9780060084318 / 0060084316

The Cheating of America: How Tax Avoidance and Evasion by the Super Rich Are Costing the Country Billions--and What You Can Do About It


Publisher:Harper Perennial



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About the book:

This book is a group project; Charles Lewis and Bill Allison are the principle authors, but they have relied on an "investigative team" that includes 19 other individuals affiliated with the Center for Public Integrity, a left-of-center research organization in Washington, D.C. What they've assembled in The Cheating of America is a muckraking survey of how the rich and powerful shirk their responsibilities: "We investigate the people and companies who have benefited most from our society and our way of life and then chosen to thumb their noses at the rest of us, by paying little or no taxes." The book is full of facts and figures, many sure to outrage. The authors identify, for instance, some 45,000 tax returns filed by people earning more than $100,000 and paying less than 7 percent of their income to the federal government--compared to millions of workers who earn much less and proportionally pay much more. (One recent IRS report counted 2,680 filers with incomes of $200,000 or more claiming they owed no taxes at all, up from just 85 in 1977.)

What makes the book succeed, however, is not its careful number crunching, but all the little stories that detail "the phenomenon of tax avoidance (that's legal), tax evasion (that's illegal), and tax 'avoision' (catch us if you can)." There are the wealthy film producers who use offshore trusts and tax shelters to hide their income, the millionaire tax evaders who renounce their U.S. citizenship in order to escape making tax payments, and the accountants who help it all happen. At times, the book feels like a long Reader's Digest article, all told in the service of an outrageous conclusion: "Many of the nation's wealthiest individuals and its largest corporations are not paying their fair share of taxes today." The Cheating of America will appeal to readers who appreciated the Center for Public Integrity's previous efforts, as well as admirers of Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele. --John J. Miller

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