Suppose I own 100 shares in XYZ corp purchased for 25c in year 2000.
If XYZ corp pays me 5c in dividends in year 2001, I will owe tax on the 5c dividends, hopefully as qualified dividends(?).
If on the other hand, they keep holding the cash, I will not owe any tax, and hopefully I am able to sell my share for 5c more since the company has that much extra cash tied up in its coffers. Which would make it a 5c capital gain, right?
Where things get confusing: what if they have a dividend reinvestment plan? To my naiive point of view, it seems like if all my dividends are reinvested, basically it should be the equivalent of the company having kept the cash, and I should simply be able to treat this as a capital gain when I sell all my shares (100 + X from reinvestment).
So one question - is that really a valid argument according to the U.S. tax code? I think the answer is no, since I've seen advice to the contrary.
But really, my main question is - wouldn't it be much simpler for everybody (taxpayers, IRS) if dividend reinvestment could be treated this way? Why on earth go to the trouble of calculating basis for every single dividend reinvestment (as I have seen advised to do)?