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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New York Times bestelling author T. R. Reid travels around the world to solve the urgent problem of America's failing tax code, unravelling a complex topic in plain English - and telling a rollicking story along the way. 

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781594205514
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/04/2017
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 8.80(h) x 1.10(d)

About 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.

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Table of Contents

Prologue: Every Thirty-Two Years 1

1 Policy Laboratories 5

2 "Low Effort, Low Collection" 13

3 Taxes: What Are They Good For? 27

4 BBLR 49

5 Scooping Water with a Sieve 71

6 Flat Broke 93

7 The Defining Problem; the Taxing Solution 115

8 Convoluted and Pernicious Strategies 141

9 The Single Tax, the Fat Tax, the Tiny Tax, the Carbon Tax-and No Tax At All 171

10 The Panama Papers: Sunny Places for Shady Money 197

11 Simplify, Simplify 209

12 The Money Machine 221

Epilogue: The Internal Revenue Code of 2018 249

Thanks 259

Notes 263

Index 271

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