Updated October 26, 2020:

What Are Non-cumulative Dividends?

Non-cumulative dividends refer to a stock that doesn't pay the investor any dividends that are omitted or unpaid. Dividends are payments made to shareholders and can be preferred or common. Preferred refers to stock that is paid before common stockholders, and it has a more predictable income.

A non-cumulative dividend is a type of preferred stock that does not owe any missed payments. Dividends are payments a company distributes to its shareholders. Preferred stock receives priority over common stock. This occurs regardless of the stock is cumulative or non-cumulative.

Preferred stock has a more predictable income. However, they don't receive as much of a guarantee like creditors do. Non-cumulative preferred stock loses its rights to any payment if it isn't claimed. This period is usually within the year.

When preferred stock shares are acquired, they come with a stated dividend rate. This rate is the stated dollar value amount or the percentage of the par value. If one year the company decides not to pay dividends, they won't pay it the next year. As a result, the investor loses his or her right to claim any unpaid dividends.

Why Are Non-cumulative Dividends Important?

Non-cumulative dividends do not have unpaid dividends carried over from previous years. If management doesn't declare dividends for a particular year, it isn't reported as "dividends in arrears." This means it won't need to be paid.

For example, let's say a company or corporation issued 200,000 shares of $10 non-cumulative preferred stock in January 2015. If they didn't pay any dividend during that year, the $10 dividend per share wouldn't be carried forward into the year 2016.

Reasons to Consider Using Non-cumulative Dividends

  • They Receive Priority Treatment. Those who have preferred stock are known as "preference shareholders." Preference shareholders have priority over common shareholders. When a company pays dividends to their shareholders, they will always pay preferred stockholders first. This makes the preferred stock a more attractive option.
  • Dividends Won't Be in Arrears. Because the dividends are "non-cumulative," they will not accumulate. In other words, the company doesn't need to catch up with those payments, whether they were omitted or not. No penalties are given to the company even if they suspend payments. This means the company has more flexibility and will be able to manage their cash flow.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What's the difference between Cumulative and Non-cumulative Dividends?

Dividends can either be cumulative or non-cumulative. Cumulative dividends refer to the process where shareholders are compensated for years past where they were not paid. This needs to happen before common shareholders would receive any payment. Unpaid dividends on cumulative preferred stock for the year is expressed as "dividend in arrears" in the form of a balance sheet note.

A balance sheet is a statement of financial position used in businesses. They can be used in Sole Proprietorships, Partnerships, and Corporations. It is a summary of financial balances. The balance sheet applies to a specific point in time during the calendar year. They have assets in one section while the liabilities and equity are held in another section. These two sections intend to "balance" by using the fundamental accounting equation: assets = liabilities + equity.

For example, let's say an investor owns some cumulative preferred shares. Company X doesn't pay the annual dividend in the amount of $1.25 to this investor. He or she is entitled to this dividend in the future when the company pays out dividends. The investor will be one of the first to receive his or her dividend once this happens, as the investor has preferred shares.

If the dividend was non-cumulative, the investor wouldn't receive the dividend he or she missed. This makes cumulative dividends more valuable than non-cumulative dividends.

Cumulative stocks are preferential over non-cumulative stocks. This preference is due to the increased investment security they provide for the investor. Cumulative is issued as preferred for a company to be able to price their dividends, lower than the current market rate for non-cumulative preferred.

Sometimes, an investor who wishes a low-risk investment will accept the lower priced dividends. Usually, investors will do this as long as they know they will receive payments and will be a priority if the company assets are ever liquidated.

  • How do Non-cumulative Dividends Work?

Non-cumulative dividends are issued with the understanding that if a dividend isn't paid, they won't be paid in the future. Missed payments are not up for request after the fact. The issuing company will not be responsible for them.

The issuing company can resume paying dividends at any time and do not need to backtrack payments in any way. In regards to non-cumulative dividends, "dividend in arrears" does not apply.

  • What is Preferred Stock?

Preferred stock is the middle ground between common stock and bonds. It is more valuable than common stock but less so than bonds. Preferred stock is like a hybrid of common stock and bonds. When dividends are paid, preferred stock has priority over common stock but must wait until banks and bondholders are paid in full.

Preferred stock can also be referred to as "preference share." Preferred stock comes with a fixed annual payment par value. This means no matter how much profit results from it, the person holding the stock will only be paid the fixed amount.

Like common stock, preferred stock can bring capital into the issuing company. However, like a bond, it pays a fixed amount.

  • What happens during a Dividend Suspension?

During hard financial times, a firm may find itself unable to pay preferred shareholders. The Board of Directors can decide to suspend dividend payments. This is a drastic decision and would not sit well with stakeholders.

Dividend suspension would mean no shareholders would receive any compensation. It would also mean there is a high chance the firm won't be able to keep up with new technologies or stay competitive.

If you need help with non-cumulative dividends, you can post your question or concern on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience. They have worked with or on behalf of companies such as Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.