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Unpaid Dividend


An unpaid dividend refers to a dividend that a company owes to its shareholders but has not yet paid out. It could be due to various reasons such as insufficient funds, company policies, or administrative delays. Shareholders have a legal right to receive these dividends once declared by the company.


The phonetic pronunciation of “Unpaid Dividend” is “ʌn-peɪd daɪ-vɪ-dɛnd”.

Key Takeaways

  1. Definition: An unpaid dividend refers to a dividend that is due to be paid to shareholders of a company but has not yet been distributed. This may occur for various reasons such as administrative oversight, incorrect address, or the shareholders not claiming their due dividends.
  2. Effects on Company’s Financial Health: Unpaid dividends are listed as liabilities on a company’s balance sheet, which might negatively impact its financial health. Moreover, high levels of unpaid dividends may indicate issues with the company’s management effectiveness or shareholder relations.
  3. Claiming Unpaid Dividends: Shareholders have the right to claim their unpaid dividends. In various jurisdictions, there’s a stipulated period within which these dividends must be claimed. After this timeframe, unclaimed dividends may escheat to the state. Hence, shareholders should be proactive in keeping track of their due dividends.


The term “unpaid dividend” is significant in business and finance as it pertains to dividends that a company has declared but has not yet paid to its shareholders. This usually occurs when a company has insufficient funds to pay its promised dividends, indicating potential financial trouble. The status of unpaid dividends can serve as an essential gauge of a company’s fiscal health for investors, shareholders, and potential buyers. Furthermore, it may also influence the company’s stock prices and the investor’s decisions, as dividends are typically a source of income for investors. Hence, understanding unpaid dividends is vital in financial analysis and investment decision-making.


Unpaid dividends represent portions of a company’s profits which have been declared as dividends but have not yet been paid out to the shareholders. The purpose of the unpaid dividend is to delineate the portion of a corporation’s retained earnings that are allocated to pay stockholders but are still kept within the company’s possession. These dividends are set aside because businesses are obliged to pay them since shareholders view them as returns on their investment into the company.The use of unpaid dividends, especially as it relates to publicly-traded corporations, is of great importance. It serves as an indication of a company’s financial health and its ability to generate profits. For potential and existing investors, this is important information because it helps them decide whether to buy, sell, or hold onto the company’s stock. Regular and consistent payment of dividends indicates a financially healthy company. Unpaid dividends could suggest financial difficulties, which might be a red flag for investors. Furthermore, a pile-up of unpaid dividends could significantly impact a company’s cash flow, affecting its ability to invest, expand, or even cover operational expenses.


1. The case of Vodafone India: Vodafone India had around 4,700 shareholders who did not claim their dividends from the company in 2015. The collective unpaid dividends amounted to approximately INR 25 crore ($3.3 million). The reasons ranged from shareholders forgetting to claim their dividends, to them not being aware of the dividends. 2. The situation at BP PLC: In 2010, BP suspended its dividend payments following the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. After cleaning up the spill and taking care of the lawsuits and settlements, BP still had unpaid dividends. However, the company announced in 2011 that they would resume paying these dividends by holding a separate fund for the purpose.3. The case of Royal Dutch Shell: Shell’s shareholders in the Netherlands were unable to receive their dividends due to the withholding tax imposed by the Dutch government for 13 years (2005 to 2017). This created a large amount of unpaid dividends as Dutch investors had their dividends frozen until an agreement was reached to remove the tax in 2018, which resulted in those dividends being released.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is an unpaid dividend?

An unpaid dividend refers to a declared dividend that has not yet been paid out to the shareholders to whom it is owed.

Why would a dividend remain unpaid?

A dividend might remain unpaid if the shareholder cannot be traced, essentially, if the company cannot find or contact the shareholder to transfer their dividend.

What happens to the money from unpaid dividends?

If a dividend is not claimed, the company may put the money back into its profits or transfer it to a special unpaid dividend account. The policy varies depending on company regulations and local laws.

How long can an unpaid dividend stay unclaimed?

The duration for which an unpaid dividend can remain unclaimed varies according to different jurisdictions, but commonly, companies typically hold the unpaid dividends for a period of seven years.

How can shareholders claim unpaid dividends?

Shareholders can claim their unpaid dividends by contacting the company’s investor relations or the paying agent, usually a bank or trust company, that is responsible for distributing dividends.

Are unpaid dividends subject to tax?

Unpaid dividends are usually subject to tax at the moment they become available for payment to the shareholder, even if the shareholder does not actually receive the dividend.

Can a company cancel an unpaid dividend?

Depending on the jurisdiction and the specific rules of the corporation, some unpaid dividends may be cancelled after a specific duration of time if left unclaimed.

Do unpaid dividends accrue interest?

In most cases, unpaid dividends do not accrue interest over time. The amount the shareholder is entitled to claim remains the same as when the dividend was originally declared.

What information do I need to provide to claim an unpaid dividend?

To claim an unpaid dividend, you may need to prove your identity and share ownership with documentation like your share certificate, and provide your up-to-date contact and bank details.

Related Finance Terms

  • Dividend Declaration Date: The day a company’s board of directors announces the next dividend payment.
  • Cum Dividend: A term signifying when a buyer of a stock will receive a recently declared dividend.
  • Dividend Yield: A financial ratio that indicates how much a company pays out in dividends each year relative to its stock price.
  • Ex-Dividend Date: The cutoff day established by a company in order to decide which shareholders are eligible to receive a dividend or distribution.
  • Shareholder: An individual, company, or institution that owns at least one share in a company, and therefore has a financial interest in its profitability.

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