Book's Reviews > Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich--and Cheat Everybody Else

Perfectly Legal by David Cay Johnston
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Jun 24, 11

bookshelves: politics-economics
Read in May, 2011

Perfectly Legal: The Secret Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich - and Cheat Everybody Else by David Cay Johnston

"Perfectly Legal" is a depressing, infuriating, eye-opening book that reveals how the super rich take advantage of the political system and the rest of us by rigging the tax code and other laws in their favor. Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Cay Johnston brings us this mind-boggling account of the America of the rich and powerful. This 352-page book is composed of the following twenty-one chapters: 1. Taxes - They're Not for Everyone, 2. A Nickel an Hour More, 3. The Rich Get Fabulously Richer, 4. Big Payday, 5. Plane Perks, 6. When the Old Man is Dead and Buried, 7. The Stealth Tax, 8. How Social Security Taxes Subsidize the Rich, 9. Preying on the Working Poor, 10. Handcuffing the Tax Police, 11. Mr. Rossotti's Customers, 12. For Want of a Keystroke, 13. Mr. Kellogg's Favorite Loophole, 14. Mass Market Tax Evasion, 15. Getting off the Hook, 16. Profiting off Taxes, 17. Profits Trump Patriotism, 18. Letters to Switzerland, 19. Gimme Shelter, 20. Only the Rich Deserve a Comfortable Retirement, and 21. Is Reform Possible?

Positives:
1. Well-written, well researched, and surprisingly even-handed book.
2. This is an infuriating book. I'm surprised at the lack of outrage...
3. This book focuses on the complex tax system in an accessible manner. Many terms well explained for the laymen.
4. The author does a wonderful job of laying the blame where it needs to be. His criticism is fair and even-handed.
5. Taxes in a whole new light. A historical look at how the tax code has evolved.
6. A true expose if there ever was one.
7. Example after example of how the rich abuse the tax system to their advantage.
8. The lack of comprehensive understanding of the tax laws by members of Congress and why that matters.
9. The various methods in which the super rich understate their true income and overstate their tax deductions.
10. Deferred compensation as a legal stealth tax cut.
11. How our tax system forces Americans to subsidize the lifestyles of the very rich.
12. Mind-blowing facts throughout this book. "The 13,400 top households had slightly more income than the 96 million poorest Americans."
13. The lowering of the tax rate on capital gains over the years.
14. Tax shelter specialists and how they benefit the rich.
15. Power means access, access buys influence, and influence buys favors.
16. A thorough look at the IRS.
17. How CEO compensations hurt us all.
18. Offshore shelters. The abuse in detail.
19. Abuses of corporate jets.
20. The truth about estate taxes.
21. The marketing of terms to deceive the public...death taxes as an example.
22. The alternative minimum tax and its implication.
23. Social security taxes in proper context.
24. Why the working poor get audited more.
25. Great quotes..."If we can't make sure that everyone pays their fair share, then honest taxpayers get stuck making up the difference".
26. Partnerships as vehicles for the rich and why that is so. Very interesting and of course upsetting.
27. The story behind Enron.
28. Tax-exempt insurance companies.
29. How the Cayman Islands has become a paradise for tax fraud.
30. How Visa gold cards were used for tax dodging purposes.
31. The unbelievable tax revenue losses due to tax fraud perpetuated by the rich.
32. Abusive tax shelters of all colors.
33. Foreign tax credit abuses...it never stops, now does it?
34. The manipulation of the media.
35. The interesting tale of Bermuda mailboxes, no tale however.
36. The fabrication of profits?
37. Creative uses of insurance to avoid paying taxes...
38. Tax avoidance techniques...for the super rich.
39. The most important measure of tax burden is how much money goes out to taxes.
40. Great recommendations on how to address the problems stated in the book.

Negatives:
1. No links to talk about on the Kindle.
2. It's a little dated but still a great book.

In summary, this is one of the best exposes of the super rich that I have ever read. It's informative, educational and yes infuriating. In a nutshell, this book is about how the super rich have rigged the tax system to their exclusive benefit at the expense of the rest of us. A great book that hurts. Highly recommended.
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