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The Decline and Fall? of the Income Tax

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How has it happened that ordinary Americans have come to regard the federal income tax as unfair, and tax protesters as heroes rather than deadbeats? This trenchant and timely book locates the answers in both the substance of the Internal Revenue Code and the political process that created and feeds this monstrous law. It shows plainly how the income tax has been a political football in the battle over every major social problem or government program; how government allowed its complexities - and its inflationary...
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Overview

How has it happened that ordinary Americans have come to regard the federal income tax as unfair, and tax protesters as heroes rather than deadbeats? This trenchant and timely book locates the answers in both the substance of the Internal Revenue Code and the political process that created and feeds this monstrous law. It shows plainly how the income tax has been a political football in the battle over every major social problem or government program; how government allowed its complexities - and its inflationary bite - to grow with no thought of their impact on taxpayers; and, most of all, how a Congress dependent on PAC funds has become incapable of fashioning a tax system that does not end tax breaks for special interests. The book also looks closely at the various flat-tax and consumption-tax proposals now being considered, and reveals that these taxes are neither as fair nor as simple as their advocates claim. Discussing the income-tax system in rich, anecdotal context, this book also points the way to tax reforms that are simple, sensible, and fair.

To cheering crowds, politicians announce plans to dismantle the "IRS as we know it" and replace it with flat taxes and consumption taxes. But if we burn our 1040 forms, will we really be better off? Michael J. Graetz, a distinguished law professor who served in the treasury in the Bush administration, cuts through the hype to tell you what tax reform proposals will really do to your wallet. 352 pp.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Angry taxpayers may be disappointed that Graetz (Law/Yale) does not jump on the anti-income-tax bandwagon, but they would do well to ponder his reservations about where taxation is headed.

Discussions of tax policy have always attracted ideologues and the self-interested. In recent years, however, this tendency has become so strong that no idea is so unproven, no proposal so blatantly pandering to special interests that one cannot find economists and politicians willing to promote it as the certain route to an economic and social utopia. Against this background, Graetz's common sense (and the absence of hyperbole in his text) is a breath of fresh air. He eschews identification of a single answer for all tax ills, opting instead for a series of reasonable steps that would push tax policy toward widely held goals. His basic proposal for federal taxation involves adopting a value-added tax to accompany a refurbished income tax, with the VAT applicable only to incomes of $75,000 a year and up. This would achieve many of the goals of a consumption tax (such as encouraging saving), without embracing a wholesale shift of the tax burden from upper- to middle-income taxpayers. Readers with tax expertise will find little that is unfamiliar in this volume, but the anecdotes illustrating the sometimes ludicrous world of taxation in the US are wonderful; the climactic story about the regional planning commissioner and his Christmas hams is worth the price of the book.

Not the sensationalistic diatribe you expect to see in April, and for that reason well worth reading.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393040616
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/28/1997
  • Edition description: Older Edition
  • Pages: 323
  • Product dimensions: 6.37 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 1.23 (d)

Table of Contents

1 Introduction 3
2 It's a Sin to Get a Mexican Divorce 29
3 Chasing Chinchilla Coats and Other Tax Shelter Aerobics 41
4 Disappearing Dollars 52
5 Dad Is Not at the Dining Room Table Anymore 68
6 Have We Become a Nation of Tax Cheaters? 89
7 A Visit to the Sausage Factory 111
8 Rosie Scenario Becomes the Belle of the Ball 123
9 The Madness of Two Georges 140
10 Sin Looks Pretty Good When the Alternative Is Taxes 149
11 Read My Hips 160
12 Just the Facts, Ma'am 177
13 Taxing What You Spend Instead of What You Make 195
14 The Flat Tax, the "USA" Tax, and Other Uncommon Consumption Taxes 212
15 Back to the Future 244
16 Seeking Protection from the Politicians 277
Notes 293
Index 311
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