Perfectly Legal: The Secret Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich - and Cheat Everybody Else

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The rapidly widening gulf between the super rich and everyone else is an American tragedy. Pundits have raged about it, but until now, no one has explained exactly how it happened, why it's not a normal part of capitalism, or how much damage it's really causing -- not just to the poor, but to 99 percent of all Americans. Whether your family makes $30,000 or $300,000 a year, you are being robbed because the IRS and other institutions have been systematically corrupted -- under both Republican and Democratic ...
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New Since he began writing about taxes for the New York Times in 1995, Johnston's investigative reporting has earned two Pulitzers. The journalistic legwork informs every page ... of this expos? of the ways in which, he says, America's taxation system is stacked in favor of the wealthy. Johnston evades the imposing abstractness of the tax code by keeping the story focused on individuals, from working-class parents facing audits to Internal Revenue Service officials desperate for the resources to revamp their procedures. Chapters addressing the inability of the IRS to go after the worst tax cheats, thanks in part to opposition from grandstanding members of Congress, are particularly effective in putting a spotlight on the problem, but there's plenty of space given to revealing how canny tax attorneys come up with legal (and barely legal) ways to get around the system. And for those who can afford it, he reports, there's always a new dodge available once the law has caught up to the latest tricks. At some po Read more Show Less

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Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich--and Cheat Everybody Else

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Overview

The rapidly widening gulf between the super rich and everyone else is an American tragedy. Pundits have raged about it, but until now, no one has explained exactly how it happened, why it's not a normal part of capitalism, or how much damage it's really causing -- not just to the poor, but to 99 percent of all Americans. Whether your family makes $30,000 or $300,000 a year, you are being robbed because the IRS and other institutions have been systematically corrupted -- under both Republican and Democratic administrations -- to serve the needs of people who make millions.

If you're the kind of person who works hard and plays by the rules, prepare to be outraged. Perfectly Legal will show you why the American Dream is turning into a lie. This explosive book, by an award-winning investigative reporter, reveals exactly how the tax code and many other laws have been twisted over the past three decades to subsidize the richest and most powerful fraction of 1 percent of our country. For nine years, David Cay Johnston has been exposing this covert campaign, piece by piece, on the front page of The New York Times. His scoops about outrageous tax scams have ruffled the feathers of powerful business leaders, politicians, and members of the political donor class. He routinely exposes the CEOs who fly corporate jets to Myrtle Beach for a day of golf and stick you with the bill; the business owners who build overseas factories to earn tax-free dollars; the former IRS employees who now teach multimillionaires how to hide their assets from the government.

Now Johnston offers a raft of compelling new stories about real people across all areas of society. In Perfectly Legal, you'll meet sleazy accountants and brazen tax cheats, clueless congressmen and crafty lobbyists. You'll meet frustrated IRS agents who have been handcuffed from pursuing the most blatant lawbreakers. And you'll meet ordinary Americans who are struggling to make a decent living but whose future is being undermined in ways they don't even realize. Compared to thirty years ago, every American now lives in a society much less equal and much more fraught with financial risk. Perfectly Legal lays out the details in plain English and shows how we can stop these trends before it's too late.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
As Johnston knows, the real scandal of our federal tax system isn't so much what the rich didn't pay. It's what the rest of us now have to -- particularly the middle and upper middle classes, with incomes from $50,000 to $500,000. This is the group Bush is squeezing, to benefit what Johnston aptly calls the ''political donor class.'' This truly shocking story emerges later on in Perfectly Legal. — James K. Galbraith
Publishers Weekly
Since he began writing about taxes for the New York Times in 1995, Johnston's investigative reporting has earned two Pulitzers. The journalistic legwork informs every page of this expos of the ways in which, he says, America's taxation system is stacked in favor of the wealthy. Johnston evades the imposing abstractness of the tax code by keeping the story focused on individuals, from working-class parents facing audits to Internal Revenue Service officials desperate for the resources to revamp their procedures. Chapters addressing the inability of the IRS to go after the worst tax cheats, thanks in part to opposition from grandstanding members of Congress, are particularly effective in putting a spotlight on the problem, but there's plenty of space given to revealing how canny tax attorneys come up with legal (and barely legal) ways to get around the system. And for those who can afford it, he reports, there's always a new dodge available once the law has caught up to the latest tricks. At some points, dealing with numbers becomes unavoidable, but even here Johnston displays a knack for breaking the story down into easily grasped components. Though the tax cuts engineered by Presidents Reagan and George W. Bush receive most of the criticism, Democrats come in for their fair share of opprobrium. Genuine reform, he suggests, will require serious and sustained attention from the public, not just reflexive griping. His book is a thoughtful overview for any citizens willing to educate themselves on the issue. (Jan.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781591840190
  • Publisher: Portfolio
  • Publication date: 12/29/2003
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.34 (w) x 9.36 (h) x 1.25 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Perfectly Legal

