PERFECTLY LEGAL: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich—and Cheat Everybody Else

David Cay Johnston, Author . Portfolio $25.95 (338p) ISBN 978-1-59184-019-0

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 exposé 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.)

Reviewed on: 11/17/2003
Release date: 12/01/2003
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-1-59184-069-5
Open Ebook - 352 pages - 978-1-101-21622-4
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