Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter David Cay Johnston has been breaking pieces of this story on the front page of The New York Times for nine years, work for which one business school professor calls him ìthe de facto chief tax enforcement officer of the United Statesî. With Perfectly Legal, he puts the whole shocking narrative together in a way that will stir up media attention and make readers angry about the state of our country. And he has sound advice on what to do.
Since the mid-1970s, there has been a dramatic shift in who benefits from the American economy and bears the burden of taxes. CEOs, big investors and business owners can delay paying their taxes for years and sometimes escape them almost entirely, while wage earners have their taken from each paycheck. Discreet lobbying by the political donor class has made tax policies and enforcement a disaster. Because of obligations to these donors Washington has been unable, or unwilling, to fix these problems. The news media have largely ignored official favors to those who are supposed to pay the corporate income tax, the estate tax, and the gift tax. Millions of families expecting tax cuts are losing some or all of them to a stealth tax that was originally enacted only to apply to the tax-avoiding rich, but that now stings single mothers making as little as $28,000. But the cumulative results are remarkable: the 400 richest Americans pay a smaller share of their income in taxes than someone making $100,000. The 400 richest pay less and less of their income in taxes while the middle class pays more and more. And while the incomes of the very rich skyrocketed over three decades, the average income for the bottom 90 percent fell.
Johnston exposes exactly how the middle class is being squeezed to create a widening income gap that threatens the stability of the country. By relating the compelling tales of real people across all areas of society, he reveals the truth behind:
* "middle class" tax cuts and exactly whom they benefit
* how workers are being cheated out of their retirement plans while disgraced CEOs walk away with hundreds of millions
* how some corporations avoid paying any federal income tax
* how CEOs fly on vacation in corporate jets for less than you pay for a middle seat in coach ñ and stick you with most of the cost
* why the working poor are seven times more likely to be audited by the IRS than everyone else
* how the IRS became so weak that even when it was handed complete banking records detailing massive cheating by 1,600 people, it prosecuted only 4 percent of them