The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich--And Cheateverybody Else
By David Cay Johnston

Portfolio

Copyright © 2005 David Cay Johnston
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1591840694

Chapter One

The Rich Get Fabulously Richer

In 1977, the richest 1 percent of Americans had as much to spend after taxes as the bottom 49 million. Just 22 years later, in 1999, the richest 1 percent-about 2.7 million people-had as much as the bottom 100 million Americans. Few figures derived from the official government data on incomes present more starkly the growing chasm between the rising incomes at the top and the falling incomes at the bottom.

Those in the top 1 percent saw their average income, adjusted for inflation to 1999 dollars and after income taxes were paid, more than double from $234,700 in 1977 to $515,600 in 1999. Meanwhile, the 55 million Americans in the poorest fifth of the population lived in households whose average income fell from $10,000 in 1977 to $8,800 in 1999. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal group that advocates for the poor, calculated these figures from the sophisticated income data that the Congressional Budget Office began collecting in 1977. Studies by other economic research and advocacy organizations made similar findings using other official data. Across the political spectrum, economistsfound the same basic trend: the rich really are getting richer and the poor really are getting poorer.

Looking more closely at the top fifth gives a hint as to how incomes were changing in the last three decades of the twentieth century. Think of a ladder with 100 rungs. The poorest person in America stands at the bottom and the person with the biggest income stands at the top, with everyone else taking their place on the rungs in between.

Between 1973 and 2001, those whose income ranked them above 80 percent of Americans but below the richest 5 percent-those on the eightieth up to the ninety-fifth rungs-saw their share of national income rise almost imperceptibly. The Bureau of the Census calculated that in 2001 they earned 27.7 percent of all income, up from 27 percent in 1973.

The top 5 percent did much better. Their share of the national income grew by more than a third, from 16.6 percent to 22.4 percent. There is the suggestion of a pattern here, of those at the top of the ladder having so much added income that it is reinforcing their position, holding the middle class in place and squeezing those at the bottom, whose incomes were falling.

While the Bureau of the Census did not break the numbers down further, many others did. The National Bureau of Economic Research, the nonprofit organization that makes the official decisions about whether the country is in recession or expansion, published the most extensive analysis. The bureau's president is Martin A. Feldstein, the Harvard University economics professor who was President Ronald Reagan's chief economics adviser. He is a leading proponent of supply-side economics, the idea that economic growth is most likely if taxes on high earners are lowered and more capital can be invested. Economists of every political view rely on the bureau's data and reports because of its reputation for analysis based on facts.

Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, both French economists, wrote a paper the National Bureau of Economic Research published in 2002 that examined in fine detail income and wealth data for the years 1917 through 2000. They relied mostly on the National Income and Products Accounts, the most comprehensive economic data the government collects, and on tax data. Their study focused not on all Americans, but on those who made the most and how they fared compared to everyone else.

