Document Type

Book Review

Publication Date


Publication Citation

103 Michigan Law Review 1423 (2005)


In his book "Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich - and Cheat Everybody Else", David Cay Johnston, the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the New York Times, covers a wide array of topics, including some that are quite complex, in a very readable way. The federal income tax system generally and tax compliance in particular are important focuses of the book, but the theme that implicitly connects chapters that otherwise appear unrelated is a variety of aspects of income inequality.

Although "Perfectly Legal" does not make a clear case that politicians and others have combined in a covert campaign, it is nonetheless an engaging book containing many interesting stories. Some of its best chapters provide revealing insights into the inner workings of the IRS. The important effects that procedural rules can have on enforcement of the tax laws suggests that any comprehensive effort at tax simplification should address procedural complexity.