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Publisher's Summary

Best-selling author T. R. Reid voyages around the world to solve the urgent problem of America's failing tax code, unraveling a complex topic in plain English and telling a rollicking story along the way.

The US tax code is a total write-off. Overstuffed with loopholes and special interest provisions, it works for no one - except tax lawyers, accountants, and corporations, that is - certainly not me and you. Not for the first time, we have to tear it up and start over. That happened in 1922, and again in 1954, and again in 1986. There's a pattern here; we reach this point every 32 years. Which means the next complete re-write of the tax code is due in 2018. Can we write a new tax code that is fair and simple? Can we cut tax rates and still bring in the revenue required? In fact, we can - by learning from the world's other democracies. Around the world, wealthy democracies, from Estonia to New Zealand to the UK, have all reformed their tax codes, while the US has languished. With his penchant for making complex subjects accessible and even fun, T. R. Reid travels the world in order to find out what makes for good taxation (if that's not an oxymoron!) and brings that knowledge home.

So byzantine are the current statutes that by the government's own estimates, Americans spend six billion hours and 10 billion dollars every year preparing and filing their taxes. In the Netherlands it takes 15 minutes! Brilliantly successful American companies like Apple, Caterpillar, and Google pay effectively no tax at all because of loopholes which allow them to move profits offshore. Indeed, the dysfunctional tax system has become so easy to dodge that it is a major cause of economic inequality, as Warren Buffet and Thomas Piketty have pointed out. But it doesn't have to be this way, the ever-intrepid Reid proves, crisscrossing the globe, from the Czech Republic to Mexico. Doing our taxes may never be America's favorite pastime, but it can and should be so much easier.

©2017 T.R. Reid (P)2017 Penguin Audio

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Excellent summary for those looking to understand taxes

Being a bit of a tax nerd, I was especially interested excited to read this book. It provides concise information on all of the different tax regimes worldwide in a comparatively unbiased way. You can learn about what other countries have done over many years, what worked, what didn't, and likely why. I think that even those that aren't that interested should read this book for an easy to understand summary of different tax policies. There are so many incentives out there and it's hard to sometimes follow what is being proposed by our government. This book will make you feel like an informed citizen, especially given all the talk about tax in the news. For those interested in getting to the facts on tax in a non-sleep inducing way, this book is probably for you.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Great introduction into modern tax theory

Great book, T.R Reid’s narration perfectly fits the story. I only had some tangential knowledge about taxes before reading, but I feel a lot more educated on the topic after A Fine Mess.

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a good education

A great way to understand taxs from a voting perspective. looks at lots of different methods government's have tried different systems and the effects they had.

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Hate the tax system? Listen to this book to learn why.

T.R Reid lays out the problems with the current tax system in a clear and concise manner (much unlike the current tax code) While the IRS is the much hated organization in the US , they are merely the messenger of a system designed by Congress. Eliminating loopholes and special deductions will probably never happen in the near future but if you are angry about the tax stance, listen to this book to see where your anger should be directed.

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shows what might be possible

if the US had a functioning democracy. Tax policies that combine fairness, common sense, simplicity and learning from the experiences of other countries.

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Clearly presented

What great information, clearly presented. Appreciated the global view to help put our crazy system in perspective.

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the best book on US tax policy. period.

not just the best in the US, but examines what works and what does not work all around the world. this book provides the deepest analysis and workable no nonsense solutions to our tax problems

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  • 05-14-17

Amen. Hopefully very Timely.

All should listen and or read the book. we need to get past the lobbyists and their influenced politicians. Would be great if America could be smart and do something great ... again ... simplify.

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One of the best books I have read recently.

What did you love best about A Fine Mess?

This book introduced me to magic of T.R. Reid's writing where he addresses a complex problem with command and delivers the point across in a layman's terms with ease. Such writing style is envy a lot of aspiring writers, to convert complex jargon into simple book.

What was one of the most memorable moments of A Fine Mess?

Broad Base Low Rate Tax policy

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

I started this book at around 1:00 AM thinking that the book is going to be boring and will put me to sleep by the first couple of chapters. It is 3 AM by the time I forced myself to end the narration and go to bed. Guess what I did first thing the following morning. Yep, I completed listening to the book by lunch the following day. A complex and sensitive topic addressed with such elegance that you can't put it down.

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A Must Read For Everyone! Brilliant!

Would you consider the audio edition of A Fine Mess to be better than the print version?

T.R. Reid does a terrific job of narrating this brilliant book he has so thoroughly researched and authored. It is really a gift when an author narrates his own book, and that is never more true than here. The author's passion, knowledge, energy and humor come through so vividly in this audio edition.

What did you like best about this story?

Tax policy is rarely seen as an entertaining and intriguing subject, but this book makes it exactly that. <br/><br/>Reid brings to life the history and rationale of the income tax and other taxes by citing historical examples from Ancient Rome to the Bible along with more current ones. He asks all of the good questions that we all should be asking including:Why and how are taxes necessary?What is the right level of taxation to promote economic growth and equity?Should the rich be taxed more than the poor?Why don't we just move to a flat tax?Why is the current tax code such a disaster and are there historical patterns for it that we can learn from?American spend roughly 6 billion hours doing taxes each year. Does it really have to be this way?

What about T.R. Reid’s performance did you like?

His humor, passion, expertiese and enthusiasm comes through so vividly in his narration of this brilliant book.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

I thought Reid's citation of the Biblical story of the Widow's Mite was really moving. It is a great story and lesson about the fundamental idea of taxes and that each of us should pay our fair share.<br/><br/>To summarize the story here:<br/><br/>"Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.<br/><br/>Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

Any additional comments?

As someone with a background in Economics and Finance, I should admit that I am probably a bit more of a nerd about this type of subject that many people. Still, I think this book should be required reading for every American as taxes and tax policy effect our lives every single day. T.R. shows us how we can follow what other countries have done to make taxes much simpler and easier.