There are many ways to measure income. First we will consider what Piketty and Saez found about the portion, or share, of income going to people at each income level. That is, how big each income group's slice of the pie was. Then we will examine the average incomes of people.

They drew their first line between the top 10 percent and the bottom 90 percent. Overall the bottom 90 percent lost ground. Their share of national income fell from two thirds to slightly more than half. And their average income, adjusted for inflation, was essentially the same in 2000 as in 1970. The average income for the bottom 90 percent in 2000 was $25,035, which was $25 less than three decades earlier.

The top 10 percent of Americans had done very well since 1970, or so it seemed at first blush. These 11.3 million households, comprising roughly the population of California, saw their share of national income grow by almost half, from just under 33 percent in 1973 to just above 48 percent in 1998. When examined more closely, however, a curious trend appeared. The figures showed that the higher the income group, the larger the income gains.

Piketty and Saez cut off the top 10 steps on the ladder and divided the top 10 percent into ever-smaller segments of the population.

They examined those on the rungs from 90 to 95. Their share of the national income was flat. Next came the slightly smaller group between rungs 95 and 99. Their share grew by 19.5 percent.

Next the professors sliced off the top rung on the ladder, the top 1 percent or about 1.3 million households, roughly the population of Kentucky. This group earned more than a fifth of all the income in the country. The economists broke the top 1 percent down into ever-finer amounts, into minirungs on the ladder, the smallest of which represented a hundredth of 1 percent, or about 13,400 of the country's 134 million taxpayer households.

They examined the bottom half of the top 1 percent. Their share of national income grew by 47 percent, which was more than twice the rate of the group just below them on the income ladder.

The professors then looked at those on the minirungs from 99.5 to 99.9. Their share of national income grew even more, rising by 90 percent. Next came those on the minirungs from 99.9 to 99.99, just 120,000 households. Their share of national income more than tripled, growing 227 percent.

Finally, the professors examined the very top rung, the richest 13,400 households. These are the people who made more than 99.99 percent of their fellow Americans. They had by far the biggest gains. Their share of national income in the year 2000 was more than five times what it had been in 1970. Back then this elite group received 1 percent of national income, while in 2000 it received more than 5 percent. Even more telling was how it had done compared to those fortunate enough to stand between the ninetieth and ninety-fifth rungs-the top group's share of income had grown almost 1,000 times faster.

The average income of all households in 2000 was $42,700, while the 13,400 households at the very top had an average income of $24 million each or 560 times the average. It was not always this way. In 1970 the very top group had about 100 times the average.

Clearly the only significant income gains over three decades went to a very narrow slice at the top. After adjusting for inflation, for each dollar of income in 1970 the top 13,400 households had four additional dollars plus a dime to spend in 2000, while the average household in the bottom 99 percent had only eight cents more per dollar.

The enormous concentration of income among a very very few becomes even clearer with a simple comparison of income growth between 1970 and 2000. How did the top one hundredth of 1 percent compare to the bottom 99 percent? For each dollar of additional income going to each of those in the bottom 99 percent of Americans the richest each averaged an astonishing $7,500.

Applying the National Bureau of Economic Research report to the incomes reported on tax returns in 2000 produces an astonishing result. The 13,400 top households had slightly more income than the 96 million poorest Americans. That is a chasm vastly greater than the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported when it said that the top 2.7 million had as much as the bottom 100 million.

The data show that slices of the pie have changed, with a few getting a lot bigger share and many getting less. Now let's look at a second way to analyze the data by examining actual incomes, at what Piketty and Saez found about how much money people at each income level made in 2000 compared to 1970.

What Piketty and Saez showed from the official government data was that two decades after the promise that lowering tax rates and reducing regulation would benefit everyone, the income gains were flowing straight up to the top of the income ladder. Even the derisive description by critics captured in the phrase "trickle-down economics" was not proving out. At the bottom there was less money for food, shelter and clothing. Four out of five Americans were making less or were no better off in 2000 than in 1970.

