How Spiraling Fraud and Avoidance Are Killing Fairness, Destroying the Income Tax, and Costing You
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An altogether rare bird: a book meant for a popular audience that actually speaks kindly of the IRS.

The cost of living in a democracy, muckrakers Barlett and Steele (Forevermore, 1984, etc.) observe, is to participate in the workings of government—and that includes paying your taxes. Millions of Americans, however, either fudge their returns, hide their assets in offshore accounts, or do not file at all, and the richer they are the more likely they are to avoid what is already a light burden, by comparison with other nations (for, as Barlett and Steele write, "over the last three decades, America's elected officials have turned a reasonably fair tax code into one crafted for the benefit of those who give the largest campaign contributions, enjoy the greatest access, hire the most influential lobbyists, or otherwise exercise a power beyond that enjoyed by average citizens"). The inevitable result is that average citizens wind up covering the bill for those best equipped to pay it, a fact that obviously enrages the authors. Given the collapse of common-good civics and the rise of a political culture in which the federal government is seen as evil and untrustworthy, Barlett and Steele observe, it's small wonder that many tax chiselers get away with not paying their due; and, the authors add, all this comes at a time when Congress (their real villain) continually hobbles tax-collection agencies. The authors carry on with sheer polemic for far too long, but they end with an entirely sensible call for closing loopholes, withholding income of all kinds rather than relying on voluntary compliance, and otherwise ending the massive giveaway to the rich that has accompanied a time of phenomenal economic growth.

If such changes are not made, the authors insist, democratic society will collapse, as it always does when "taxes fall most onerously on those least able to pay."

Pub Date: Sept. 5th, 2000
ISBN: 0-316-81135-1
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2000