Fair Not Flat: How to Make the Tax System Better and Simpler

Overview

Everyone knows that the current tax system is unfair. Some of the richest people in America pay no tax, while a huge share of the tax burden falls on the rest of us. A mere glance at the tax code confirms that it is far too complex, with volumes of rules that no ordinary person could possibly comprehend. What is to be done? Some conservatives have called for a so-called flat tax. But a flat tax is not necessarily a simple tax, and "flat" means "more" for most taxpayers: a rise in middle-class taxes to finance tax...

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Fair Not Flat: How to Make the Tax System Better and Simpler

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Overview

Everyone knows that the current tax system is unfair. Some of the richest people in America pay no tax, while a huge share of the tax burden falls on the rest of us. A mere glance at the tax code confirms that it is far too complex, with volumes of rules that no ordinary person could possibly comprehend. What is to be done? Some conservatives have called for a so-called flat tax. But a flat tax is not necessarily a simple tax, and "flat" means "more" for most taxpayers: a rise in middle-class taxes to finance tax cuts for the rich. Is there another choice?
In clear, easy-to-understand language, Edward J. McCaffery proposes a straightforward and fair alternative. A "fair not flat" tax that is consistent and progressive would tax spending, not income and savings. And if it were collected at its lower levels through a national sales tax, most people would not have to file a return. A supplemental tax on spending for the wealthiest individuals would make the national sales tax progressive. Under McCaffery's system, a family of four would pay no tax on their first $20,000 in spending, and 15 percent on the next $60,000. Only the few families who spend more than $80,000 a year would be subject to the supplemental tax. Necessities would be taxed less than ordinary and luxury items. No one would be taxed directly on savings. The estate and gift or so-called death tax would be abolished, for the simple reason that dead people don't spend. The "fair not flat" tax would fall on heirs when and as they spend their good fortune. Perhaps best of all, most Americans would not have to fill out tax returns.

Simpler, more efficient, fairer, and more reflective of America's current social values, McCaffery's "fair not flat" tax could help get us out of the tax mess that politicians and special interests have gotten us into, improving the whole country in the process. Read Fair Not Flat to find out how.

“In Fair Not Flat, Mr. McCaffery lays out the case for a consumption tax. He does so in a reader-friendly way, presenting his argument with very few footnotes, equations or technical terms. The consumption of the book, so to speak, is not at all taxing. And its argument is well worth pondering.”—Bruce Bartlett, Wall Street Journal

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Tax-law expert McCaffery is a professor of law at the University of Southern California (USC) and director of the USC-Caltech Center for the Study of Law and Politics. In this articulate follow-up to Taxing Women, he provides an accessible and effective analysis of the present federal income tax and estate- and gift-tax systems and proposes an innovative approach that would replace both with a consistent progressive consumption tax. The author asserts that this proposal could simplify the system, reduce the negative impact of politicians and special interest groups, and make taxation fairer in general. This simple book covers a wide array of topics, ranging from the history of the U.S. tax system to the problems associated with previous tax reform initiatives, including the Tax Reform Act of 1986 and present discussions regarding implementation of a flat tax. A glossary, a list of further readings, and examples drawn from recent popular works (e.g., Robert T. Kiyosaki's Rich Dad, Poor Dad) enhance the text. Provocative and persuasively argued, this book is recommended for both academic and public libraries. Norm Hutcherson, California State Univ., Bakersfield Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226555614
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 12/31/2006
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Edward J. McCaffery is the Maurice Jones Jr. Professor of Law at the University of Southern California and Visiting Professor of Law and Economics at the California Institute of Technology. He is the author of Taxing Women, also published by the University of Chicago Press.

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Table of Contents

List of Tables and Figures
Acknowledgments
Introduction: Time for a Change
1. Tax Basics
2. The Trouble with the Income Tax
3. The Case for a Spending Tax
4. Death to Death Taxes
5. Progressivity Can Live
6. The Fair Not Flat Tax
Conclusion: Toward Class Teamwork, Not Class Warfare
Questions and Comments about the Fair Not Flat Tax
Glossary of Key Terms
Further Reading
Index

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