People in the middle class and even those making more than 95 percent of their fellow Americans were working harder than ever and going nowhere fast. For those on the ninetieth rung of the ladder, average income in 2000 was $90,271, which, after adjusting for inflation, was a one-fourth increase from the $72,320 in 1970. In real terms incomes for those on the ninetieth rung rose at less than 1 percent per year, which was far less than the rate of growth in the economy.

Those at the ninetieth rung saw their incomes rise at an annual average of less than $600 per year, compared to about $4,600 annually at the ninety-ninth rung and more than $672,000 annually for the top group, those 13,400 super-rich families.

Money, it seems, was made to flow uphill. The great majority of Americans were, at least through 2000, having their pockets flattened or even drained, the value created by their labor flowing in a Niagara of greenbacks not to the affluent or even the merely rich, but to the megarich. But just as the liberals at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities had understated the chasm between rich and poor, so too did Piketty and Saez.

The figures Piketty and Saez used were pretax incomes. But changes in the tax system had vastly expanded the ability of the megarich to save while those making less than $72,000 had their ability to save stripped away by rising Social Security taxes. In 1970, the top income tax bracket was 70 percent. By 2000 it had fallen to 39.6 percent-and it is now just 35 percent. Over those same years, however, the maximum Social Security soared from $327 to $4,724, figures that double if one counts the employer contribution.

Internal Revenue Service reports show that from 1973 to 2000, when the Democrats were mostly in control of Congress, Social Security and Medicare taxes grew 82 percent faster than incomes. Because Social Security taxes applied only to the first $76,200 of wages in 2000 (and lesser amounts in previous years), this rising burden fell mostly on the middle class and the upper middle class.

The rich got a tax break beginning when their wages passed the maximum subject to Social Security. On dollars above the Social Security ceiling an individual pays 6.2 percent less tax because Social Security is no longer deducted from paychecks. Employers get the same tax break. For the rich, the top 1.3 million households, the Social Security tax was inconsequential.

The tax rate on capital gains, the source of more than half of income for the super rich, was 28 percent starting in 1987, fell to 20 percent in 1998 and then was lowered again in 2003 to 15 percent.

Over the last three decades of the twentieth century the average income grew modestly, but the share of earnings going to income and Social Security taxes rose. At the same time the super rich saw their incomes skyrocket and, because their tax rates fell, they kept an even higher percentage than before.

In addition, the rates at which state and local governments levied sales, property and income taxes all rose in those last three decades, eating into incomes. Those taxes tend to be regressive; that is, they tend to hit harder the lower one's income.

Piketty and Saez's facts and figures show us what happened, but they do not say why these changes occurred. Understanding how this happened involves many issues because, in a nation as complex and diverse as America, there are many ways to collar a dollar. Some of these, as we shall see, involved pumping up compensation for those high in the corporate structure, no matter how it affected the company's workers and shareholders. These strategies, in turn, had an important side effect: creating a demand for corporate tax shelters, which helped shift the overall tax burden off capital and onto labor. By 2002, the portion of federal revenues coming from corporations was below 10 percent, down from a third in the Eisenhower years. The demand for tax shelters in turn encouraged an anything-goes morality about hiding money, both corporate profits and individual incomes, from the IRS. Some companies went so far as to renounce America as their headquarters, at least on paper, once they learned that if they used a Bermuda mailbox as their tax headquarters they could earn profits tax-free in the United States.

Arranging to have torrents of money flow to a very few pockets also required putting immense pressure on Corporate America's front lines, the employees, to make the numbers demanded from on high. Even if it meant cheating people out of their wages or disability benefits, or foisting costs off onto the taxpayers, corporate managers were driven to produce the results the home office demanded or else join the ranks of the downsized. The cuts in regulatory agencies, and even in many law enforcement agencies, made such thievery easy. When people complained that they had been cheated out of overtime or even regular pay, the agencies had no resources to pursue the cases, even when there was a pattern of abuse by brand-name companies like Wal-Mart and Taco Bell.

