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Fair Not Flat: How to Make the Tax System Better and Simpler 1st Edition

18 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0226555607
ISBN-10: 0226555607
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Tax-law expert McCaffery is a professor of law at the University of Southern California (USC) and director of the USC-Caltech Center for the Study of Law and Politics. In this articulate follow-up to Taxing Women, he provides an accessible and effective analysis of the present federal income tax and estate- and gift-tax systems and proposes an innovative approach that would replace both with a consistent progressive consumption tax. The author asserts that this proposal could simplify the system, reduce the negative impact of politicians and special interest groups, and make taxation fairer in general. This simple book covers a wide array of topics, ranging from the history of the U.S. tax system to the problems associated with previous tax reform initiatives, including the Tax Reform Act of 1986 and present discussions regarding implementation of a flat tax. A glossary, a list of further readings, and examples drawn from recent popular works (e.g., Robert T. Kiyosaki's Rich Dad, Poor Dad) enhance the text. Provocative and persuasively argued, this book is recommended for both academic and public libraries. Norm Hutcherson, California State Univ., Bakersfield
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


"Ed McCaffery is brilliant. He is very knowledgeable about our tax code and he speaks English. His new book takes on the flat-tax advocates by showing that our system can be both fair and simple." - Pat Schroeder; "Ed McCaffery pumps more logic into this one book than most do in a lifetime of writing. If you want to correct the foibles of our present tax system, Fair Not Flat is the one essential book you must read." - Bob Packwood

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; 1 edition (April 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226555607
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226555607
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,359,677 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Edelman TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 27, 2008
Format: Paperback
Economists know that income taxes are by nature distorting taxes- that is, they strongly affect our behavior. To try and correct for these distortions, we have enacted thousands of pages of of laws providing for 401Ks, IRAs, tax credits, investment credits and hundreds of other exceptions. And yet, there's a much simpler solution.

Consumption taxes are the ideal non-distorting tax. They don't punish investment, or tax inflation, or force people to spend millions every year on tax compliance (and tax avoidance). They're remarkably simply to collect, and people can't escape them by keeping their money offshore. A uniform Federal consumption tax could eliminate debates about Internet sales taxes. So why do politicians fight them?

One reason is that, despite constant speeches about reforming the tax code, politicians like a complicated tax code. It lets them grant favors, buy votes, and rail about making "the rich pay their fair share" even though the very wealthy (including many politicians) have ways of escaping the high marginal tax rates they put into law.

At its simplest, a consumption tax is simply a universal sales tax that exempts those goods that are a disproportionate part of the consumption of the lowest income groups- food, clothing, rent, and so forth. Everything else gets taxed at a single rate. By nature it's progressive- the wealthier you are, the less you spend on exempt items. It encourages investment- soemthing that benefits everyone.

Not convinced? Read this book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By D. Bamford on June 15, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The book presented tax issues in a refreshingly clear and compelling way, but without being patronising. The problems with the current broad-based approach to taxation were laid bare. The answer, for McCaffery is a consumption tax base. Confusingly, however, in the final analysis he would use income calculations in order to determine consumption - thus ignoring one of the main advantages with consumption taxes. Indeed, the practicalities of collecting his tax seem to arise for high spenders; how will the authorities know who are the big spenders unless everyone has to provide their income details and how will the authorities collect the surtax off them? Presumably this would be done through an income tax, which again moves away from the advantages of consumption taxes.

It is easy to make a case against the current system; it is very problematic on a number of grounds because it is not use a true income base. However, McCaffery never compares his proposal with a more comprehensive income approach. This is perhaps forgiveable given that his aim is to show that his proposal is better than the status quo. But if this is his aim, he also needs to show that the Fair Not Flat Tax is also better than rival proposals.

We can draw out McCaffery's dismissal of a true income tax. He seems to think that there is no need to tax people's receipt of wealth, as long as they keep it invested. The idea here is that the person does not benefit from the wealth until they spend it. However, this is patently false. If Jon obtains a fortune and invest it while Ed does not, then Jon can earn additional income over time while Ed does not. Jon and Ed may spend the same amount of money, and therefore pay the same tax, but Ed has to work very hard all his life while Jon lives a life of leisure.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Michael Vanderburgh on June 1, 2006
Format: Hardcover
McCaffrey's on the right track. Consumption taxes are much better for everyone, from many different perspectives. He does a good job of tracking the history of taxation in the United States; most people don't realize that we haven't had an income tax very long, and our forefathers didn't want an income tax. In fact, it took a constitutional amendment in 1913 to even permit an income tax. However, McCaffery's plan is still too complicated, and prone to wreaking havoc on specific sectors of the economy. The FairTax, as outlined in Rep. John Linder's "The FairTax Book," is superior to and simpler than McCaffery's "Fair not Flat" tax, and maintains progressivity that completely untaxes the poor. And FairTax is much closer to reality, since it's an actual bill in Congress right now (HR 25 and S 25), and it has over 50 co-sponsoring Representatives and Senators. McCaffery should use his talents in the tax policy arena to help support FairTax, which already has a nationwide grassroots network over 700,000 strong. Thanks to McCaffery for bringing more attention to the importance of taxing consumption and not income!
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 22, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This book was recommended to me by a friend who loved the book's honesty and insight. This book discusses advanced and interesting ideas which used to be off-limits to all but lawyers and accountants. Mr. McCaffery is engaging and easy to understand. Every taxpayer in America should read this book--It will give you new insights and will demistify the complicated world of tax law.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Melanie A. Goodrich on May 4, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This book is exceptionally well written. It is clear and easy to understand, with examples based in current literature. An important read for anyone who pays taxes.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By lawguy20 on May 11, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
One thing about this book is that it was written so that anyone could understand taxes. I have to give kudos to Mccaffery for his simple, yet, informative style of writing. If you want to learn about our current tax system and an alternative way to levy taxes, then read this book. While I agree with the fundamentals of his argument in favor of the Fair Not Flat Tax, I was consistently bothered by a question that he never addresses in the book. What if you couldn't pay the tax you owe at the end of the fiscal year? Not everyone saves money, and many people are, as he refers them in his examples, Grasshoppers, who spend all the money they make. These people would have no money left over at the end of the fiscal year to pay their tax. Mccaffery says that people get choices as to how much tax they wish to pay by limiting their spending,but it seems as if the system forces people to save money just so that they can pay the tax they owe at the end of the year. I guess my biggest issue is that it seems as if you will be forced to start saving just to turn around and write a check to the government that would come out of your savings account. Overall though, this is a good book and I highly recommend it.
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