A Fine Mess: A Global Quest for a Simpler, Fairer, and More Efficient Tax System

Who better than Washington Post journalist T.R. Reid to bring to life and then systematically carve up the particularly byzantine United States tax system? With decades in Washington and assignments as bureau chief in London, Tokyo and Denver, Reid (The Healing of America) has seen enough to explain tax structures in lucid, jargon-free prose that at times seems as amused as it is outraged. A Fine Mess covers the primary categories of federal taxes detailed in the 73,000 pages of IRS regulations, and even includes thoughtful chapters about recent events like the fascinating story of the Panama Papers exposé and Thomas Piketty's surprise bestseller, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, with the reminder, "Piketty is French, and France is the world champion at soaking the rich through taxes."

Everybody knows the United States tax structure is in need of reform--even Congress (though Reid advises, "When Congress takes up tax reform, the 'reform' generally makes things worse"). But he argues that to confront myriad vested interest groups--including tax preparers ("Today, barely 10% of Americans do their own tax returns"), lobbyists, realtors, nonprofits, huge international corporations, tax lawyers, M&A consultants and even the 90,000 IRS employees--takes backbone. Methodically, Reid illustrates how dozens of countries collect taxes much more fairly and efficiently--and have happier taxpayers to boot. After his lively discussion of what exists today in the tax world, his concluding multi-point recommendations to fix the mess make eminent sense. But who's going to step up and do it? --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

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