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A Fine Mess: A Global Quest for a Simpler, Fairer, and More Efficient Tax System
     

A Fine Mess: A Global Quest for a Simpler, Fairer, and More Efficient Tax System

by T. R. Reid
 

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The U.S. tax code is a total write-off. Crammed with loopholes and special interest provisions, it works for no one except tax lawyers, accountants, and huge corporations. Not for the first time, we have reached a breaking point. That happened in 1922, and again in 1954, and again in 1986. In other words, every thirty-two years. Which means that the next complete

Overview

The U.S. tax code is a total write-off. Crammed with loopholes and special interest provisions, it works for no one except tax lawyers, accountants, and huge corporations. Not for the first time, we have reached a breaking point. That happened in 1922, and again in 1954, and again in 1986. In other words, every thirty-two years. Which means that the next complete overhaul is due in 2018. But what should be in this new tax code? Can we make the U.S. tax system simpler, fairer, and more efficient? Yes, yes, and yes. Can we cut tax rates and still bring in more revenue? Yes.
 
Other rich countries, from Estonia to New Zealand to the UK—advanced, high-tech, free-market democracies—have all devised tax regimes that are equitable, effective, and easy on the taxpayer.  But the United States has languished. So byzantine are the current statutes that, by our government’s own estimates, Americans spend six billion hours and $10 billion every year preparing and filing their taxes. In the Netherlands that task takes a mere fifteen minutes! Successful American companies like Apple, Caterpillar, and Google effectively pay no tax at all in some instances because of loopholes that allow them to move profits offshore. Indeed, the dysfunctional tax system has become a major cause of economic inequality.
 
In A Fine Mess, T. R. Reid crisscrosses the globe in search of the exact solutions to these urgent problems. With an uncanny knack for making a complex subject not just accessible but gripping, he investigates what makes good taxation (no, that’s not an oxymoron) and brings that knowledge home where it is needed most. Never talking down or reflexively siding with either wing of politics, T. R. Reid presses the case for sensible root-and-branch reforms with a companionable ebullience. This affects everyone. Doing our taxes will never be America's favorite pastime, but it can and should be so much easier and fairer.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
01/09/2017
Washington Post correspondent Reid (The Healing of America) examines taxation in countries around the world to find alternatives to the American system in this highly readable and informative book. In the U.S., Reid notes, paying taxes is more time-consuming and expensive than in many other countries. Insisting that we can make the tax system “simpler, fairer, and more efficient,” Reid examines a number of options: flat versus progressive tax rates; wealth tax; value-added taxes. Simple charts easily show differences between countries. He also reviews taxation programs that governments use to change behavior—taxes on soft drinks, carbon emissions, and financial activities. Reid declares that the current U.S. corporate income tax system simply “isn’t working” and that nearly “every economist and political figure in America agrees... our tax code has to be reformed.” He offers solid solutions and predicts the time for change has come. In fact, there have been big changes to the U.S. tax code every 32 years since the introduction of federal income tax in 1913. If that pattern repeats, Reid predicts, more sweeping changes will come in 2018. You heard it here first. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
“Highly readable and informative…offers solid solutions and predicts the time for change has come.”
Publishers Weekly 
Library Journal
11/01/2016
Veteran Washington Post correspondent and New York Times best-selling author Reid (The Healing of America) traveled the world to see how other democracies handle taxes and came back with ideas for a new, improved system. Not just timely but apparently a rollicking good read, which is something to say about taxes.
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2017-01-31
An exploration of the absurd complexity of the American tax system and an astute comparison to many examples of simpler, effective tax collection by other governments around the world.Throughout his well-reported, clearly written exposé of United States tax policy, Washington Post correspondent Reid (The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care, 2009, etc.) reveals the follies of the concept of American exceptionalism and the misguided pride of presidents, members of Congress, and Internal Revenue Service commissioners. Put simply, American legislators are unwilling to learn from successful tax policies of nations willing to share their wisdom. By traveling to other countries and interviewing policymakers there, Reid demonstrates how tax simplification has functioned smoothly while still providing adequate revenue to operate sound government. (One of the shining examples is New Zealand.) American taxpayers wrestling with the annual tax deadline in April might feel infuriated when learning that in many nations, calculating taxes takes no more than 30 minutes. Although most Americans likely blame the IRS for the complexity of income tax returns, Reid explains that for the most part, the agency is carrying out the orders of the Senate and the House of Representatives. Members of Congress hide behind a desire for tax simplification while creating new rules that usually benefit wealthy individuals and large corporations. Reid explores tax evasion as well as tax complexity, demonstrating how wealthy but unscrupulous individuals and business enterprises hide their earnings in offshore tax havens such as Panama and the Cayman Islands. Not every chapter in the book features Reid's admirable controlled outrage. In some chapters, the author calmly explores alternatives to an income tax, most notably a value-added tax on purchases, a system that has worked well in other nations. Though Reid's topic may be anathema to many readers, he makes it relentlessly revelatory and simple to understand.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780735223967
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
04/04/2017
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
500,576
File size:
1 MB

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

T. R. Reid is a longtime correspondent for The Washington Post and former chief of its Tokyo and London bureaus. He is a commentator for National Public Radio and has been a correspondent for several PBS documentaries. His bestselling books include The Healing of America, The United States of Europe, The Chip, and Confucius Lives Next Door.


From the Hardcover edition.