Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich--and Cheat E verybody Else
David Cay Johnston
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Now updated with a new prologue!
Since the mid-1970s, there has been a dramatic shift in America's socioeconomic system, one that has gone virtually unnoticed by the general public. Tax policies and their enforcement have become a disaster, and thanks to discreet lobbying by a segment of the top 1 percent, Washington is reluctant or unable to fix them. The corporate income tax, the estate tax, and the gift tax have been largely ignored by the media. But the cumulative results are remarkable: today someone who earns a yearly salary of $60,000 pays a larger percentage of his income in taxes than the four hundred richest Americans.
Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter David Cay Johnston exposes exactly how the middle class is being squeezed to create a widening wealth gap that threatens the stability of the country. By relating the compelling tales of real people across all areas of society, he reveals the truth behind:
"Middle class" tax cuts and exactly whom they benefit.
How workers are being cheated out of their retirement plans while disgraced CEOs walk away with millions.
How some corporations avoid paying any federal income tax.
How a law meant to prevent cheating by the top 2 percent of Americans no longer affects most of them, but has morphed into a stealth tax on single mothers making just $28,000.
Why the working poor are seven times more likely to be audited by the IRS than everyone else.
How the IRS became so weak that even when it was handed complete banking records detailing massive cheating by 1,600 people, it prosecuted only 4 percent of them.
Johnston has been breaking pieces of this story on the front page of The New York Times for seven years. With Perfectly Legal, he puts the whole shocking narrative together in a way that will stir up media attention and make readers angry about the state of our country.
these costs because of a Securities and Exchange Commission rule deﬁning “other compensation.” The securities regulators require the disclosure to shareholders of “other compensation” only when it involves an “incremental cost.” That is, if a perk causes the company to spend additional money, then it must disclose it. But there is a way out of this, too. Welch was one of those executives with a memo in the ﬁle saying that for his own safety he was required to travel at all times on GE
those with the most wealth. It was not a moral issue after all. Paul Krugman, the Princeton economist and ﬁery op-ed page columnist for The New York Times, wrote that the estate tax repeal bill was immoral because it created an incentive for murder. It should be called the “throw momma from the train bill,” he wrote, because in 2010 some heirs were sure to consider knocking off parents who might live beyond December 31, when their fortunes would again be subject to the estate tax. In 2003
Moscow some comrades were more equal than others because Soviet law was unprincipled, written only to advance the interests of the ruling elite. To discredit the Soviets, Blattmachr immersed himself in Russian law books, only to conclude that “on paper Soviet law was very well drafted, grounded in sound principles.” It was, he came to realize, the administration of Soviet law that was so often monstrous, not the statutes themselves. Next Blattmachr turned his well-ordered mind to examining the
which automatically pays off the loan, before the loan check clears Block’s or Jackson Hewitt’s account. Many of the working poor pay such onerous amounts because they are in dire straits. Block agents say it is routine for people to say they need their check to avoid eviction, recover a car that has been repossessed or turn the utilities back on. The tax system is not the best Preying on the Working Poor 143 way to address the anxiety and other problems of poverty. But Congress has so far
corporations on how to earn untaxed, or partially taxed, proﬁts through partnerships. Months passed as Curnutt waited for an answer on whether he would get the funding to siphon a little more data from the pipeline. As he waited, changes began to occur around him. Commissioner Rossotti’s plan to reorganize the IRS, eliminating the district ofﬁces that served geographic areas and replacing them with four divisions serving different groupings of taxpayers, was beginning to take shape in 1998. Under