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The U.S. Income Tax: What It Is, How It Got That Way, and Where We Go from Here Paperback – October, 1999
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In the entire history of American taxes, only a handful of people have ever expressed a preference for paying them. Everyone else feels taxes should be paid by people other than him- or herself and an immediate circle of friends. Another point of near-universal agreement is that the tax code is far too complex, and that creating and enforcing it places the government in a crucial role in our day-to-day lives--a position that makes many taxpayers uncomfortable.
In The U.S. Income Tax, Michael Graetz presents the essential issues of taxation in fascinating ways, telling the stories of the real people who changed things, and about the ways these changes have improved the system or (more often) simply made it more complicated. For example, in a chapter on the tax code's "marriage penalty" (married couples with similar incomes pay more in taxes than they would if each were single), he shows that it's mathematically impossible to please everyone. Either singles pay more, or married couples pay more, but there's no way under a progressive tax system to make it entirely equitable.
There's no such problem under a flat income tax, but Graetz isn't a big fan of it. Instead, he sides with those who believe we should substitute a consumption tax for part of our current income tax. (Those making over $75,000 would also pay some sort of income tax in the example he shows.) He argues forcefully that this system--which includes adjustments to Social Security--would be more fair to Americans, and substantially increase our national savings rate. It lets everyone in on the action of the dynamic American economy, and, most important to a lot of Americans, keeps government on the sidelines. --Lou Schuler
A must read for all who talk taxes and tax reform. -- Senator Pete V. Domenici
A superb overview of the federal income tax, by one of the nation's leading authorities, written with wit and a lively style. -- Boris I. Bittker, Yale _University
Graetz's common sense . . . is a breath of fresh air. . . . Well worth reading. -- Kirkus Reviews
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