Taxes

Pending Tax Hikes Drive Financial Sell-Off

Who'd have guessed that people change their behavior in response to taxes?

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Business owners and investors are rapidly maneuvering to shield themselves from the prospect of higher taxes next year, a strategy that is sending ripples across Wall Street and broad areas of the economy.

Take Steve Wynn, the casino magnate, who has been a vocal critic of higher tax rates. He and his fellow shareholders in Wynn Resorts, the company announced, will collect a special dividend of $750 million on Tuesday, a payout timed to take advantage of current rates. Experts estimated that taking the payout this year instead of next could save Mr. Wynn, who owns a sizable stake in the company, more than $20 million.

For the wealthy like Mr. Wynn, the overriding goal is to record as much of their future income this year as they can. This includes moves as diverse as sales of businesses, one-time dividends and the sale of stocks that have been big winners.