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Summertime tax tomes

If your summer vacation includes catching up on your reading and you're a tax geek, here are some tax books to take with you.

I must admit I haven't read most of them. I'm taking the word of Laura Saunders in her recent Wall Street Journal article.

"Believe it or not, two recent books manage to present the history of taxation in ways that not only fascinate but amuse," writes Saunders.

Sex of hippopotamus_Starkman She highly recommends The Sex of a Hippopotamus (Twinset Inc.) by Atlanta CPA Jay Starkman.

Calling it "the only readable book about taxes that this longtime tax reporter has ever come across," Saunders suggests we pay more attention to the book's subtitle: A Unique History of Taxes and Accounting.

Starkman's book is full of tax history nuggets and trivia, says Saunders, along with fascinating narratives of now-obscure levies that once were important, such as excise taxes on salt, windows, chimneys and even beard.

As certain as death_yablon I do have the other tax book high on Saunders' list, As Certain as Death: Quotations About Taxes. This is the second edition of Jeffery Yablon's collection, published Tax Analysts.

It contains nearly 1,600 quotations about taxes. Among the tax quotes are observations from founding fathers to NBA star Shaquille O'Neal, who wants to rough up FICA for taking so much from his sizable paycheck.

Even better, it's free from Tax Analysts, either as a paper copy while supplies last or as a downloadable PDF.

The other books noted by Saunders are J.K. Lasser's 1001 Deductions & Tax Breaks 2010 (John Wiley & Sons) and Lower Your Taxes—Big Time! by CPA Sandy Botkin (McGraw-Hill).

A novel take, too: Although I haven't read it, let me mention a book I do plan to buy:

Getting It_Daniel Shaviro Getting It! (iUniverse) by New York University Law School professor and tax blogger (Start Making Sense) Daniel Shaviro.

Shaviro's written several notable nonfiction works, but this time he's tackled a novel that follows a young D.C. lawyer -- that is, a liar, a conniver, a phony, a hypocrite, and a cad -- who's after a partnership at the fictional big law firm of Ashby & Cinders.

Kashmir Hill at Above the Law says:

"I've read a lot of lawyer fiction, but never something quite like this. The satirical novel is populated with sadistic partners and scheming associates competing for partnership, including the caddish Bill Doberman, dopey Arnold Portner, and self-involved Lowell Stellworth. It's an 'American Psycho' take on Biglaw -- funny and fast-paced, a great summer quick read."

That sold me, but if you need more, there are other glowing words at the book's Facebook page.

So if you're looking to spend a few hours this summer enjoying the literary side of taxation, these books should be a good start.

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Thanks, Hal. Always looking to add to my tax bookshelf! Kay

Hal Leahy, EA

A good history of the US income tax is Steven Weisman's 2002 book, The Great Tax Wars: Lincoln to Wilson - The Fierce Battles Over Money and Power That Transformed The Nation.

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