In all of this, both big corporations and those among the very wealthy who wanted to handcuff law enforcement-at least when it came to stealing by business practice-had as allies their good friends in Congress. Corporate America's effort to mold both political parties to do its bidding was increasingly successful as politicians needed ever more contributions to buy the television ads that got them reelected. Politicians insisted that no one bought their vote with their donation and that was true. But what donations did buy, every politician acknowledged, was access. That access meant that every senator and representative was listening primarily to the concerns and ideas of the super rich, of the political donor class. At the same time the forces arrayed on the other side-unions, consumer advocates and social service charities-had little to give and, except for the unions, were barred by law from making campaign donations.



Continues...


Excerpted from Perfectly Legal by David Cay Johnston Copyright © 2005 by David Cay Johnston. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Prologue 1
Ch. 1 Taxes - They're Not for Everyone 5
Ch. 2 A Nickel an Hour More 20
Ch. 3 The Rich Get Fabulously Richer 30
Ch. 4 Big Payday 45
Ch. 5 Plane Perks 59
Ch. 6 When the Old Man Is Dead and Buried 71
Ch. 7 The Stealth Tax 92
Ch. 8 How Social Security Taxes Subsidize the Rich 117
Ch. 9 Preying on the Working Poor 129
Ch. 10 Handcuffing the Tax Police 145
Ch. 11 Mr. Rossotti's Customers 157
Ch. 12 For Want of a Keystroke 169
Ch. 13 Mr. Kellogg's Favorite Loophole 186
Ch. 14 Mass Market Tax Evasion 194
Ch. 15 Getting off the Hook 207
Ch. 16 Profiting off Taxes 217
Ch. 17 Profits Trump Patriotism 229
Ch. 18 Letters to Switzerland 251
Ch. 19 Gimme Shelter 262
Ch. 20 Only the Rich Deserve a Comfortable Retirement 274
Ch. 21 Is Reform Possible? 292
Conclusions 305
Notes 319
Index 329
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 14 of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 3, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Revealing

    Perfectly legal is one of those books that you pick up and exspect to learn a few new things about our tax system and the rich. Then when you do read it, your mind is blown away. I had no idea the various strategies the wealthy and the ultra wealthy use to avoid paying their fair share to support our government and society. David Johnston went into great detail about these various schemes. Many of the rich create charitable tax shelters,actually leave our country to set up shop in another to capitalize on tax breaks and avoid taxation (while benefiting from U.S.A.'s laws and protection), and some blantantly refuse to pay taxes. All of this occuring with few, if any reprecussions. He also goes into some detail about a "stealth tax" that I had no idea existed. Johnston also reveals much about how tax breaks given to the rich are forcing the burden of taxation on those who have more difficulty paying them. However, he also offers some hope for reform. This book is a must read for ANY american citizen who is either working class or middle class(and yes even upper middle class). I feel that I am more knowledgable then ever about our tax system and its connection with the economic, political and social health of our nation. A job well done Mr. Johnston.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2006

    Truly Fascinating

    This book is indeed truly fascinating. Mr. Johnston has done a great job with backing up his points with fact. He talks about everything from CEO's who cheat investors with lost cost plane flights to outright mass tax avoidance. It is evident that someone reading this book will become angry. It seems that the rich receive all of the breaks and the middle class and poor foot the bill. However, this book had the opposite effect on me. The further I got in the book, the more I realized that I was on the wrong side of the income ladder. There are a few things of interest I would like to point out to a potential reader. The first is the alternative minimum tax. This is an alternative tax system that those who earn modest incomes were never to be on. Mostly, Democrats have tweaked the system as to were low income people are forced on to the system. I strongly urge anyone who reads this review to do their own investigation of the alternative minimum tax. It will heart-breaking for anyone not expecting to pay this tax. Next, be careful of the rhetoric used by Washington concering the 'death tax'. To those who are ignorant, you will be duped into believing you have to pay it. It only applies to those who have half a million dollar estates or more. Finally, I would like to say that Mr. Johnston's title: Perfectly Legal somewhat hurts his cause. Alot of what's done in the book is legal. Some of the examples he give illustrate how people use the law to their advantage. So remember, the title is Perfectly Legal, not Perfectly Illegal. In conclusion, I recommend reading this book. I also recommend becoming financially smart and increasing your personal fortune so that you too can enjoy these benefits. Futhermore, I found Mr. Kellogg's favorite loophole most intriguing. It gave me all kinds of ideas. Lastly, I really enjoyed the book and you will too.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2004

