financial services firm, Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy in 2008, which was the largest failure in U.S. history. As part of the bankruptcy and liquidation process, Lehman Brothers had to sell many of its assets to meet its debts. After the company’s available assets were sold, a liquidating dividend was eventually issued to the stakeholders.2. “Toys R Us”: The iconic toy retailer filed for bankruptcy in 2017 and eventually had to liquidate its assets. The profits from the liquidation sales were used to pay back the company’s debts and liabilities. The remaining amount, if any, was given as a liquidating dividend to their shareholders.3. “Blockbuster”: The dominant video rental company faced a decline with the advent of online streaming platforms. Eventually, Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy in 2010 and had to sell its assets. After paying off their creditors, the remaining amount was then dispersed among its shareholders as a liquidating dividend.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is a Liquidating Dividend?

A Liquidating Dividend is a type of payment made by a corporation to its shareholders during its partial or full liquidation. It is often a non-recurring distribution of company assets, made from the profits earned by the business during its operation, not from its earnings.

When is a Liquidating Dividend issued?

A Liquidating Dividend is issued when a corporation is going through the process of liquidation or winding up of its affairs. This typically occurs when the corporation is about to cease operations or when it is breaking up and dissolving.

How is a Liquidating Dividend different from regular dividends?

Regular dividends are disbursed from the company’s earnings or profit while a Liquidating Dividend is distributed from the capital base of the company. Essentially, regular dividends are recurrent and part of operating profits, whereas Liquidating Dividends are a return of capital.

Are Liquidating Dividends taxable?

Yes, Liquidating Dividends are generally taxable. However, they are taxed at a different rate than regular dividends, as they are considered a return of capital. The shareholder will usually be subject to capital gains tax on these kinds of dividends.

How is the amount of a Liquidating Dividend determined?

The amount of a Liquidating Dividend is determined by the board of directors of the company. It is typically based on the amount of equity that is left after the company’s debts have been paid off.

Can a company that is not in the process of liquidation issue a Liquidating Dividend?

No, a company must be in the process of liquidation or dissolution to issue a Liquidating Dividend. This type of dividend is specifically intended to distribute the remaining assets of the corporation to its shareholders upon liquidation.

Will receiving a Liquidating Dividend affect my stock ownership?

Yes, when a company pays a Liquidating Dividend, it reduces the company’s book value and by extension, the value of its stock. In essence, a part of the company’s value is returned to the shareholders and the shareholders’ equity in the company is decreased.

Related Finance Terms

  • Cash Dividend: This is a cash payout to shareholders, usually taken from the company’s earnings, and often considered a part of the normal business cycle.
  • Shareholder Equity: This refers to a company’s total net worth, which is calculated by subtracting total liabilities from total assets.
  • Corporate Liquidation: This is a process where a company ceases operations and sells off its assets. The proceeds from the sale are used to pay off creditors and investors.
  • Special Dividend: This is a non-recurring distribution of company assets, often in the form of cash, to shareholders. It’s often larger than normal dividends and happens when a company has excess capital.
  • Bankruptcy: This is a legal status of a person or other entity that cannot repay the debts it owes to creditors. In most jurisdictions, bankruptcy is imposed by a court order, often initiated by the debtor.

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