Perfectly Legal

Perfectly Legal

The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich–and Cheat E verybody Else

Written by:

Additional Formats
  • Paperback
  • ISBN 9781591840695
  • 352 Pages
  • Portfolio
  • Adult


Now updated with a new prologue!


Since the mid-1970s, there has been a dramatic shift in America’s socioeconomic system, one that has gone virtually unnoticed by the general public. Tax policies and their enforcement have become a disaster, and thanks to discreet lobbying by a segment of the top 1 percent, Washington is reluctant or unable to fix them. The corporate income tax, the estate tax, and the gift tax have been largely ignored by the media. But the cumulative results are remarkable: today someone who earns a yearly salary of $60,000 pays a larger percentage of his income in taxes than the four hundred richest Americans.

Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter David Cay Johnston exposes exactly how the middle class is being squeezed to create a widening wealth 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 millions.


How some corporations avoid paying any federal income tax.


How a law meant to prevent cheating by the top 2 percent of Americans no longer affects most of them, but has morphed into a stealth tax on single mothers making just $28,000.


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.

Johnston has been breaking pieces of this story on the front page of The New York Times for seven years. 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.

Perfectly Legal

Perfectly Legal

Written by: David Cay Johnston


“Truly shocking.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Readers should take their blood pressure pills.” —The Dallas Morning News

“Everyone who wants to understand what’s happening with the tax system should read Perfectly Legal … by David Cay Johnston, who shows how idealogues have made America safe for wealthy people who don’t feel like paying taxes.” —Paul Krugman, The New York Times

“Even if you suspected all along that the system favors the rich, you’re going to be shocked to learn just how badly you’re being screwed.” —Greg Palast, author of The Best Democracy Money Can Buy

“Want to know how business execs get nearly free peraonal trips on their corporate jets? Johnston is your man.” —Business Week

“This is a book that will either shame us or prod us into taking back the system.” —Ralph Nader

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Taxes – They’re Not for Everyone
Chapter 2: A Nickel an Hour More
Chapter 3: The Rich Get Fabulously Richer
Chapter 4: Big Payday
Chapter 5: Plane Perks
Chapter 6: When the Old Man Is Dead and Buried
Chapter 7: The Stealth Tax
Chapter 8: How Social Security Taxes Subsidize the Rich
Chapter 9: Preying on the Working Poor
Chapter 10: Handcuffing the Tax Police
Chapter 11: Mr. Rossotti’s Customers
Chapter 12: For Want of a Keystroke
Chapter 13: Mr. Kellogg’s Favorite Loophole
Chapter 14: Mass Market Tax Evasion
Chapter 15: Getting Off the Hook
Chapter 16: Profiting Off Taxes
Chapter 17: Profits Trump Patriotism
Chapter 18: Letters to Switerzland
Chapter 19: Gimme Shelter
Chapter 20: Only the Rich Deserve a Comfortable Retirement
Chapter 21: Is Reform Possible?