    Packed With Knowledge!

    The media and middle-class voters have blandly accepted tax cuts for the wealthy, thanks to the theory that the rich have paid more than their fair share of taxes for a long time. Nothing could be further from the truth, journalist David Cay Johnston convincingly argues. Using thorough research and startling examples, Johnston makes a persuasive case that the rich enjoy a free ride from Uncle Sam, while the middle class is saddled with an ever-increasing tax burden. Johnston takes you on a hair-raising tour of posh jets, corporate compensation committee meetings and IRS offices, piling up the evidence that the deck is stacked in favor of the rich. Johnston's strident tone grows a bit tiresome, yet the results of his reporting are sure to raise the blood pressure of anyone who hasn't benefited from a lucrative tax dodge. We recommend this trenchant book to anyone with an interest in creating a fairer U.S. tax system ¿ or in living with the one they've got.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2004

    A book so good, I refuse to finish reading it...

    Given the long list of partisan titles on the non-fiction bestseller list, this book goes unnoticed. You will find yourself ashamed of the IRS (and the politians who undermined it)and at the same time wishing the often reviled gov't agency would get up off the mat and make the game fair for all of us. So many good points made here by a great journalist. He has shifted my perception as to who is rich in our country and who is really paying the bills.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2004

    Great read for the sophisticated reader

    This book is an excellent read for people familiar with accounting and tax law terminology. While the author attempts to put the language into plain english, some of it is impossible to simplify. That is not critique of the author, but more of a critique of the sophisticated tax system used to confuse, then manipulate the avegrage tax payer. Like the language itself, the schemes uncovered by the author are equally as complex and enlightening. If you are comfortable challenging yourself to learn more about a sophisticated subject used to keep you from noticing the wealthy make off with more millions and billions I would highly recommend this Book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2004

    Read this book

    Every American needs to read this book. What you didn't know will leave you gasping.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2004

    Every Family In America Should Read This Book!

