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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

What members say

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  • Overall
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    5 out of 5 stars

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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  • RS NOLA
  • New Orleans, LA, US
  • 05-14-18

Important book

Excellent job in explaining a complex problem, and applying critical lessons from around the world. Also quite discouraging because it’s clear how embroiled our tax system is with special interests, big money and influence, and the current political environment. Nonetheless, should be required reading for every high school and college student, and certainly every person who runs for public office.

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    2 out of 5 stars

Meh...

Not what i thought it was going to be. The theory around the entire book is to throw the rascals out of congress and make a fair tax system that is of course his notion of fairness. No uniqie insights and mostly a compilation of common knowlege.

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    4 out of 5 stars

Good 201 level tax book

If you’re not very aware of different tax proposals this is a nice survey. If you’ve following stuff like proposed financial transaction taxes and know what a VAT is... maybe take a pass.

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Very Imformative.

So the author seems ti think that, although the poor are not getting any poorer, the rich getting richer is still a,terrible thing, this book is well researched and very imformative.

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A Fine Message!

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

The author narrates the audio edition.

What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

There is much we can learn from the tax experience of other countries.

Have you listened to any of T.R. Reid’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No, this is my first.

What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

There are so many that it is difficult to select the "most" interesting. The rationale for eliminating the home mortgage and charitable contribution deductions was an epiphany.

Any additional comments?

Having listened to the audio book, I realize that I have to purchase the Kindle edition for future reference--and am disappointed to see that there is no discount for having already purchased the Audible edition. This is a strong disincentive for buying the audio version of any publication that contains information a reader will want to refer to in the future.

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  • Keith
  • Alpharetta, GA
  • 01-23-18

Who knew?

As a business owner who has bought/sold/built houses on both sides of the Atlantic I thought I knew a lot about taxes. But I didn't until I read this book. Excellent arguments and illustrations.

It is repetitive and could be even better if reduced in size. But that is true of almost all serious books. Despite the redundancy I have started listening again so I can take notes for future references.

Thank you Mr. Reid for the information and making learning so interesting.

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Must read material for anybody interested in a better future for the USA

he book consists of descriptions of other countries successful tax practices, and how they contrast with USA tax practices. The book documents how much money the USA government looses every year by having complex-obscure tax laws, versus how much money the government could get via simplifying he code. The author spent a considerable time completing the research and even praises what the irs is currently doing well. The conclusion is very interesting and serves as a good review of what has worked in other countries and why. The US government definitely needs to overhaul the tax code and start from scratch.

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recommended by Vox's The Weeds podcast

This is the best book on tax policy that I know of. Also the only one.

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puts tax policy into an understandable context

good basic overview on the need, benefits and methods of taxation. Helps keep the dinner arguments in perspective