Tax Day in the United States refers to the day by which individuals must submit income tax returns to the federal government.
In the past Tax Day has moved around a bit, but since 1955 it has been fixed at 15 April. Although there are exceptions due to the close proximity of the Emancipation Day holiday in Washington State D.C. Such that since 2007 when 15 April falls on a Friday then Tax Day is moved to the following Monday, and when 15 April falls on a weekend Tax Day is moved to the following Tuesday.
This year, 2017, 15 April is a Saturday and so Tax Day will be Tuesday, 18 April.
It is probably not too controversial a claim that most people dislike filling in forms and paying taxes. Could this dislike affect individual investors attitude to risk around the time of Tax Day and. if so. could that in aggregate be sufficient to influence equity returns around this period?
The following chart plots the proportion of weeks that saw positive returns in the S&P 500 Index for the two weeks before Tax Day and for the one week following Tax Day for all years since 1955. For example, the S&P 500 had positive returns in the week two weeks before Tax Day in 69% of years since 1955.
As can be seen, over the three-week period there was a moderate decline in the proportion of positive weekly returns.
The following chart looks at the same period and weekly frequency, but plots the average weekly returns.
Here we can see relatively high returns two weeks before Tax Day, although this overlaps with the start of April which is usually a strong period for equities anyway. The week leading up to Tax Day is relatively weak, and then there’s something of a small relief(?) rally in the week following Tax Day.
Let’s now focus in on the days around Tax Day.
The following chart plots the proportion of days that saw positive returns in the five days around Tax Day. For example, since 1955 the S&P 500 Index has seen positive returns on Tax Day itself (TD(0D)) in 67% of years.
Historically we can see that returns have been depressed leading up to Tax Day, with the strongest returns in the 5-day period seen on Tax Day itself.
The following chart looks at the same period and daily frequency, but plots the average daily returns.
The same behaviour profile can be seen as in the previous chart. The weakest average daily returns in the period have been seen on the trading day two days before Tax Day. While the strongest average daily returns have been on Tax Day itself (with an average daily return ten times the average daily return for all days since 1955).
The results here are not strong, but there is some evidence that equities are relatively weak in the days immediately before Tax Day, but the market is strong on Tax Day itself.