    This is one book you will definitely want to read. If you thought that you understood America's tax system and how it affects you, you will probably be shocked to discover just how wrong you have been! David Cay Johnston is an investigative reporter who is a double Pulitzer Prize winner. He spent many years working on the material for this book. Once you begin to read this, you will find it difficult to put down. It will open your eyes like nothing you have ever read about taxes, and who is carrying the burden, and who will find themselves buried under a severe burden within only a decade. Johnston is an excellent writer and the information just flows off the page. This is easy reading and it is some of the most informative material you will ever come across. You cannot afford to be ignorant about our tax system and how it is affecting you. I'm sure you have heard the political arguments where Democrats say, 'the Republicans are robbing the poor to give to the rich' and the Republican arguments that 'the rich are carrying all the tax burden and need relief.' Which is really true, and how do you know it? Read this book and you will find out. It will become crystal clear. Are you aware that there are really TWO Income Tax systems? One is the regular Income Tax which is what you hear everyone talk about when they talk about giving exemptions and giving tax cuts. But you never hear them talk about the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). It takes precedence over the regular Income Tax and is the final determinate of the taxes you pay. It was originally put in place to prevent the richest 155 families in the US from getting away with paying zero taxes. It has since turned into just the opposite. What it now does is to redirect the tax burden from the top wealthiest families to the middle class families. The wealthiest still pay zero taxes by using tax deferment methods and tax shelters. They can delay tax payments up to 30 years and pay with inflated money that is worth less than half the original tax burden. And the major tax burden has shifted to families making from $70K to $500K. If you make over $500K, you tax burden drops DRAMATICALLY, but if you are in the middle class, you tax burden increases with each passing year. By the year 2010, the Alternative Minimum Tax will take in more of your tax dollars than the actual Income Tax structure. I wish I could tell you more here, but it would be senseless to try to repeat all the information that this book provides. It is a wealth of information. Let me mention one other thing: Social Security. You remember that back in 1986 there was a big 'Social Security scare?' It was being said that Social Security was going broke? You were lied to. Social Security had a minor 5% shortfall, and only need a minor adjustment to solve the problem. However, Reagan's 'tax cut' was causing severe deficits. Both the AMT, and Social Security were adjusted to make up for the decline in Income Taxes. The tax cut was given with one hand, and taken back with the other. What shifted was WHO the tax burden fell on. Social Security went from a pay-as-you-go system, to a pay-in-advance system. The additional excess income from Social Security taxes are siphoned off to pay for the tax cuts. From 1984 to 2002, the government siphoned off $1.7 TRILLION from the Social Security System to pay for government operational cost that could not be paid for with the lower Income Taxes. Many families are now paying more in Social Security taxes than they are in Income Taxes. This is a 'hidden tax.' Additionally, not only does that tax come directly out of your paycheck, you employer pays the other half, which is twice the amount shown on your pay stub, but which the company considers a part of your salary benefits. This extra Social Security tax is going to supplement the tax breaks to the wealthiest families in America. That, currently, is $1.7 TRILLION that will never be paid back to the Social Security Sy

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2004

    Great, but a few added thoughts

    I highly recommend this book, but it actually understates the case by focusing on income instead of wealth. Since I agree with most of the complements written about this book by others, I will focus my remarks on some important deficits. The missing part of most discussions of taxes, and missing from this book, is a clarification of the equitable basis for taxation. Often, someone will propose a scheme of taxation and simply claim that it is equitable, especially if it results in someone else paying more of his or her taxes. In an equitable tax scheme each taxable entity should pay a share of taxes proportionate to the benefits that person derives, directly and indirectly, from the tax supported infrastructure. It is similar to paying a proportionate share of the rent of a building based upon the value of one¿s beneficial occupancy. Neither a tax on gross income, taxable income nor any form of consumption comes close to being equitable. Even if some of the wealthiest citizens were taxed at 100% of gross income they still would not come close to paying their fair share of taxes. The very rich are amused to see how easily the public is taken in by comparisons based upon income. They know that income figures do not reflect their annual increase in wealth, most of which goes untaxed. Most of the annual increase in wealth of the rest of the public is completely exposed to taxation. In addition, their unrealized capital gains are made readily available to them by their ability to borrow at low cost and by other means not available to less fortunate citizens. The author, a Republican, mentions ¿supply-side economics,¿ but fails to explain how the Republican Party has transmogrified the simple, and reasonably correct, supply-side theory into a tax theft scheme. The theory states that if a supply is introduced into the market, the market will eventually recognize it and, at some price, remove it from the market. The theory does not at all suggest that this is a good business practice. Under conditions of a lack of demand, an increase of supply is not a stimulant. The best price at which to buy the excess supply is so far below scrap value that a subsequent sale at a price as low as scrap value will provide a profit. The highest price that should be paid for it is sufficiently below the cost of production of any current producers such that they will be unable to compete with a sale that is profitable at a price well below their cost. Excess supply drives out profits. The supply-siders suggest that they can stimulate the market by using the tax system to take money from consumers and transfer it to producers in the hope that they will increase supply and the presence of supply will stimulate demand. They would have you believe that, under conditions of a lack of demand, producers will be so foolish that they will increase the dead load in the supply chain in the hope of selling more goods to those who will have even less money with which to purchase it. It should be apparent why it has never worked. Neither is there the slightest evidence that there is any lack of capital available to producers when there is even a faint hope of money in the marketplace. Certainly, the recent Internet bubble amply illustrated that there is a flood of capital available when the hope of revenues is just an illusion. That has been the case at least since the Tulip Mania of 1635. There is always more capital available than there are good applications. Stuffing the pockets of the rich at the expense of consumers is a depressant and never a stimulant to demand. In addition to tax code tricks, the author might have mentioned how your taxes are bloated with contract games. How about building a Maginot Line in space? It is called an anti-missile defense system. Like the Maginot Line, it might work if you can find an enemy dumb enough to attack it in precisely the manner in which it was designed to defend. There are dozens of ways to get around it a

