A Fine Mess

A Fine Mess

A Global Quest for A Simpler, Fairer, and More Efficient Tax System

Book - 2017
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Presents an international investigation into America's failing tax code to share plainspoken assessments of current problems and what can be learned from other democratic nations.
Publisher: New York, N.Y. : Penguin Press, 2017.
ISBN: 9781594205514
Branch Call Number: 336.205 REI
Characteristics: 278 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm

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PimaLib_NormS Nov 01, 2017

Be forewarned – reading T.R. Reid’s, “A Fine Mess: A Global Quest for a Simpler, Fairer, and More Efficient Tax System” might cause anger, frustration, and high blood pressure. I think most of us would agree that the tax system in America is completely messed up. And there is no consensus as to exactly what should be done about it. Certainly there is not enough intestinal fortitude amongst our elected leaders to do the difficult work that needs to be done. So here we are, stuck with an unfair, complex, incomprehensible mish-mash of regulations, forms, rates, loopholes, deductions, and credits. Congress may nibble around the edges of it, they may even jam some changes through and call it tax reform, but to hope that they will tackle this vital issue in an honest, open, bipartisan way, for the good of all Americans, not just the one-percenters and the special interests, well, let’s just say that seems rather unlikely. T.R. Reid took on the challenge of writing a book about a dense, complicated subject and actually made it reasonably understandable. He researched tax systems around the world, to see what works and what doesn’t, and tried to determine if ideas that work in, say, New Zealand, could work in America. In “A Fine Mess”, he presents some conclusions and suggestions that might be worthy of consideration, if only our political leaders had the will to act.

NFreaderNWPL Aug 14, 2017

The topic may not immediately grab all readers, but this is a fascinating and, at times, quite funny read. Despite the U.S. focus, the author's comparative approach gives the book broad appeal and keeps things interesting. Reid's lucid style and well-chosen use of statistics from the OECD and other data providers clear up a number of common misconceptions, such as which countries are highly taxed relative to others.

t
tirjan
Aug 07, 2017

This is T.J. Reid’s summation of our tax code in his ‘A Fine Mess: A Global Quest for a Simpler, Fairer, and More Efficient Tax System’
“The U.S. tax code is a total write-off. Crammed with loopholes and special interest provisions, it works for no one except lawyers, accountants, and huge corporations. Not for the first time, we have reached a breaking point. That happened in 1922, and again in 1954, and again in 1986. In other words, every thirty-two years. Which means that the next complete overhaul is due in 2018. But what should be in this new code? Can we make the U.S. tax system simpler, fairer, and more efficient? Yes, yes, and yes. Can we cut tax rates and still bring in more revenue? Yes.
Other rich countries, from Estonia to New Zealand to the UK – advanced, high-tech, free-market democracies – have all devised tax regimes that are equitable, effective and easy on the taxpayer. But the United States has languished. So byzantine are the current statutes that, by our government’s own estimates, Americans spend six billion hours and $10 billion every year preparing and filing their returns. In the Netherlands that task takes a mere fifteen minutes! Successful American companies like Apple, Caterpillar, and Google effectively pay no tax at all in some instances because of loopholes that allow them to move profits offshore. Indeed, the dysfunctional tax system has become a major cause of economic inequality.”

Today’s US Tax Code is over 73,000 pages long. Of course no legislator and certainly no one in Trump’s cabinet has come close to reading the whole thing. But it is such a kluge that Senator Bill Bradley’s 1986 conclusion when facing revamping the tax code in 1986, “You can’t just tinker. Facing a huge almost incomprehensible system, you have to take it on. Your goal has to be to fix the whole damn thing.”
Good luck with that in todays political and lobby-influenced environment. But this is an important read.

d
DavidSpencer99
Jul 18, 2017

Congress would do well to heed this observation of the systems used by other advanced, high-tech, free-market democracies. Reid offers the following ways to lower the tax rate and increase the government revenues:

BBLR—it stands for “broad base, lower rate,” and to achieve it, congress would remove all exceptions and deductions while fixing the rate for all tax payers. Even cherished right-offs like mortgage interest and charity donations must go. He shows that such things aren’t achieving the stated objective anyway. Everyone should pay as participatory citizens.

VAT—the value added tax takes a variety of forms but it’s proved a solid way to integrate taxation with the economy in many successful countries. We just have to get over the knee-jerk reactions against it by politicians "so determined to be exceptional, to do things in our own way, that they refuse to implement a valuable idea that almost every other country on the planet has embraced to its benefit. This makes us exceptional, but not in a way tat any other country would choose." (pp. 229-230)

Simplify—the IRS computes everyone’s tax under this streamlined system and the taxpayer verifies the result. Completing the annual return is a 10-minute event, as it now is for the Japanese.

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