On the Relevance of Debt Maturity Structure

  • Published: Apr 30, 2012
  • Pages: 1423-1437
  • DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-6261.1985.tb02392.x


In this paper, we present a tax‐induced framework to analyze debt maturity problems. We show that under some modifications of the existing U.S. tax code, debt maturity is irrelevant even in the presence of taxes and bankruptcy costs that yield an optimal capital structure. If this restrictive structure is relaxed, and assuming the Miller [15] equilibrium does not prevail, tax reasons would usually imply the existence of an optimal debt maturity structure. If there exists a gain from leverage, then an increasing term structure of interest rates, adjusted for default risk, results in long‐term debt being optimal. A decreasing term structure, under similar circumstances, renders short‐term debt optimal. In the absence of agency costs, a Miller [15]‐type result emerges at equilibrium and irrelevance prevails. We also argue that agency costs could again reverse the irrelevance and imply a firm‐specific optimal debt maturity structure.

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