Book review of The Cheating of America by Charles Lewis and Bill Allison

Essay by wesleywilliamUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, May 2004

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What is the purpose of the Tax Code and the Internal Revenue Service? Is it to maintain "equilibrium between the wealthiest and the poorest segments of society" as the authors imply, or to "lay and collect pay the Debts and provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States" as stated in the U.S. Constitution? Charles Lewis and Bill Allison in their book The Cheating of America attempt to address this very issue.

While the authors repeatedly claim to recognize the difference between tax avoidance and tax evasion, the book's examples nevertheless take great liberties, sprinkling terms like "scheme", "sham" and "improper" through numerous descriptions of completely legal and commonplace corporate structurings.

Aside from stunningly slanted conclusions, in more than one instance deriding a company or individual for their "unfair" tax planning, notwithstanding that the U.S. Tax Court found the taxpayer wholly innocent of what can only be characterized as trumped-up charges brought by the IRS, the authors' assertion that "upper-income taxpayers do not pay their fair share" depends upon how one defines "fair share."

In their book, Lewis and Allison cite several carefully selected examples of wealthy Americans and corporations finding ways to avoid paying their fair share in federal income taxes, some legally and some illegally. Clearly, these extreme cases do depict specific situations that should anger and frustrate most taxpayers.

However, when one examines the bigger picture instead of looking at only an extremely small sampling of the very worst, the view is much different. For instance, while the authors tell the reader "The IRS recently reported that 2,680 filers with incomes of $200,000 or more claimed they owed no taxes, up from 612 in the mid-eighties, and 85 in 1977," they fail to mention that as our economy grows and incomes...