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2004

    The most important book you will buy this year

    The most important book you will read this year!, January 15, 2004 Reviewer: Jerry Fisher (see more about me) from Kent, New York United States If you are wondering whether you should read this book, I strongly say YES. I just finished reading Perfectly Legal, I have a Ph.D. in economics and business administration and was not sure that I would learn that much. Boy, was I wrong! What an outstanding book! He writes so cleanly and clearly, it is no surprise he has a Pulitzer for stories he has written for the New York Times. The research and logic is world class and very disturbing. We need to fix the situations described before it is too late. To do this we need to get our friends and associates to read it as well. Get the word out. Buy it and give it to your friends, (you get free shipping if you buy more than one :-) suggest it to book clubs, talk about when ever you can. The Miami Herald book club is reading and reviewing it this month. We need more of this to happen. Dave Johnston has written an investigative masterpiece in the tradition of Upton Sinclair book The Jungle. He and has done a great service to America in writing this book! As Upton Sinclair created a political revolution in 1906 when his book was published - this book should create a revolution in 2004. If we do not fix what David has identified, America and the world will indeed be in a sorry state. Just one example out of hundreds and hundreds from the book that must be reversed. David points out that the upper 10% of U.S. tax payers saw their income rise by 88% and their share of national income go from 33% to 48% from 1970 to 2000. The the bottom 90% of US taxpayers saw their income stagnate and their share of national income went from 67% to 52%. And as David points out if the current 'Perfectly Legal' tax loopholes continue, this disparity with grow! Your future and your family's future are in the balance. This is not a republican or democratic issue, it's an American issue! America will not be great nation if it becomes a nation of haves and have nots. Get the word out about this book, e-mail your family and friends, it is the most important thing you can do this year. We need the changes that Upton Sinclar's book brought about, and David Cay Johnston's book can do that. It is even more important to our contry in 2004 than Sinclar's was in 1906. To make this happen we must do our part. The next time a friend invites you dinner, bring this book instead of a bottle of wine or 6 pack of beer. Your friends will forget the wine or beer they will never forget this book! And they will thank you over and over for it. My friends have. Jerry Fisher

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2004

    This book is long overdue

    This book should be owned by everyone in the 50K to 500k earnings category who, like our founding fathers, believe that no generation has the right to impose greater debts than it alone can pay off. Read this for your children.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 18, 2003

    Much Adoo About Nothing

    This book is another attempt by Mr. Johnston to obfuscate the real truth regarding the IRS and its misapplication of the tax laws. While Mr. Johnston weaves a careful tapistry designed to paint for the reader a somewhat dismal picture, the discerning reader will ask the embarassing questions and not fall prey to the wooing call to pitchforks and torches...the real question to be answered by his book should be, 'does the tax even apply to most US Citizens who live and work within the 'several states'?' The literary style is impeccable, what I who has followed Mr. Johnston's exploits over the years have come to expect. My my expectations have also been met by his disguising prose, which hides his true intention to woo the public to the siren's tune. So it only remains, just who's ox does Mr. Johnston intend to gore with this piece? Is Mr. Jhonston just another lap-dog for the IRS....?

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    Posted June 6, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2010

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